The Kid by Jeff Schill

The Kid is an old-west legend about old-west legends, featuring a 13-year-old tale-spinner, a Philadelphia tenderfoot, and a vicious desperado.

The Kid by Jeff Schill. Charlesbridge, 2024, 231 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grade, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 9-14

The Upton boys have fallen on hard times indeed. First Mama passed, then Papa. They still have their Colorado farm, but if word gets out that both parents are gone, the state could come and remove the boys “for their own good,” before parceling them out to anyone who might take them. Tommy’s a strong hand and can fix anything, Nathan is a wiz in the garden and kitchen, and little Ethan has a way with animals. Henry, the oldest at 13, isn’t particularly talented at anything except tale-spinning. His mama also made sure he knew how to write in sparkly grammatical prose, but what use is that?

A lot, it turns out, once Henry realizes there’s a market for Western heroes. His first story about The Kid, fearless scourge of outlaws, reaches an instant audience with an insatiable appetite for more. His editor, Herbert, is an aspiring writer himself who determines to meet this anonymous author and soak up some western atmosphere for his own western novels. But Herbert isn’t the only one eager to meet The Kid. In an Arkansas prison, a genuine outlaw named Snake-Eye Sam is plotting his escape, to be capped by the crime of his career: a genuine old-west shootout with The Kid. These three strands will converge on the dusty main street of Destiny, Colorado.

The premise sounds like a lot of fun and the story mostly is. Henry is a likeable lad who gets in too deep but can count on his plucky brothers to help keep the family together. Herbert is a classic down-east tenderfoot who will soon learn to discard his fussy ways and maybe even fall in love. Sam strikes a note that’s slightly off in this rollicking tale: he’s genuinely cruel and heartless, the product of an abusive father. In a story lightly dusted with old-west hyperbole, he’s a little too real. Aside from that, and leaning too heavily on bad grammar (and overuse of the word “rightly”), it’s an enjoyable read about a subject that used to be on every kid’s radar.

Consideration:

  • Two uses of the word “godawful,” and one of “piss.”

Bottom Line: A heartwarming family saga told against a violent old-west background.

Also at Redeemed Reader:

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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