The Courage Test
Feiwel & Friends / Raincoast Books
By James Preller
age 8 to 12
Synopsis from Raincoast Books:
Will has no choice. His father drags him along on a wilderness adventure in the footsteps of legendary explorers Lewis and Clark – whether he likes it or not. All the while, Will senses that something about this trip isn’t quite right. Along the journey, Will meets fascinating strangers and experiences new thrills, including mountain cliffs, whitewater rapids, and a heart-hammering bear encounter. It is a journey into the soul of America’s past, and the meaning of family in the future. In the end, Will must face his own, life-changing test of courage. A father-and-son journey along the Lewis and Clark Trail – from Fort Mandan to the shining sea – offers readers a genre-bending blend of American history, thrilling action, and personal discovery. This title has Common Core connections.
Road trips, without in car movies or tablet apps, trip that require family to notice the world around them and connect with those in the car, can be a life changing experience for family members. That’s the premise of The Courage Test (affiliate link).
Will and his dad are not close since his parent’s divorce. Will feels like a past his dad is trying to leave behind as he builds a new life with his new girlfriend so you can imagine the struggle and animosity Will feels when pushed into this 2 week road trip. Roughing it with no technology to distract Will after he tossing his phone out the window as a sign of rebellion, the father and son have to acknowledge and at least pretend to get along. A series of experiences on the Lewis and Clark trail become experiences that the duo conquers together, giving will a different sense of who his dad is.
I love the road trip experience, discovering a piece of history through retracing steps not through a museum stop (something Will makes clear to his dad that he doesn’t want to do). Kids often see one side of their parents, making assumptions, and this experience has Will challenging some of those assumptions about his dad. The story shows Will’s growth in trying to build a better relationship with his dad, conquering his current fears and developing inner strength and courage to tackle the challenges he knows he will still have to face. There is a little history woven in to add to the story without making the book a history lesson.
The Courage Test also touches on family dynamics with Will’s parents being divorced, as well as undocumented citizens. The use of font style helps to illustrate the differences in story from postcards Will sends to his mom and the “What I did on My Summer Vacation” essay will writes for school. Without giving too much away, I loved how the story end: there are questions not yet answered, Will’s relationship with his dad and mom is on the cusp of changing. Just like life, The Courage Test is a moment that influences the future but we don’t know what the result of that influence will be.
You can get an inside peek to this book in the following video review, published on our Youtube channel every Wednesday: