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Jo’s Triumph

by Nikki Tate

Jo’s Triumph, Nikki Tate’s 10th novel, is an adventurous yarn in the spirit of Mary Downing Hahn’s The Gentleman Outlaw and Me-Eli. Set in Utah in the late 1850s, the novel charts the daring escapades of 12-year-old Joselyn, orphaned and abandoned by her older brothers at the Carson City Home for Unfortunate Girls. Inspired by her new friend Sarah, Joselyn hatches a plan to escape: she chops off her braids, dons boys’ clothing, and as “Jo” gets a job riding for the Pony Express. But her future is jeopardized when a mean and dangerous co-worker finds out her secret and blackmails her into helping him commit a robbery. In spite of her fear, and through sheer doggedness, Joselyn manages to outwit her foe without anyone discovering her true identity.

Joselyn is a spunky heroine, whose determined attitude and boundless horse sense will appeal to fans of Tate’s Stablemates series. The publisher describes the novel as an early chapter book, but the length of the chapters and use of words like “pernicious” make it more suitable for fluent middle readers.

The story is at its best when it focuses on Jo and her adventures. The subplots lack development; Joselyn’s friendship with Sarah, for example, is one-dimensional and seems contrived. Additionally, the back story about the clashes between white settlers and the Washo and Paiute people needs more historical context, particularly for Canadian readers. Though it would be anachronistic for Jo to provide such commentary, adding this information to the author’s note would have helped.