The Courage Test by James Preller

courage-testThe cover of The Courage Test caught my eye and I had to read it.  Middle school student Will has plans for the summer. All-Stars starts this week and his
mother is pushing him out the door. Will Meriwether Miller is going to travel down the Lewis and Clark Trail with his father, a professor of American History. Will’s dad is a Lewis and Clark fanatic and has been working on a book about, you guessed it, Lewis and Clark for over ten years. Will was even named after them. He’s pissed at his dad  because he moved  out of the house and now has a new girlfriend. Will thinks that the idea of a trip is his dad’s, that he wants some together time. He is determined to be bored and unpleasant. Will’s dad though gets him to crack a smile with his jokes, Doritos and a trip to Will’s favorite restaurant, Denny’s, for pancakes.

Will is given a notebook in case he wants to take notes on the trip, something the the men on the expedition did that allows historians to know the way they got to the Pacific, what they traded and the fact that even though they packed for two years, along the way they ran out of everything. Skeptical at first, Will starts writing in it along the way. When they arrive at the Upper Missouri River they get supplies and a canoe and go for four days on the river. During the trip they meet a friend of his dad’s, a Nez Perce, he’s known since grad school. Will winds up paddling down the river with him the next day and Ollie teaches Will about the fate of his people.That day he sees an eagle and talks to Ollie about the bear he’s been dreaming about.

While it took Lewis and Clark two years to cross travel from Will and his dad make the trip in two weeks, driving, hiking, paddling and whitewater rafting. Along the way Will has to pass his own courage tests. These, along with developing a closeness with his dad and meeting a young girl and her enormous dog, help him to deal with issues that he will face in the near future.

The Courage Test is a quick and pleasant read, but somewhat predictable. I learned a lot of history about Lewis and Clark and the fate of the native people that they encountered and I liked the way it was woven into the story about Will and his dad’s trip. Also, Will’s encounter with a certain large animal is gripping as are some other moments in the story.

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Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.wolf-hollow

I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears—things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one….

     The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.”
So begins Wolf Hollow, masterfully written by Lauren Wolk and drawing the reader right in.  It is 1943 and Annabelle and three generations of her family live on a farm in Pennsylvania.  She walks to school in a one room school house, but as the story begins, we learn that a bully has demanded money from her on her way home.  The bully, a new girl named Betty, has been “sent to the country because she was incorrigible.” Betty had stepped out from behind a tree in Wolf Hollow and stood in her path and threatened to beat her with a stick if she didn’t bring her something the next day.  Wolf Hollow had been named because men used to dig pits there to catch wolves who were killing chickens and such.   As Betty’s threats and escalate, she proves herself to be a “dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.”
Instead of using the road to go from the hollow to the houses on the other side of Annabelle’s family’s farm, they often would walk across the fields.  Lots of people did.  But one person was different.  Toby was a veteran of WWI with his scarred left hand and his long oilcloth coat, carrying three rifles on his back. Toby lived in an old smokehouse which was hidden among trees and bushes.  annabelle met Toby when she was nine, outside taking photos.  As she slowly realized he was standing there watching her she took one of him.  He asked her if he could borrow it, and she gave it to him.  Toby would in time cover the inside of the smokehouse with his photos of the sky, the woods and the orchards.
Betty continues her hateful deeds, not unnoticed by quiet Toby.  When a rock is thrown and hits  Annabelle’s friend in the eye, Betty accuses Toby.  So when Betty goes missing, and Toby can’t be found, people begin to suspect him.  Not Annabelle though.

Review of the Day: They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel — A Fuse #8 Production

I’m really looking forward to this upcoming book!  Check out the great video and the SEPTEMBER 21, 2016 School Library Journal review by  

They All Saw a Cat By Brendan Wenzel Chronicle Books $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0 Ages 4-7 On shelves now It’s funny. Unless you’re a teacher or librarian, a grown adult that does not work or live with children will come into very little contact with picture books. Then, one day, they produce a few kids and…

via Review of the Day: They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel — A Fuse #8 Production