Some Kind of Courage

Some Kind of Courage
by Dan Gemeinhart

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Meet Dan:

Dan’s twitter:

Activities & Resources:



Map out Joseph’s journey to find Sarah. Provide copies of maps for kids to use and one map of Washington state.

Make a model of a dugout canoe and provide directions:


Learn about the different breeds of horses:

Learn about what it takes to break and train a horse. Learn about what equestrians do and what their careers are like:


Roles Chinese played in American history:

Read about typhoid, the disease that Joseph’s mother and sister died from:

Learn more about trains at:

Read about log jams and logging:

Indian agents:

Roles of Indian agents:

Discover the history of Seattle:

Oil lamp history:


Learn about Washington state:


Learn to make a shelter:

Make some hardtack, the kind of cracker cowboys and others would eat on their travels:

Cook your own mystery potato stew:

MakerSpace Activities:

Design and make a Chinese paper lantern:

Joseph would have a saddle to use when riding Sarah. Design a saddle for your horse. Provide pictures, construction paper, glue and other craft supplies.

Plan and choose Joseph’s supplies for his journey to get Sarah:

Learn to pack a bedroll:

Print some sample money that was used in the 1800s. Let the children see it and then design their own. Provide paper and drawing supplies.

Provide materials for children to make some homemade soap, (without lye).

Discussion Questions:

What do you think courage is? How does Joseph exhibit these qualities?

Why didn’t Joseph’s mother like the word “Chinamen?” Do we see racism in our world today? How do you think we stop it? Why didn’t whites seem to like the Chinese? Did they like the Indians? Is this racism and how do we stop it?

Would you have given the Chinese boy food? Why or why not? How would you communicate with him?

What would you think it was like to ride by horse or by horse and wagon? Would you want to ride everywhere that way?

What would you have done if you’d run into a grizzly bear? What did you learn from Joseph and Ah-Kee?

Would you have done what Ah-Kee did (with the grizzly) to save Joseph? Why or why not? Would you have come up with another plan?

How does Mama’s advice help Joseph throughout the story? Can you apply her advice in your life today? How?

If you’d run into the Indian kids, would you have helped them as Joseph did? Why do you think he did that? How did it earn him respect? How did it help him grow as a person?

Why did the Indians want Joseph and Ah-Kee to stay? Would you have stayed or left as Joseph and Ah-Kee did? Why?

How do we know Joseph misses his family? Do you think Ah-Kee misses his? Where do you think Ah-Kee’s family is?

What reputation does Ezra Bishop have throughout the territory? How did he get such a reputation?

How does Papa’s advice help Joseph throughout the novel? How can you apply it in your life?

What is typhoid? Do we still have it today? Where? How can we avoid it?

Why does Joseph think it was a blessing that Mama didn’t know Katie had passed away? Why did Joseph quit being a child when his mother and sister died?

Would you like to go down a river in a dugout canoe? How hard do you think it would be to make one? What steps are involved in making one?

How can one be friends with someone when there’s a language barrier? Despite the language barrier Joseph and Ah-Kee develop a deep friendship. Why does Joseph tell Ah-Kee to stay with his family? Why doesn’t Ah-Kee go on and help Joseph finish his quest to get Sarah back? How would you help your friends?

Why do you think water is sometimes referred to as “black water” or “icy water”?

Ah-Kee knows how to deliver a baby. What do you think that’s like? Do you think, if you were in Ah-Kee’s situation, you could do it? Why or why not?

What kind of a person is Mrs. Davidson? Would you choose to stay or continue on as Joseph did? Why? Would you return later? Why or why not?

What does it mean to honor your parents? How did Joseph honor his parents? How do you show honor for your parents?

At one point, Joseph feels tears in his face. Is it okay to cry? Why or why not?

What’s faith? How does Joseph and Ah-Kee both show faith throughout the novel?

Joseph says we choose our home. How do we do this?

Book Talk Teasers:

What is courage? Do you have what it takes to hunt for your treasure, on your own? Read Some Kind of Courage and find out if you have the strength of character and determination of Joseph and Ah-Kee.

