I am not a historical anything reader. Seriously, I am not. I read biographical literary non-fiction picture books because my readers need exposure to this genre and some of them enjoy it so I want to be able to procure and recommend the best out there. But…on my own I wouldn’t pick up anything historical. I gritted my teeth when I started listening to Some Kind of Courage by @dangemeinhart, because it’s a cowboy story. It is also a title on the 2018 Texas Bluebonnet Master List, as a librarian I read through most if not all of the list, I want to be able to BookTalk all the titles and get kids excited about reading these stories, it’s what makes the love of reading take hold and grow roots in my readers’ hearts.
So although I started listening with skepticism it didn’t take long for the story to take a hold of my heart. I warn you, there will be some crying, maybe a lot of it, if you read Joseph’s story. If you are the type of reader that gets wrapped up in a story like if it’s your own, the crying WILL get ugly. But, I assure you it will be worth it, you will come out of the experience thinking about so many of the kids you know and how they have greatness and nobility in them, the Joseph kind, even when their circumstances are unbelievably harsh, just like Joseph’s were. This book is worth the 3-5 hours you will invest in reading it, I do not say this lightly, as a reader with a TBR pile that will certainly outlive me, I take the investment of reading time very seriously.
My reaction to the events in this story was so strong, that for the first time ever in my reader’s career I have written a letter directly to an author. Read on to find out what I wrote.
SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT ON!!!! (You’ve been warned!)
Dear Mr. Genmeinhart:
I am an elementary school librarian in Mesquite, TX. I am also a reader. I suppose just like any reader, I am picky about what I read, I have an idea of what I like and would not like to read, just like the rest of my reader tribe. I would not have picked up your book Some Kind of Courage on my own for one reason: I do not like historical anything. I just don’t. But, your book is part of the 2018 Texas Bluebonnet Master List and as I do every year, I try to read through the whole list, there is no way I can truthfully recommend a book without reading it.
I just finished listening to Some Kind of Courage. At first, I was dutifully listening through, more out of a sense of commitment to my elementary readers, than because I was particularly liking the story. That changed pretty quickly, though, as soon as Ah-Kee convinced the mama grizzly bear that he and Joseph were not a threat to her cubs.
As I continued to read I was struggling with my dislike of historical anything, how much I was loving Joseph and Ah-Kee’s adventures, what exactly was I going to rate your book on Goodreads, and even more pressing: what I was going to say to my readers when they come to ask me about it.
The tears started threatening when Ah-Kee and Joseph parted ways. A bit of exasperated tears were leaking from the corners of my eyes when Sarah was taken by Caleb Fawney, followed by a “Come on Dan Gemeinhart YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!”. Now, when Sarah was shot, the tears were streaming down hard, my daughter and husband were giving me the “Jeez she’s crying over a book again!” look, but the worst part was that I almost stopped listening to write you an angry email. It might have gone something like “I do not know you and I do not like to throw the word hate around, but ….” but I looked at how much time on the audio was left and let my heart hope just a sliver, I could always write my email to you in 45 minutes. I also thought about Tweeting some angry Tweets and asking who had read this book already so I could rant. But, luckily, Joseph’s story was pulling me hard, and I put all the ranting on hold.
I do not know if you are familiar with the acting of Viola Davis, if you are not I suggest you look up “Viola Davis crying in Fences”, so you will understand what I am about to say. When Joseph decided that he was the one to put Sarah down, the crying was like Ms. Viola Davis’s in The Help. All through the rest of what happens, up until Joseph says “I’m coming home.” was Ms. Viola Davis’s cry in the movie Fences. And it lasted for a good five minutes after the story was over.
Why am I sharing this with you? I am not sure. This is the first letter I have ever written to an author right after finishing his book. Maybe it’s out of a sense of guilt, I was ready to use the “h” word and am glad I held off until the end. Maybe it’s out of a sense of shame, I wouldn’t have given your work a chance and been brought to tears by it, if it hadn’t been a Bluebonnet contender. Maybe, out of a sense of wonderment and gratitude, you wrote a beautiful adventure, of a noble child, a child the age of some of my students, and it made me think of how they too have Joseph’s potential, to do greater things than can ever be expected of a child. Maybe I wrote this email because I hold stories dear, and yours has taken up residence in my heart. Maybe… maybe, I just thought you should know.
I will talk to everyone and anyone who listens about Some Kind of Courage. I will share Joseph’s story with my horse-loving readers, and my “I-have-to-look-out-for-my-own-self” readers, and all the other readers that come to me looking for the next amazing read.
Thank you for writing Some Kind of Courage, it affected me to the core.