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The Adventures of Wilder Good #5-7 Review by Erika Leaf

S. J. Dahlstrom
Paul Dry Books

Literature is the foundation of our family's education. My children read many books–both for school and pleasure–so I am always looking for quality material to add to our collection. I was excited to read the Wilder Good series as the books are based on a 12-year-old boy in Colorado and incorporate wholesome stories that teach life skills, people skills, and lessons about growing up. We were introduced to Wilder through the following books: Black Rock Brothers (The Adventures of Wilder Good #5), Silverbelly (The Adventures of Wilder Good #6), and Cow Boyhood (The Adventures of Wilder Good #7.)

In Black Rock Brothers, Wilder is on a mission to right a past mistake. Doing so is no small feat, as it involves a strenuous and dangerous journey that takes him away from home to live off the land. Two of his friends and a couple of dogs accompany him, but no adults join the excursion. The boys learn outdoorsman lessons about eating off the land, securing shelter, how to deal with the weather, wild animals, and respecting the environment. There are social lessons, though, too, such as forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, loyalty, and friendship. Of course, being a book about a group of 12-year-old boys, there are both funny and gross accounts. 

Silverbelly brings Wilder and his younger sister to their grandfather's cattle ranch in Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When Wilder is not helping with chores, he bides his time in the canyons and pastures of the vast ranch. He has an altercation with an unethical neighbor, battles a formidable snowstorm, builds his own tree blind, and forms a closer connection to his family. Through the story, he also grows in his understanding of hunting. He learns not only additional skills and methods but also about respecting the animals, keeping promises, and ethical practices. He learns the good and bad in human nature and makes a mature decision to show mercy.

Wilder travels back to Texas to spend time with his aging grandfather in Cow Boyhood. The pair decide to help an elderly friend with a cattle drive to prove that the older men are still capable. As if the drive was not challenging enough in and of itself, they experience a hazardous thunderstorm, come face-to-face with a wild buffalo, become separated, deal with a trapped cow, and have a legendary encounter with a snake in an outhouse. Wilder learns about responsibility, life and death, and the importance of seeing a job through to the end. 

We used these books as family read-alouds. Many times, we laughed at the situations or stopped to discuss topics. The books heavily focus on outdoor activities like camping, hunting, animal instincts, and basic survival skills. Our family does enjoy being out in nature and partaking in various activities, so there were many things to which we could relate. However, we did learn additional tips and gained a greater understanding of ranching life. We also used some of the experiences as a springboard for moral discussions. There is also a thought-provoking analogy about toothpaste tubes that we have referenced many times since we finished the book.

I appreciate that The Adventures of Wilder Good books are appropriate for young, impressionable minds. They inspire independence, adventure, morals, and setting goals. I eagerly await the next adventure.

Product review by Erika Leaf, The Old Schoolhouse®, April 2022