Read Alikes:

Fairy and folktales:

Craft, Mahlon F. Beauty and the beast. Through her great capacity to love, a kind and beautiful maid releases a handsome prince from the spell which has made him an ugly beast. (NoveList)

Stickler, Soma Han. Maya and the turtle. “In this charming original fairy tale, children learn that the road to greatness lies in selflessness and that the loving kindness of a pure heart can awaken great love and power in another. Maya’s mother is a gentle soul. When she dies she bequeaths her daughter the task of caring for her father–and for herself. For her mother once had a dream that Maya was meant for great things, and it was the kind of dream that always comes true. Although she is poor, Maya grows kinder and more beautiful with each passing year. One day, she finds a little turtle and takes him home, raising and caring for him, never knowing that he will play a part in her destiny. Beautifully illustrated and filled with fascinating nuggets of information about Korean culture, this book offers a poignant tale of the rewards of kindness, patience, courage, and a loving heart, and a lesson in how true glory–even if foretold–must be earned”–. (NoveList)


Almond, David.  Mouse, bird, snake, wolf. Using sticks, leaves, and clay, Little Ben makes a mouse, Sue, a bird, and Harry, a snake, but when they create a terrifying wolf that turns on them, Little Ben must summon the courage to save them. (NoveList)

Houts, Michelle. Winterfrost. Left in charge of her home and infant sibling when her parents are called away at Christmastime, Bettina disregards a family custom about leaving out rice pudding for the nisse, who make their magic known when the baby disappears. (NoveList)

Lowe, Natasha. The courage of Cat Campbell. Although her mother, Poppy Pendle, believes magic ruins lives, eleven-year-old Cat Campbell is a late-blooming witch whose magical abilities are bursting to be mastered. Series: Potts Bottom, 2  (NoveList)

Napoli, Donna Jo. The prince of the pond: otherwise known as De Fawg Pin. Having been turned into a frog by a hag, a frog-prince makes the best of his new life as he mates, raises a family, and instills a new kind of thinking into his frog family. (NoveList)


Lean, Sarah. Hero. An accident at school brings quiet, imaginative Leo to the attention of the popular crowd but their expectations have him misbehaving and cause him to lose his best friend, George, so when a neighbor’s dog is trapped by a meteor strike Leo becomes a real hero in hopes of setting things right. (NoveList)

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Roxie and the hooligans. Roxie Warbler, the niece of a famous explorer, follows Uncle Dangerfoot’s advice on how to survive any crisis when she becomes stranded on an island with a gang of school bullies and a pair of murderous bank robbers. (NoveList)

O’Connor, Barbara. Taking care of Moses. When dissension erupts in the town of Foley, South Carolina, after a baby is left on the steps of the Rock of Ages Baptist Church, eleven-year-old Randall must decide whether or not to keep secret his knowledge of who the foundling’s mother is. (NoveList)

Wait, Lea. Finest kind.  When his father’s Boston bank fails in 1838, causing his family to relocate to a small Maine town, twelve-year-old Jake Webber works to prepare the family for the harsh winter while also keeping the existence of his disabled younger brother a secret. (NoveList)

Historical fiction:

Upjohn, Rebecca. The secret of the village fool. Anton, laughed at and called a fool in his small village, proves himself a hero when he hides a Jewish family from the Nazis during the Holocaust. (NoveList)


Brown, Don. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. By: Brown, Don, 1949- On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s monstrous winds and surging water overwhelmed the protective levees around low-lying New Orleans, Louisiana. Eighty percent of the city flooded, in some places under twenty feet of water. Property damages across the Gulf Coast topped $100 billion. One thousand eight hundred and thirty-three people lost their lives. The tale of this historic storm and the drowning of an American city is one of selflessness, heroism, and courage — and also of incompetence, racism, and criminality. Don Brown’s kinetic art and as-it-happens narrative capture both the tragedy and triumph of one of the worst natural disasters in American history. (NoveList)

Waber, Bernard. Courage. Provides examples of the many kinds of courage found in everyday life and in unusual circumstances, from tasting the vegetable before making a face to being a firefighter or police officer. (NoveList)

Winter, Ariel S. One of a kind. Lysander Singleton tries his best to fit in at Twin Oaks Elementary, where all students are twins except him, but on the day of the Twindividuation contest his experience as an only child gives him a competitive edge. (NoveList)

Realistic fiction:

Caletti, Deb. The last forever.  “After her mother’s death, it’s all Tessa can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. Even the rare plant her mother entrusted to her care starts to wilt. Then she meets Henry. Though secrets stand between them, each has a chance at healing…if first, Tessa can find the courage to believe in forever”– Provided by publisher. (NoveList)

Patneaude, David. Colder than ice. Josh Showalter, an insecure and overweight sixth-grader, hopes for a new start when he transfers to a school in northern Idaho, but he and his new friends are soon the target of a cold-hearted bully. (NoveList)

