Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Bull Named Ugly

What happens when the older brother you idolize, the one all the girls in the small town of Salt Lick, Nevada fall for, the bull riding champion everybody brags about, goes to Iraq and steps on an IED?  (An Improvised Explosive Device also known as a street bomb.)

BULL RIDER by Suzanne Morgan Williams, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009

It may be his brother Ben struggling with a traumatic brain injury and life-altering physical injuries but 14 year old Cam who prefers riding a skateboard to clinging to a grouchy fire snorting bull also crashes headlong into change. Author Williams brings the world’s problems to Cam’s ranch and everyone in this warm, loving family must adjust to roles outside their expectations.

The other members of Cam’s family are well thought out to provide just enough poignancy with a good balance of family fun. The adults have adult challenges, but the author keeps the focus on Cam and how he relates to his brother’s shifting moods contrasted with the unsettling discussion about patriotism, love of country and the willingness to sacrifice. A bull named Ugly plays a major part, too, but that’s all I’m going to tell you.

Suzanne Morgan Williams has a solid background in nonfiction for young people. She researches deeply with extensive acknowledgements. Through her craft Bull Rider comes to life, receiving the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Juvenile Book of 2009.

If you missed this novel when it first came out, read it now. It’s timely today. Movies are being made about our war vets, but do any of them get inside the heads of their younger brothers and sisters? This book will motivate you to thank a veteran for his or her service -- and the vet's family, too.

Visit the author at

Hillview School Library