The kids are a lot bigger in middle school. That’s the first thing Cyrus Olson notices when he steps onto the field for football tryouts. Everyone expects him to become the next star receiver for Joseph Lee Heywood Middle School, just like his dad was. In fact, they expect him to be a lot of things like his big, strong firefighter dad, but that’s just not Cyrus.
In Brave Like That, author Lindsey Stoddard (Just Like Jackie, Right as Rain) creates a grounded and authentic story that illustrates how being brave doesn’t always mean running into burning buildings or being the leader of the A-team.
Cyrus feels like the frightening things in his life just keep growing. He knows tackle football is going to hurt; the hallways and classrooms of middle school are full of unfamiliar classmates and teachers and harder schoolwork than ever before; and his beloved grandma is still recovering from a recent stroke. It’s all too much, and Cyrus is afraid that he’s just not brave enough to handle any of it.
Then Cyrus’ dad finds a stray dog, alone at the front door of the firehouse, just like he found Cyrus exactly 11 years before. Unlike Cyrus, however, his dad has no plans to keep the dog, whom Cyrus names Parker. But if Cyrus is going to get through this year, he knows he’s going to need help from the most unlikely places, whether from a few unexpected friends, his grandma’s old vinyl records or the weight of a lonely dog resting a tired head on his shoulder.
Brave Like That is a nuanced and realistic story of a boy realizing that what he wants for himself is different than what other people may want for him. Cyrus’ sensitive first-person narration is effortlessly constructed and will draw readers in to his thoughts and feelings from the very first page.
Stoddard treads familiar middle grade territory, addressing evergreen themes of friendship and loyalty, but Cyrus’ warm and supportive relationships at the firehouse and his family’s unwavering love make the story shine. Put Brave Like That into the hands of any reader struggling to figure out who they really want to be, and it’ll show them that being yourself is the bravest, if sometimes the hardest, thing you can do.