Ribay, Randy. An infinite number of parallel universes.  “As their senior year approaches, four diverse friends joined by their weekly Dungeons & Dragons game struggle to figure out real life. Archie’s trying to cope with the lingering effects of his parents’ divorce, Mari’s considering an opportunity to contact her biological mother, Dante’s working up the courage to come out to his friends, and Sam’s clinging to a failing relationship. The four eventually embark on a cross-country road trip in an attempt to solve–or to avoid–their problems”–.(NoveList)

Rorby, Ginny. Lost in the river of grass. When two Florida teenagers become stranded on a tiny island in the Everglades, they attempt to walk ten miles through swampland to reach civilization. (NoveList)

Torrey, Michele. Voyage of midnight. In the early nineteenth century, when his sea-captain uncle invites him to assist the ship’s surgeon on his next voyage, orphaned, fourteen-and-a-half-year-old Phillip, eager to be with family, accepts only to find out that his uncle is a slave trader. (NoveList)

Wells, Rosemary. Wingwalker. During the Depression, Reuben and his out-of-work parents move from Oklahoma to Minnesota, where his father gets a job as a carnival wingwalker and Reuben has a chance to overcome his terror of flying. (NoveList)

Book Reviews:

Horn Book  

Gemeinhart, Dan Some Kind of Courage 236 pp. Scholastic 2016. ISBN 978-0-545-66577-3

(3) 4–6 Joseph Johnson—an unfailingly optimistic twelve-year-old orphan—tracks his stolen beloved horse across the Pacific Northwest in this historical tale. Joseph’s impassioned journey becomes a series of dangerous encounters that resolve quickly and in his favor. Readers won’t worry too much about Joseph’s ultimate fate, but a steady procession of colorful side-characters and a brisk pace maintain this earnest adventure’s momentum.   From the Fall 2016 issue of The Horn Book Guide.   Reprinted from The Horn Book Guide by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,

School Library Journal   11/01/2015                                                                                                        Gr

5–8—Joseph Johnson has had to become a man sooner than most 12-year-old boys. Following the tragic deaths of his parents and sister, Joseph finds himself the ward of an alcoholic rancher who sells Joseph’s beloved horse, Sarah, to a malevolent horse trader. Joseph takes off on his own across Washington state in search of Sarah, ready to give everything he’s got to get back to the last reminder of his family. Early on he is joined by Ah-Kee, an abandoned Chinese boy in similarly dire straits who doesn’t speak a lick of English. Joseph and Ah-Kee are embroiled in a series of gripping dangers and narrow escapes, each more thrilling than the last. Gemeinhart’s vivid language and rapid pacing capture the rugged grandeur and wild unpredictability of the largely unsettled American West of the late 1800s, though it is the fortitude and sensitivity of the main character that elevates this novel beyond a mere succession of adrenaline rushes, absorbing though they are. It is Joseph’s unwavering sense of honor and duty that is propelled by love, not the familiar Wild West conception of masculinity, that makes this book truly captivating. VERDICT Gemeinhart’s riveting tale of grit and grief is equally tragic and triumphant.—Anna Murphy, Berkeley Carroll School Library, Brooklyn.  Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal,  Copyright 2015.

[Starred] Booklist (November 15, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 6))

Some Kind of Courage. Gemeinhart, Dan (author).  Jan. 2016. 240p. Scholastic, hardcover, $16.99 (9780545665834); Scholastic, e-book, $16.99 (9780545665834). Grades 5-8. REVIEW. First published November 15, 2015 (Booklist).

Says a grateful admirer to Joseph and his unlikely traveling companion, “You boys. You got some kind of courage.” In the Wild West of 1890 Washington State, Joseph, not yet 13, has lost his mother and sister to typhoid and his father to a tragic accident. When his beloved horse is underhandedly sold by the greedy man to whom Joseph was entrusted as his father’s dying wish, Joseph will stop at nothing to reclaim his four-legged soul mate. Guided by memories of his late parents’ caring wisdom and befriended by an abandoned Chinese boy named Ah-Kee, who happens to be both bear- and baby-whisperer, Joseph’s odyssey toward reunion features Indians and bandits, a sturdy canoe, a speeding train, cold racism, and the kindness of many strangers. Gemeinhart’s follow-up to his lauded debut, The Honest Truth (2015), makes for a wonderful addition to the man-and-beast tales of devotion that include Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (2007) and Cynthia Kadohata’s Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam (2007). Exhilarating and enthralling, this promises even the most reluctant readers a breakneck adventure that will keep them turning the pages with utter devotion. — Terry Hong.  (Used with the permission of Booklist.)