by J.R. Sanders
Moonlight Mesa Associates, 2010
New York City orphan Joe Monday dreams of finding a family and of being a cowboy. Things look up when he’s sent West on an “orphan train” until he ends up with a pair of pig farmers who only want the free labor he provides. Joe runs away with a cattle drive headed north from Texas, though the cowboys are unsure of their young tag-along. But when disaster strikes, Joe proves that even a kid can be a hero, and learns that dreams really can come true.
This story is aimed at children and because of this it’s written in simple language that is both easy and joyful to read. The tale starts with a touch of sadness that should have the books’ readers taking Joe Monday to heart. His quest to be a cowboy sees Monday involved with horses and a bullying cowboy, both of which children should easily relate to. Of course Monday rises to the challenges put before him and becomes a hero in the process, and in doing so gains the respect of the bully and tames the horse no one else has been able to ride, in an exciting scene set in a stampede.
Like many books aimed at children this one also sets out to educate them, and the author does this by including a comprehensive glossary that covers all the words relating to being a cowboy along with other terms too, such as Orphan Train. The introduction also tells of these “trains” and the history of the Children’s Aid Society set up in 1853.
Nearly all the chapters end with a beautifully drawn picture by Vin Libassi that illustrates something that has just happened.
J.R. Sanders has definitely written a book that should entertain all children (and adults) who read it, and could be just the book that sees them becoming western readers of the future.