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If you think your kids wouldn’t enjoy a western, you just might be wrong. When we visited Colorado this summer, I chose an audiobook themed to our location. The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson by Glenn McCarty with illustrations by Joe Sutphin is a rollicking western adventure set in the Colorado frontier that your whole family is sure to love. My son and I had already read it, but I was surprised that my eight-year-old kept begging for one more chapter. Even my fantasy-loving sixteen-year old loved McCarty’s descriptions and storytelling.

The Story

Eugene Appleton has only read about adventure in book until the day Tumbleweed Thompson rolls into town. The two boys get into several scrapes, always at Tumbleweed’s instigation, while Eugene is plagued with the question of whether he “has the right stuff.” From looking for smugglers to a pie eating contest to wacky disguises, the boys find one hilarious adventure after another. But in the end, it’s Eugene who has the strength of character to do the right thing when the cost is high.

What I loved about Tumbleweed Thompson

Character growth–Both Eugene and Tumbleweed have a lot of growing to do at the beginning of the novel. Eugene needs to learn courage, while Tumbleweed needs to become more selfless. by the end, both boys have grown because of their friendship, learning the qualities they lacked from each other.

Descriptions–McCarty’s descriptions pull readers in and give them a sense of place and reality. His characters feel both real and a bit over exaggerated, in the best way like a Normal Rockwell painting.

Parents should know

While Eugene and Tumbleweed get in a bit of peril, this adventure is suitable for the whole family. We enjoyed the audiobook, which Glenn McCarty narrates himself.

Companion novels

If your kids can’t get enough of the world of Rattlesnake Junction, McCarty has written a couple of companion novels to go along with Tumbleweed Thompson. Junction Tales is a collection of short stories about the early days of Rattlesnake Junction. And Dead Eye Dan and the Cimarron Kid, McCarty’s brand new novel, takes Eugene’s favorite book character and gives him a story of his own. I think your kids would most enjoy reading The Misadventured Summer of Tumbleweed Thompson, but each of these books can stand on their own.

Do you have a kid who loves middle grade fiction (novels written for ages 8-12+)? Be sure to check out my list of middle grade fantasy books.

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