The Kid

Charlesbridge. May 2024. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781623543648.
Gr 5 Up–The Kid is the fastest draw in the West, and Gunslinger Magazine can’t get enough of his stories. He may be planning to outsmart horse thieves, save the gold on the Wells Fargo wagon, or turn some other miscreant over to his friend the sheriff. But those stories are only a part of this narrative. Henry, the 14-year-old author of these tales who’s known as The Boy, is left to care for three younger brothers and the family farm. When Sam, The Outlaw, is first introduced, he kills 11 prison guards to escape from jail, and while he is not redeemed as the story progresses, his inner dialogues reveal more depth about his grief and abuse than might be expected from a traditional villain. Herbert, The Editor, is an unprepared Easterner, thrown into a dangerous situation that simultaneously terrifies and thrills him. As Herbert says, “ make the story” and this one includes colorful particulars about the characters, setting, and never-ending drinks of sarsaparilla to make it come alive. Throughout the story, the idea of appreciating differing talents is developed. The only way the four Upton boys have made it on their own for a year has been through doing what each does best. They go against Sam in the same way, and just like with the farm, it takes all of them, plus Herbert, to achieve success. Through an alternating first-person point of view, the inner thoughts of each of the three protagonists are explored and contrasted. Henry shows determination as he desperately tries to achieve the near-impossible; Sam is fueled by a blinding anger; and Herbert is balancing under-preparation, overconfidence, and a sincere desire to help his new friends.
VERDICT The wide-ranging narrative requires a patient reader to engage with the story until the dusty roads converge, but hang on until the showdown at high noon for a smartly satisfying Western adventure.

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