Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

by Dan Gemeinhart

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

by Dan Gemeinhart

Review posted February 14, 2020.
Henry Holt and Company, 2019. 344 pages.
Review written January 22, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
Honor Selection of the City of Fairfax Regional Library 2020 Newbery Book Club
2019 Cybils Award Winner Middle Grade Fiction
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Children's Fiction

I wish I’d read this book months ago when my coworker first told me how much she loved it! Instead, I read it in January 2020 because it was selected by my library’s Newbery Book Club members as one of their contenders – and I’m now a fan myself.

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is about a twelve-year-old girl, Coyote Sunrise, and her father, Rodeo, who live in an old converted school bus traveling around the country. The story opens as Coyote adopts a cat, whom she names Ivan after her favorite book, The One and Only Ivan. (It’s always fun when a Newbery winner references another Newbery winner! I would be happy if this were such a case.)

Coyote has to manage Rodeo – she knows he won’t approve of her getting a pet. So she sneaks Ivan onto the bus, and then convinces Rodeo about a trial period of 500 miles. Sure enough, Ivan wins Rodeo over before the time is up.

But other things are trickier. Coyote has a weekly talk with her grandmother, and soon after adopting Ivan, she learns that a park in the town where she used to live is going to be demolished and replaced with housing. But five years ago, Coyote and her mother and two sisters buried a time capsule in that park and promised to return in ten years and dig it up. But a few days after they did that, Coyote’s mother and sisters were killed in a car crash. That was when Rodeo took Coyote on the school bus road trip, saying that it was too painful to look back.

So Coyote is determined to get to that park in one week. Trouble is, they are currently on the other side of the country. If she tells Rodeo, he’ll refuse – so she has to figure out another way to get him going that direction.

And so the journey begins. Along the way, they take on passengers, and those passengers get on board with Coyote’s quest. But the obstacles she faces get bigger and bigger. Coyote’s actions get more and more outrageous, but the reader still isn’t sure she’ll be able to pull this off.

This is a book with heart. The characters are wonderful, each one well-drawn and contributing to the story. The tension builds as Coyote’s deadline gets more and more impossible to meet and at the same time obstacles mount.

The back story is horribly tragic – Coyote’s mother and sisters dying – and yet this is a book full of humor and sheer joy. It walks the balance of dealing with a serious subject in a meaningful way without ending up with an unbearably sad book.