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The Hero's Trail: A Guide for a Heroic Life


What is a hero? Using the metaphor of a hiking trail, bestselling author T. A. Barron discusses the great variety of heroes and brings them to life through their own stories: Some are well known, like Wilma Rudolph, Anne Frank, and Stephen Hawking. Yet most are “ordinary kids” who have made amazing choices: saved their siblings from a fire, struggled to stop prejudice at their school, helped raise money to build a well in an African village. This book will be invaluable to kids, parents, and educators who need ...

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The Hero's Trail

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What is a hero? Using the metaphor of a hiking trail, bestselling author T. A. Barron discusses the great variety of heroes and brings them to life through their own stories: Some are well known, like Wilma Rudolph, Anne Frank, and Stephen Hawking. Yet most are “ordinary kids” who have made amazing choices: saved their siblings from a fire, struggled to stop prejudice at their school, helped raise money to build a well in an African village. This book will be invaluable to kids, parents, and educators who need role models for young people to look up to—and a new way to look at what a hero is.

Explores how to lead a heroic life, facing challenges with courage, strength of character, and wisdom, much as a hiker uses those qualities on a challenging trail.

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Editorial Reviews

• “A rewarding, informative read, the book introduces and pays homage to heroes throughout time, literature, and life.” starred review


from the preface by Robert Coles
"Here is so much grace to regard closely, to hold tight in mind, heart, and soul."
Children's Literature - Joyce Rice
What makes someone a hero? Can you plan to be a hero or does it just happen because of the circumstances? Sometimes, a hero is someone who has trained to do heroic things, like an astronaut or a firefighter or a policeman. Sometimes, a hero is someone who has the courage to do the heroic thing when the time comes. The author compares our lives to a hike, filled with ups and downs and requiring some preparation if we are enjoy it to the fullest extent possible. Along the way, there will be moments that require stamina, courage and the ability to see through the difficult times, to the future. Author Barron has paid homage to heroes that are familiar to the reader such as Anne Frank, the first responders of 9/11, Wilma Rudolph, and Ruby Bridges, the first black child to enter a whites only public school. The reader will also meet people who have not seen so much of the limelight but are heroes to their families and communities. These stories teach us to look for the heroes all around us and to learn to be a hero for someone else. Melinda Clark was only thirteen when her two-year-old brother woke her up in the middle of the night to tell her the house was on fire. Melinda was able to position her three siblings on the roof outside her bedroom window in order to save their lives. She didn't think about it...she just did it. Joe Derat was the subject of bullying in his school in Massachusetts. Joe was a stutterer but didn't know how to defend himself against the bullies even in the third grade. Then Joe decided he was the only one who could make the situation better and he faced his classmates and told them it only mattered what he thought of himself. He had the courage to stand up for himself against those who wanted to control him and his attitudes. This is a book to share with all upper elementary and middle school children that will help them to understand that they can make a difference in their community, in their family and in their global world. This is a must purchase recommendation for all middle school collections. Reviewer: Joyce Rice
Publishers Weekly
A year after the tragedy of September 11, a second wave of titles arrives to inspire and comfort youngsters (see Children's Forecasts, July 29 for additional titles). The Hero's Trail: A Guide for a Heroic Life by T.A. Barron profiles people who exemplify heroic qualities, both well-known and less recognizable. Illustrating the importance of survival instincts in times of crisis, for example, the author mixes stories about Satchel Paige and Abraham Lincoln, Ruby Bridges and Anne Frank with the story of 10-year-old Joshua Dennis, who sang and prayed before being rescued from the mine where he was trapped for five days in 1989. Each chapter opens with a hiking story that illustrates a heroic quality and an inspirational quote; "More Quotations for the Trail" rounds out the volume.
From The Critics
T. A. Barron, author of the popular Lost Years of Merlin series and Kate in the Heartland triology, is an active advocate for the many adolescents who can—and do—have a positive impact on the world. In this moving collection, Barron weaves together stories of young heroes. Some, like Anne Frank, are names with whom young readers are familiar. Others, like Keema McAdoo, a young teen who set up an after school program in her Massachusetts town as a way to provide kids in her neighborhood with an option to gangs and street violence, are new to readers. All of the book's heroes inspire readers to take action in our own neighborhoods and situations. Barron's gentle strength and optimism are evident in the narrative portions that he composes as he connects the threads of this wonderful book. Barron is also the creator of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a competition named for his mother, in which young people are honored for their truly fine and selfless works. For more information, see, and his Website, 2002, Philomel, 131 pp.,
