Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

I truly enjoyed this book. It's a melodramatic western (think Louis Lamour and Zane Grey) for the younger crowd. The hero, an orphaned kid, Joseph, is adorably strong and sweet and softhearted all at the same time.

Following the death of his father, Joseph is left in the care of a scoundrel who treats him like a servant. When Mr. Grissom sells Joseph's horse, Sarah, to another blackguard, Ezra Bishop, Joseph has had enough. He takes the money and a gun, and heads out to get back the only family he has left.

He connects up with Ah-Kee, another orphaned boy and they set out on their journey together even though they speak different languages.

And Holy Carumba do they ever have adventures!

Right off the start they have an encounter with a mama grizzly bear. Then they rescue a young Native American and end up visiting his camp. Next there is the wild gallop on a horse with Ah-kee falling off repeatedly. The two seem to be always just behind Ezra Bishop, but eventually manage to find and outsmart him. Unfortunately, Sarah has already been sold to Mr. Campbell, another horse trader.

The pair then end on a hair raising canoe ride down a river. Along the way they help birth a baby. They manage to make it into Yakima in one piece only to discover that Mr. Campbell has already left town. Luckily Ah-kee finds his father there, but Joseph still has plenty of adventures ahead of him before it's all over.

I would love to share this with some students to see what they think. I think there is enough excitement to keep them enthralled even if they are not familiar with the genre. I adore the character of Joseph, a sensitive moral hero, who ends up bawling his eyes out numerous times during the story. I admit to getting a bit weepy myself once or twice. I appreciate the multicultural aspect and that the two boys became friends in spite of their differences.

While this book is loaded with action and drama, it is really about belonging, friendship, and what matters enough to discover one's own kind of courage. I think it would make a fabulous lit circle title. If I were still working, I'd make a note to purchase copies when the paperback edition is released.

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