There are conversations that need to be had. There are feelings that need to be felt. You can run and run and run but you can never outrun the conversations and the feelings.
Coyote and her father, Rodeo, live in a big converted school bus they've named Yager. Five years ago there was a car accident and that accident took the lives of Coyote's mom and Coyote's two sisters Rose and Ava. When that accident happened, Rodeo took Coyote, put both of them on the bus and started living a life on the road headed anywhere but back home to where the feelings and the conversations waited.
Then, Coyote got a phone call from her grandma and she found out that the memory box she and her mom and sisters had created and buried in the local park back in Poplin Springs, Washington, was about to be lost. Coyote knew she had to get back there before the bulldozers started their work and before all the trees came down. She needed to find the right tree and dig up her box and reclaim the memories and the connections and the love they had tucked inside there. But Coyote also knew Rodeo would not go back.
So, this is the story of a journey in the direction of a really great pork chop sandwich. It's the story of a "family" that grows from two lost souls, to a cat named Ivan (as in the One and Only Ivan), a boy and his mother who are running away, a man who is running to, a girl who needs a new start and one last passenger who will remain anonymous to give you the honor of meeting her in person yourself for the very first time.
There's a book you may have read called CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND by Rita Williams-Garcia. In that story Clayton's mom does not see past her own pain. She completely ignores what Clayton needs when his grandfather passes on because of her own feelings. In this story Rodeo is guilty of the same mistake. This is a wonderful, heartwarming story about people who love each other and how they can make mistakes and hurt each other when they themselves are hurting deeply.
There is another story called HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson that teaches us about honoring each other's story and thinking about walking a mile in each other's shoes. Just as Kate DiCamillo gathers characters together in her stories to show us all the facets of human experience, Dan Gemeinhart has plucked a "family" of people on their own journeys and thrown them together in a bus. We're all on that bus folks. We're all on that bus.
So, what it comes down to is will Rodeo get Coyote to her box in time to get her memories and her feelings back or will her mother and her two sisters stay lost to her for ever? How can Coyote learn to take care of herself? What will Lester decide to do? Will he go to Boise to be in love with Tammy and give us his own love, music? Will Val find her safe place? Will Concepcion and Mrs. Vega and her son Salvador find a new home where they can be safe and secure?
We're all on the bus. We're all struggling from our own points of view. What did Rev. John Watson (Ian MacLaren) say? "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
This is a grand tale of some characters you could easily choose for your best friend. It's a grand old journey across the United States in search of a pork chop sandwich with a gang who can name their favorite book, their favorite place and their favorite sandwich. It's a tale of pain and grief and choices and sharing and opportunity and Uno and a wise cat and all the richness of a life. If you loved BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, you will heave a sigh of relief. Someone else has gathered the gang and we are privileged to come along and watch the kindness, the compassion and the love blossom .... and hopefully we'll take some notes on how to make our own journey this extraordinary.
352 pages 978-1250196705 Ages 9-13
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Critically acclaimed author, Dan Gemeinhart's The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise introduces young readers to an unforgettable girl trying to find her place in the world.
That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.
It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.
Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished―the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box―she knows she'll do whatever it takes to get back in time to save it. So she hatches a crazy plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.
Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”--from the publisher
************** “The bus came by and I got on
That’s when it all began”
-- Hunter/Garcia, “That’s It For the Other One” (1968)
Twelve-year-old Coyote adopts one of the kittens that some kids are giving away. She names it after The One and Only Ivan. She knows her father Rodeo won’t be easily sold on her having a pet. So, she sneaks Ivan onto the yellow school bus she and Rodeo call home. She gets the kitten all settled in her “bedroom.” But then, in the morning, she finds the kitty gone. It turns out he is curled up, sleeping, against her father’s sleeping neck. It’s clear that she has to somehow retrieve Ivan without awakening her father:
“I set my jaw, concentrated on my balance, and reached out with both hands for the kitten cuddled up in my dad’s neck.
But then,,,well, shoot. Then it all went to heck.