— Sissi Carroll
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-In introducing and concluding this assemblage of fictional and real-life characters, Barron differentiates between the terms "hero" and "celebrity" and probes the qualities that constitute the former. The remaining chapters categorize individuals according to whether they have responded to a crisis, survived dreadful circumstances, displayed inner faith, helped others near or far, or exhibited such extraordinary actions as to be notable "for all time." The stories of Merlin and Prometheus mingle with those of Lance Armstrong, Charles Eastman, and Helen Keller. There are many examples of courageous children from Ruby Bridges and Mattie Stepanek to the lesser known, but equally inspiring young people who have raised money for people suffering in third-world countries, successfully lobbied for changes in legislation, or saved a drowning sibling. Entries are footnoted, so readers have a wealth of books, articles, and Web sites to pursue for further information. Barron likens the journey through life to a hike on a trail; his thesis is that heroes serve as guides along the way and remind us that we are not "walking alone." These and other messages are interspersed with the descriptions and conveyed through invented dialogues between the author (I) and an imagined companion (you) on the trail. While these sections are well meaning, they seem unnecessary; the biographical accounts stand on their own, with a more subtle connection to the metaphor. Nevertheless, the stories are well worth sharing. Black-and-white photos and a list of uplifting quotations add to the book's value.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Environmentalist, author of several epic-length fantasies, and founder of an award for heroic young people, Barron invites readers to hike with an international company of heroes drawn from history, literature, and contemporary news reports. Defining five types of heroism, from unpremeditated acts such as Pocahontas’s rescue of John Smith or, more recently, nine-year-old Sherwin Long’s of his drowning little brother, to the constant courage displayed by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, and others challenged by seemingly overwhelming physical obstacles, he develops the idea that anyone, of any age, anywhere, can walk a hero’s path, given some combination of courage, faith, perseverance, hope, "moral direction," and humor. He makes his points in a lucid, direct way, supports them with anecdotes featuring, for the most part, children or teenagers, and closes with a gathering of inspirational lines from Chief Seattle, Mae West, and other sages. Though Barron may confuse less knowledgeable readers by tucking fictional heroes—Prometheus, Frodo, Mafutu from Call It Courage—into his gallery of living, or once-living, ones, the simplicity of the message and wide range of examples combine to make compelling motivational reading. (notes, bibliography, index of names only, small black-and-white photos) (Nonfiction. 12-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142407608
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 2/15/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 225,109
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

T. A. Barron

T.A. Barron is the award-winning author of fantasy novels such as The Lost Years of Merlin epic—soon to be a major motion picture. He serves on a variety of environmental and educational boards including The Nature Conservancy and The Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, and is the founder of a national award for heroic children. Following a life-changing decision to leave a successful business career to write full-time in 1990, Barron has written seventeen books, but is happiest when on the mountain trails with his wife, Currie, and their five children.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2003

    Hero's Trail

    ***** When you think of a hero, someone like King Arthur, Han Solo, or Clint Eastwood comes to mind. Yet, it is more often than not someone who you might not notice who is truly a hero. In this book, the author concisely illustrates from legend and reality the true nature of a hero, defining the qualities of perserverance, kindness, and courage, etc. that set a hero apart from the crowd. While many of the people he uses will be familiar, such as Esther, Princess Leia, Anne Frank, for example, some of the real life heroes are people that have been ignored. He presents role models for not only children, but for all people to strive and emulate in their lives. You never know when you might be called upon to be one, for as one of his examples, Princess Leia said, 'They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes.' *****

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    Posted December 19, 2010

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