Summary: Brave Like That
Cyrus Olson does not think he’s “brave like that.” He’s not brave like his adoptive firefighter father who was also a star football player in his day. Although he plays football for his school team, he does not enjoy it, and would much rather be doing something else, but he’s afraid to let his dad (and the town that knows him to be an Olson) down. But Cyrus gets some motivation to stand up for himself and his desires when a dog is abandoned at the fire station (just like Cyrus was).
Cyrus’s father sends to dog to a shelter, warning him not to get attached — even though Cyrus already is. At school, Cyrus also deals with another set of challenges. First, he struggles with reading comprehension. Then, as Cyrus tries to disengage from the football team and pursue interests, he observes some changes in his football friends’ behaviors. They especially begin to bully a new immigrant kid named Eduardo. Is Cyrus brave enough to stand up for the right thing?
The writing is this book — and Cyrus’s voice — goes straight to the heart. Cyrus’s tender relationships with his father and then with Parker, the dog are moving and sweet. Anyone who has lived in the shadow of a popular, well-loved parent will empathize with Cyrus’s feelings. I liked Cyrus’s relationship with his grandmother who was dealing with loss of speaking ability in the aftermath of a stroke, as well as his new friendship with the Humane Seven (you’ll have to read to get this)!
A central theme in this book is identity and unlearning toxic masculinity. Characters like Leo at the fire station and Marcus and the other boys on the football team who essentially brand sensitivity as weakness or being uncool. I liked the gentle way the author unveils the problematic thinking, especially using the new firefighter Sam. Something else I liked was the incorporation of books throughout the story. Although Cyrus is entering middle school, his teacher makes them read a new picture book every day, which is easier for someone who struggled with comprehension.
There could be more dog content in this book, but better something than nothing! Kids who enjoy books about dogs will love meeting Parker and seeing his connection with Cyrus, as well as reading about Cyrus’s time working with dogs at the Humane Society.
It depends on who’s reading, but I know that R.J. Palacio’s Wonder gets a bad rap from the disability community for poor disability representation. Unfortunately, Cyrus reads the book for most of the story. Just a heads up.
Overall: Brave Like That
Brave Like That is a refreshing look at what it means to be a “man” and the journey to finding one’s identity in the world — or at least exploring enough options. Cyrus is a kindhearted, sensitive protagonist who shows readers that there are different ways to be brave. This book tackles a variety of important themes, from bullying to grandparent love to adoption and more. If you enjoy heartfelt coming-of-age stories, this will be right up your alley. I’m looking forward to reading my next Stoddard book — Right as Rain.
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I listened to the audiobook on Scribd. You can get two free months if you sign up using my link.