The blog has been quiet for too long. But, today I’m back with a book review. The fall is shaping up to be busy and productive for writing. I’m starting a new course with the Institute of Children’s Literature in November (more about that later), as well as continuing my on-going projects.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart (publisher Henry Holt & Co.) is one of my favorite middle-grade books of 2019. Although this book had terrific reviews, I resisted reading it because I wasn’t looking for contemporary fiction that simply starred a strong girl protagonist having an adventure. There are a lot of good stories like that out there, but I was searching for a little more variety in my reading diet.
In any case, scrolling through my potential Audible library (I do a lot of driving these days), Coyote crossed my screen again. One great thing about Audible is that if a book isn’t to your taste you can return it and exchange it for something new. I’ve done this twice for a couple of reasons, and it’s been a hassle-free experience. I don’t get kickbacks from Audible (I wish); it just happens to be the audiobook provider I use to digest more books when I’m on the road.
In Coyote, Dan Gemeinhart captured the preteen, western state girl voice – a girl who’s had to grow up too quickly – from page one. Coyote drew me in with her spunk, honesty, and folksy manner.
This girl (she felt like a real girl to me) has endured a tough time, made only bearable by a loving father who never leaves her side. Dad insists on being called Rodeo since the tragedy of losing his wife and two other daughters (Coyote’s mother and sisters) in a car accident five years prior. And they live as nomads in a refurbished school bus, following the winds of mood and occasional hankerings for regional cuisine around the country.
News from Coyote’s grandma, whom she calls every Saturday, stops her up short in their wanderings. Coyote decides that she must get back to Washington state in four days (from Florida), and she knows that Rodeo will never allow it. How Coyote makes it work, along with the wonderful cast of characters that help while being cared for by Coyote and Rodeo is the meat of the story. Themes of loss, growth, and healing are integral. Friendship, honesty, and acceptance are also deftly handled by the author.
Coyote demands that no one “feel sorry for her”, and you don’t, really. But by the end, I was a sobbing mess. Not because of sentimental writing, but because feelings, honest and raw were portrayed in a way totally accessible to the reader, most importantly a young audience. Anyone who’s lost a beloved one can relate to this story and will feel stronger for the reading.
Kudos to Gemeinhart! If this book isn’t on the 2019 Newbery list, I’ll be surprised.
Readers, if you have books that you’d bet will be on the Newbery list, please share! I’d love to read them and I’m sure others are curious too. Happy reading and writing!