Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart (2016)

some kindA classic-style Western for a new generation.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 234 (for ISBN 9780545665773)

Genre(s) and keywords: adventure, Western, historical fiction

Tone/Style: determined, folksy

Pace: moderate

Topics: human/animal relationships, the Wild West, friendship

Themes: loyalty to family, grief, doing the right thing, never giving up

Summary: Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he’s ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he’s lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.

Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn’t about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.

Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn’t lost hope. And he hasn’t lost the fire in his belly that says he’s getting his Sarah back-no matter what. (Source)

Who will like this book?: This old-fashioned adventure story features and honorable but long-suffering young hero who is easy to root for. Adventure fans will enjoy reading about Joseph’s exploits, and realistic fiction fans will find plenty of feels.

Who won’t like this book?: Westerns aren’t as popular with kids as they once were, and the setting may be unfamiliar and off-putting to some readers. The Western-style language, while well done, may be difficult for some readers to understand. Some readers may prefer something more cheerful.

Other comments: I thought it was really cool how the relationship grew between Joseph and his new friend Ah-kee, a Chinese immigrant, in light of their being unable to understand one another’s languages. I’ve had some trouble selling this book; I guess Westerns aren’t poised to make a comeback anytime soon. But it’s an exciting and touching adventure story if you can get someone to take it. Might appeal to “horse girls.”

Sequel(s):

Readalikes: Gemeinhart’s debut The Honest Truth hit the shelves strong in 2015, and I hear it’s similar in spirit to Some Kind of Courage (though I haven’t read it yet). Adventure-seekers may be drawn to Will Hobbs’ books (if they can get past the old-fashioned covers on most of them).

-Kylie Peters

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