Twelve-year-old Joseph Johnson searches the Northwest frontier for his missing horse and a new family.
When first his mother and beloved little sister die of typhoid, and then his father dies in a wagon accident, Joseph is left in the care of a drunkard, his Indian pony, Sarah, his only remaining family. When the drunkard sells Sarah to a swindler, Joseph reclaims his father's pistol, takes the money given for the horse, and sets out in pursuit, on foot, through unforgiving wilderness. He wants Sarah back more than almost anything—but he sees the stars as the campfire his family members sit around, and he plans to be the person they taught him to be. So when he finds a starving, abandoned Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, Joseph spends part of his horse money to feed him. Ah-Kee joins him on the trail, and together they battle grizzly bears, survive river rapids, cling to the outside of a steam train, and deliver a pioneer woman's baby—all without speaking a word of each other's language. Told in Joseph's authentic voice, this is true adventure with strong underpinnings of moral courage and love. Gemeinhart shines truth on difficult situations, such as Joseph’s shooting an outlaw, and the ending brings Joseph home: "There was plenty of sadness in the story, I reckon, but it wasn't sad all the way through."
Poignant and real. (Historical fiction. 8-12)