Title: Super Rides Under Open Skies
Author: Darris Howard
Publisher: Publishing Inspiration
Release Date: August 2014
Length: 152 pages
Genre: Middle Grades
Meet six-year-old Tommy Johnson, Super Cowboy and Super Story-teller. Want to build a box to capture wild cats that roam the farm? How about tips on catching a greased pig at the fair, or teaching a stubborn lamb to avoid being trampled by angry milk cows? From the first paragraph, when Tommy explains why a boy needs a dog for a pet instead of a cat, he wins us over with his down-to-earth and humorous view of the world. Once Tommy begins school, however, things get complicated.
***** Review *****
Tommy Johnson is my kinda kid. Although as a teacher, he’s a nightmare. He’s six years old, lives the country life and loves it. Each chapter is episodic, so the chapters are a bit lengthy.
I thought I could be a cowboy. Dad had been a cowboy when he was younger, and we watched John Wayne on the television sometimes. But a cowboy has to have guns, and my mom won’t even let me have toy ones. When I pretend to be a cowboy, I have to use a stick for my gun. There’s not much adventure in that.
Tommy has enough siblings to help him out or get him in trouble, and his brother Albert is always masterminding these harebrained schemes, like capturing the wild cats to use for his parachute protocol. In the end, Albert always slinks off and leaves Tommy holding the bag.
And then there’s the time they try to get Tommy to ride the meanest cow in the heard….
Tommy also has plenty of imagination…usually least where he needs to, like in church. I particularly liked this chapter, because I can understand the pain of sitting in church. Who else but Tommy can go into the lion’s den? Of course, this requires having a way out…there are plenty of shoestrings here…
Man, I hate church! I didn’t think church would ever end. I wasn’t anxious to meet Frank and his friends, but I decided being eaten by a witch was preferable to being squashed by a buffalo. Finally, church did end, and the moment of truth arrived.
Tommy is very good at storytelling, and he uses things his older brothers have said before in appropriate situations…although they’re not appropriate sayings! The telephone has a certain ring to it, and Tommy likes to pick up when it is not the ring for the Johnsons. He likes listening in on Lisa and Jack’s conversations, and adding to them. Lisa hates it. Jack loves it. And then Tommy does Jack a huge favor one day when he butts in on these conversations.
There’s also a serious side to this middle grades book. Tommy goes to school, and he doesn’t like it one bit. He can’t read, everyone calls him dumb, and he’s picked on each day by the schoolyard gang. There is the loss of a good person who is close to the Johnson family. Tommy shows readers what it is to have empathy and sympathy for another person. Tommy also loses on of his best friends, hurt purposefully by the bully.
Despite all of the wrongdoings Tommy experiences at the hand of the school bully and his gang, Tommy finds a way to incorporate them into the new schoolyard way. He shows compassion and doesn’t let his anger and resentment stand in the way.
I loved this book. It is a great example of what it is like to grow up, even though now things are quite different. Tommy is a lovable character who is quiet humorous in his own right. I laughed out loud several times while reading this book, and I enjoyed all of Tommy’s adventures and mishaps.