Rating: 5 stars
To say that “Some Kind of Courage” by Dan Gemeinhart is a wonderful story is like saying that Michael Jordan was a wonderful basketball player. On one level, this book is a historical fiction piece about a boy who has lost everything except his horse. Then, when he loses his horse — his beloved horse — he does everything he can to get her back. It’s a lovely story of determination, grit, loyalty, and bravery that will enthrall middle grade readers.
But this story is also a kind of fairy tale. When Joseph sets out on his journey to rescue his horse, Sarah, there are many obstacles along the way. And just as in many fairy tales the hero is tested while on a journey, so is Joseph tested. Will he stop to help a Chinese boy who is all alone in the world and starving? Will he help a women in pain and stay with her for days even though his horse is getting farther away with every moment of delay?
Joseph is a fabulous main character. In spite of adversity, he keeps his moral compass, he shows compassion to others (including animals), he fights bigotry, and he inspires loyalty. This would be a superb choice for the fourth or fifth grade classroom because of the myriad inquiry projects that would naturally spring from the story. Historical research about the Washington State area; what native American tribes lived there and how they were treated by settlers; and the Chinese immigration for the purpose of building a railroad and what happened to the immigrants after the railroad was completed. These are just a few of the projects that would spark the interest of those reading this story.
Gemeinhart’s writing is polished and real. The first person narrator sounds authentic, grammatical errors and all. It’s fascinating how he gives Joseph a friend, a Chinese boy named Ah-Kee, who doesn’t speak one word of English. Perhaps one of the themes of the story is that for love or friendship to take place, words aren’t necessary.
Similarly, Joseph and his horse cannot, of course, converse — yet their love for each other jumps off the page. And they are totally and touchingly loyal to each other.
Gemeinhart is also the author of “The Honest Truth,” which is about a boy trying to fulfill one last dream, and which also takes place in Washington State.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Scholastic Books for review purposes.