Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Courage Test by James Preller

Father's Day approacheth! So here is a great father/son book. 

A father forces his somewhat estranged son to follow the Lewis and Clark trail as a jump start for his (the father's) book on Lewis and Clark. As a history, western landscape, and family relationships sucker, it had me at hello.

Overall, I liked it! There is a ton about Lewis and Clark which I really enjoyed. There were also place descriptions and how could they be anything but fabulous in the varied setting along the trail? 

Will and his father are not as one. After a recent divorce, Will doesn't see his father that often and highly resents this intrusion into his summer baseball plans. For what ever reason, his mother insists he go with his father. Although the adults in charge can force him to do things, they can't make him like it and Will is all set to hate the entire trip. He has been hearing about Lewis and Clark since he was named Merriweather William at birth--who really cares? Not Will. 

Somehow on this trip, he starts to care. He begins to see his father as a real human. A human he even enjoys being around at times. There are canoe trips, hiking trails, and a lot of driving. Along the way they pick up Maria Rosa, a illegal teenage girl. From the reviews I have read, this is where a lot of people have complaints about the book. Maria Rosa (spoiler!) is pregnant. This isn't overly discussed, but it is alluded to and referenced. In an otherwise unobjectionable book for the middle school crowd, teen pregnancy, no matter how slight, is a little surprising. However, this didn't bother me too much.  

In the middle of their canoe trip in Montana, Will and his dad run into one of his dad's friends, a Native American from Brooklyn, NY. He looks all back country and natural, but after meeting Will, he poses for a selfie real quick so he can "get something up on instagram before the light fades." I love the juxtaposition of the wilds of Montana and a hipster Native American from Brooklyn. Overall, I feel that this book does a pretty good job addressing the maltreatment of the Native people by the subsequent settlers, and even touches on the problems with how Lewis and Clark dealt with a slave they brought on the expedition with them. I like that they address these problems and give a few different perspectives on the Lewis and Clark trip. 

By the end of the book, Will learns the reason why he was forced to go on this trip, develops a close relationship with his father and has a new appreciation for "weird, old America." 

This was a quick, fun read. It wasn't too deep, but there was enough useful/quality content here for me to recommend it for the 9-12 crowd. I plan on getting the audio version for our western road trip this summer and inflicting it upon my kiddos. 

And while I am listening to it again, I might just concoct a unit research plan around this book to inflict upon my school kiddos.... 

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