Something musta made a sound. Maybe it was my heart hammering, maybe I was breathing too loud through my nose, maybe Yager [the bus] creaked under my feet. I don’t know.
But whatever it was, Rodeo’s eyes fluttered open. I stood still as a statue, hoping they’d settle right back closed.
Instead, they slowly widened and focused on me. His eyebrows furrowed.
‘Coyote,’ he said, his voice hoarse with sleep. ‘What are you doing?’
I was standing over him, my hands reached out toward his neck.
‘Nothing,’ I answered.
He blinked a few times and looked me up and down, still looming like a strangler over him.
‘Coyote,’ he said again. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Nothing,’ I repeated, although to tell the truth it sounded even stupider the second time.
Rodeo cleared his throat.
At that moment, Ivan opened his eyes. He blinked at me, just like Rodeo had. My heart stopped.
He yawned, one of his molar-showing monster yawns.
His yawn was soundless, but when he yawned his whiskers brushed up against Rodeo’s neck.
Rodeo twitched and raised his hand to scratch at his neck.
‘No!’ I shouted, leaping toward them both.
I’m willing to admit it was not the smartest thing to do.
Rodeo, understandably startled to wake up and find himself being attacked by his deranged daughter, jumped and screamed and tried to scramble away from me.
Ivan, understandably, startled to wake up and find his bed suddenly screaming and kicking, did what any cat would do in that situation: He dug all ten of his razor kitten claws into the nearest object.
Which, of course, happened to be Rodeo’s neck.
The results were both instantaneous and dramatic.”
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE is incredibly funny at times. But it also scared me a lot. It hit close to home.
Eight-plus years ago, I was sitting in my beloved forest green ‘99 Tacoma pickup, stopped still on the highway at the rear of a traffic jam, wondering what the holdup was. That’s the last I remember. What I didn’t see coming, or my brain won’t permit my recalling, was the young, uninsured guy who was speeding up the highway and hit me hard enough at 70+ mph to flip my truck and render me unconscious and bleeding with a concussion that resulted in a permanent brain injury.
But, luckily, I survived
Aware of my good fortune, I’ve since become scared of dying in a traffic accident. I’m pretty much always on high alert when I’m on the road. I curse, gesture, and blast my horn at motorists who perform stupid, dangerous, and illegal acts that I fear are going to someday kill me.
And so I spent a lot of time empathizing with Coyote Sunrise as I read her story.
Coyote is a former middle child, whose mother, elder sister, and younger sister all perished in a car accident which was the other driver’s fault. Coyote’s father was so grief-stricken by the loss that he took the insurance settlement, purchased a yellow school bus, and set off with Coyote, trying to outrun the pain. Five years have passed and Coyote (not her real name) and Rodeo (not her father’s real name) have wandered the country without putting down any roots and without once returning to where they used to live.
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE is the story of what happens when Coyote makes one of her periodic payphone calls to her grandmother back home (or what used to be home), and learns that they are about to tear up the little neighborhood park she used to frequent. As we learn, it was only a week before her family’s demise that Coyote, her mom, and her siblings, compiled a metal box full of memories and buried it in that little park that’s about to be excavated and paved. Coyote has always counted on that box being there.
Rodeo is an exceptionally complex character. Coyote’s not permitted to call him “Dad” because of the pain it causes him. And he has no intention of ever returning to their former home in Washington State. So Coyote must figure out a whale of a subterfuge in order to persuade him to drive that bus from their current stop in central Florida, all the way across the country. That she is actually permitted to keep Ivan shows us how persuasive Coyote can be.
In the process of crossing the country, Coyote collects a series of young people, adults, Ivan, and a 200-pound horned goat. They, and their various individual tales, all end up on the bus together, heading west.
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE is one heck of a yarn. It’s already gotten a lot of positive attention. And I am here to tell you that it is well-deserved attention.
But please, for everyone’s sake, stop at stop signs, put down your friggin’ cell phone when you’re driving, and pay attention to road conditions and the motorists around you.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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