HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: A Different Kind of Hero
Author: Ann R. Blakeslee
Cover Illustrator: Mary O’Keefe Young
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp., republished 2003
ISBN-13: 978-0761450009 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0761450009 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0761451471 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0761451471 Paperback
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12-16
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Blakeslee, Ann R. A Different Kind of Hero (Published in 1997 by Marshall Cavendish, 99 White Plains Rd., Tarrytown, NY 10591). It is1881, and twelve-year-old Renny Sholto lives with his father Lon, whom he calls Da, his mother Peg, whom he calls Mam, his big sister Bridget, whom he calls Bridgey, and his six year old little sister Nora, in a Colorado gold-mining town. Renny goes to the log school taught by Miss Steel and works for Mr. McMinn, the owner of the livery stable. There are two mines in town, the Kitkat where his father works, owned by Mr. Paunce, and the Rejoice owned by Mrs. Maynard. Mr. Sholto, who is a leader among the Irish immigrant miners, has a volatile temper, and is always ready to throw a punch, wants to turn his son, a tranquil youngster with a natural sympathy for others, into a rough, tough, brawling boy.
Into this situation comes eleven-year-old Wong Gum Zi, a newly arrived Chinese boy whose father is a servant in the home of Mrs. Maynard. Renny, at first reluctantly, is the only one to befriend him, because he empathizes with the newcomer’s loneliness, and so earns the disapproval of the entire mining camp. What happens when Renny’s da, who fears the influx of Chinese to the mine, vows to drive “the Chinks” out of town? Does the boy stick to his decision? Or will he cave to avoid further infuriating his father? I would not recommend the book for readers under twelve. Mr. Sholto physically abuses Renny and curses at him—the “h” word is used. There are references not only to gambling, smoking cigars, and drinking alcohol, but also to the dancing girls who are in town for the pleasure of the men, though no detailed descriptions are given.
At the same time, A Different Kind of Hero is an interesting, highly readable story of friendship, hardship, and many forms of prejudice which has well-drawn main characters and realistic conflict rooted in historic detail with a clear picture of a frontier town. Good historical fiction has the ability to take circumstances from the past and present them in such a way as to draw lessons for the present. Renny’s internal struggles have him caught between his father and his conscience. This book contains a little bit of happiness, sadness, and bravery, concluding with a reasonably satisfactory, and hopeful, ending as the anger between father and son is resolved, and they reach an understanding. It is a worthwhile selection that will heighten youngsters’ awareness of a complex period of history.