Gemeinhart, Dan. Some Kind of Courage. Fiction. Scholastic, 01/2016. 236pp. $16.99. 978-0-545-66577-3. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 4-7.
In Washington State in 1890, 12-year-old Joseph Johnson—no stranger to loss after his mother and sister die by disease, and his father is involved in a fatal accident—finds out that his beloved horse, Sarah, has been sold without his consent. So begins Joseph’s epic and unceasing quest across the wild west to get her back in which he endures a bear attack, being swept down roaring river rapids, and many more harrowing situations. The first-person narrative in this dynamic survival story allows Joseph to prove himself to be an endearing and complex character, unafraid to show sensitivity, and never fully discouraged despite continual setbacks. Joseph is accompanied on the bulk of his journey by Ah-Kee, a Chinese boy who doesn’t speak any English. Even though they can’t fully understand one another, the boys poignantly have each other’s backs at all times. The character of Ah-Kee is handled with aplomb. The story touches on the rampant racism of the time and has Ah-Kee be the one who unflinchingly helps to deliver a baby to a woman in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Chapter-ending cliffhangers will keep readers swept up in the action, and Joseph’s heart and unyielding good nature will have readers rooting and feeling for him through to the very last page.
Eric Barbus, San Francisco Public Library