Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Today's read... The Kid by Jeff Schill

There was a time when Wild West movies were the absolute favorite. I've also noticed during the used book sales to support our little, local library that Western novels are grabbed up almost as fast as the romance reads. I'm aware that this is mostly thanks to the much older reading population, but I can't help but wonder if there are still horse-riding, boot-stomping, hat-wielding dreamers out there on the younger end of the age spectrum. If nothing else, it's been a very long time since I've seen a Western read for the middle grade audience hit my radar.  So of course, I picked this one up to take a peek (curiosity gets me every time).

Put on that bandana and get ready for some swirling dust and danger because I'm hoping for an exciting read.

by Jeff Schill
Charlesbridge Moves
Upper Middle Grade Western
240 pages
ages 10 and up

MAY 7th!!!

The Kid is the quickest draw in the West. Little does anyone know he isn’t real. A fast-paced, cleverly woven, witty middle grade western adventure.

It’s 1881 in Destiny, Colorado. Fourteen-year-old Henry Upton’s parents have died, and he’s trying to keep his three younger brothers together on the farm. Henry writes a story about The Kid, the fastest draw in the West, to keep people away from their parts. But his stories will soon put more than his family and the farm at risk.

Meanwhile, Herbert might lose his job as an editor at Gunslinger Magazine in Philadelphia if he can’t find out why the author of The Kid stories recently stopped sending them. The soft city slicker is headed out west to find the author.

And Snake-Eye Sam has set his sights on The Kid, whom he thinks is real. Sam has evil in his heart and jealousy in his veins. Breaking out of prison to shoot down The Kid is about the only thing that can cure the itch running down Sam’s spine.

Three storylines—plus Gunslinger Magazine‘s The Kid stories—intertwine and come together just as Snake Eye Sam and Herbert both arrive in Destiny. On Main Street at high noon, a master plan is put in place at the same time that Henry and the Destiny sheriff get what they need to keep the Upton brothers together.

Pull up for a tall frothy glass of sarsaparilla and enjoy this engaging and satisfying Western tale, full of quirky characters, snappy dialogue, and heart.


Outlaws barely know what hit them when The Kid keeps law and order in an unexpected way, guaranteeing that those pages keep turning until the very last page.

Henry is only fourteen-years-old, but with the passing of his mother and father, is responsible to care for his three younger brothers and keep the farm going, which isn't a big deal since their father made sure they knew what they were doing. However, the State will see things differently. To keep them from learning about his father's death and taking his brothers away, Henry makes a deal with the Sheriff and writes about a gunslinger, who resides in the area and is able to bring all outlaws to justice, and outlaws will think twice before going to their town. It's a success and soon The Kid becomes a national bestselling series. While most outlaws now steer clear in case The Kid truly appears, there is one who takes it as a challenge and travels far just to get there. And that outlaw breathes to kill.

I picked this one up because it sticks out among the other middle grade reads, and I'm glad I did. I should also mention that I've never really been a huge fan of Wild West stories but was very curious how a gunslinger tale would meld with today's ideologies. This worked better than I expected and was quite the fast-paced, exciting read.

The tale is written from several points of view—Henry, the east coast editor Herbert, and Snake Eye Sam. Each person's nickname (Boy, Editor, etc) is placed at the beginning of the chapter as well as the year and month, since the story doesn't unfold in one timeline. The Kid's fictional story is also included in chapters here and there. These appear in a typewriter-like font and are a nice addition. Not only are tiny aspects from Henry's life woven into The Kid's adventures, but these side tales do add an entertaining and interesting twist while the main story plays out. As to the other perspectives (the main story line), these take place on two different timelines (Henry's tale starts a year before those of Herbert and Snake Eye Sam). While the month and year is stated at the beginning of each chapter as well, the back and forth does make things a bit confusing at first. After the reader figures it out, though, things flow very well.

A fast-paced weave makes the adventure exciting from beginning to end, and the real danger keeps the tension high. Still, the characters aren't forgotten, either. Due to the tale being told in various perspectives, the reader gets to know the main characters well, and, especially Henry, is easy to root for. Henry's character clashes against that of his fictional character, The Kid, and still holds enough small similarities to hit the heart. Henry's desire to keep his brothers safe, his cleverness, and even his mistakes make him easy to sympathize with and support. Herbert also adds an unique sub-plot as he leaves his protected life to travel out West. His journey and views are so different than those of Snake Eye Sam, that it also creates an interesting contrast. As for Snake Eye Sam, he makes a terrific bad guy.

There are a couple of triggers surrounding death of a loved one and violent deaths (thanks to evil Snake Eye Sam), but the read is appropriate for tween and teen audiences. The messages surrounding family and perseverance are inspiring, and there are lovely character arcs for both Henry and Herbert. The high-noon stand-off brings everything to a well-laid peak and closes off with a few extra surprises. 

I was surprised by how much this read pulled me in and do recommend it to adventure and action fans, who would like to try something a bit different. 


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