In honor of the PopSugar 2017 category “a book with a red spine,” I picked up a copy of Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart. Granted, it wasn’t exclusively because of the reading challenge, but rather because the book was a top contender for this year’s Texas Bluebonnet Award and it was staring at me from my library’s display.
Find the PopSugar 2017 reading challenge here: http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2017-42561300
Find the Bluebonnet Award winners and contenders here: https://texasbluebonnetaward2018.wordpress.com/
The synopsis is quite simple. The story is about Joseph who goes in search of his horse Sarah, after she is surreptitiously sold from under him. The setting: Washington state, late 19th century. I think a quote from the end of the book here sums it up beautifully:
I had my horse. And I had some money. And my papa’s pistol. And a little black bird. And an outlaw’s hat. But that was about it.
Joseph is a good-hearted character and his story is a coming of age combined with a cross-country journey. It’s like Huck Finn met The Revenant. I had to keep reminding myself that this was in fact a juvenile fiction book; but boy, what an epic adventure! From leaving his home in the aftermath of family death and much loss, to finding a friend in Ah-Kee, to racing Indian horses, fighting bears, running down an outlaw and jumping trains. Joseph faces huge decisions, physically, emotionally and many times, morally. His ability to ask himself what his parents would have expected from him give this story a conscience. There are some beautiful quotes in the book that gave me pause, one being from p. 172:
We looked at each other a minute, then we both put the other’s memory into our own pocket. They were new memories, now, but they were tied up and bound to the old. That’s how memories work. I suppose; you just go through life collecting them, never letting go of the precious ones but leaving room in your heart for more.
As a juvenile fiction book which no-doubt appeals to the younger audience (somewhere in the 4th to 7th grade level), this book was awesome. It was gritty and determined, and all about what family is, what you’d be willing to do for them and how to keep them together (even after they’re gone). As Joseph says (p. 195):
I do have family, sir. They’re just all dead. But they’re my family just the same. So I ain’t no orphan. I’m still my mama’s son and my papa’s boy and my sister’s brother, and I’m here to get our horse back.
This is the stuff that turns Joseph from a boy into a man. The book was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and easy- I did it in one sitting, and if I was giving stars, I’d give it a 5.
A well deserved Bluebonnet contender and a good story.