Thursday, June 16, 2016

Middle Grade Thursday: Some Kind of Courage

Devotion. Determination. Bravery. Kindness. And yes, courage. All of these words describe the main character of Dan Gemeinhart's 2016 middle grade novel, Some Kind of Courage, which is set in Washington State in 1890. Joseph is driven by one thing and one thing only: getting back his beloved family horse, Sarah. Before his father died, he asked a man named Mr. Grissom to take care of Joseph. When Mr. Grissom sells Sarah to a corrupt horse trader, Joseph bravely confronts him, taking both the money and his father's gun to go off on foot to rescue his horse.

Along the way, Joseph meets a young Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, who is stranded without food or shelter. Even though there is a language barrier between them, the two boys decide to travel together to find Sarah and Ah-Kee's people, developing a deep friendship along the way. This book is a definite page-turner as the boys face adventure at every turn from wild animals to river rapids. I also appreciated the historical setting. I often have commented that the "dead parent trope" is often overdone in children's literature, but children living during frontier times really did have to contend with losing their entire families to disease or accidents. The treatment of Ah-Kee because of his ethnicity, treatment of Native Americans, difficulty of access to medical treatment and the dangerous environment in general of the West are also addressed. While a horse is not a pet, I think today's readers can appreciate Joseph's connection to Sarah if they have close relationships with dogs, cats, etc.

I highly recommend Some Kind of Courage to all middle grade readers.

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