Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West

(3 customer reviews)

By The Gagnon Family



Cowboy Joel and Blackbeard find themselves face to face with El Maton, the most feared desperado in the West. When El Maton mocks him for the way he looks, Joel must confront his biggest fear; a tongue-slingin’ with the outlaw. Can Blackbeard convince Joel to do it? Will Joel find the courage?

Note to Mom and Dad: Cowboy Joel will teach your child that it’s not always about punching the bully. It’s about being confident in who God made them to be, and using those truths to fight the battle in their mind.


Joel Gagnon lives in a small Arizona town filled with tumbleweeds and cactus. Joel has Goldenhar syndrome, which means he was born missing some parts. His favorite things are Dodge Ram trucks, camping, and Legos.



Blackbeard is a juvenile Bearded Dragon from the outback of Australia. The Gagnons adopted him from a reptile orphanage where he had been bullied by bigger Dragons. He is also missing some parts. His talents include sitting still for long periods of time, catching crickets on the run, and winning staring contests with the Gagnon children.

3 reviews for Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West

  1. Nathan A (good

    Sometimes good books come out of bad experiences. Such is the case here, as the Gagnon family drew a lot of attention when their adopted son Joel, who was born with a horrible disease called Goldenhar syndrome, which causes parts of the body to be missing and requires a great deal of medical work, received stares from the children at a church they visited. Speaking from my own personal experience, children can be pretty cruel, and this book deals with the subject of awkwardness and bullying in an insightful way, by putting it in a strange context that allows one to be hostile to it without necessarily feeling like one is being singled out. After all, this book is set in an alternate reality wild west scene with talking animals and a cartoonish villain, which allows everyone to indulge in their hostility to bullies, without necessarily feeling as if they are part of the crowd whose passivity in the face of bullying being directed at the vulnerable outsider enables that bullying to happen in the first place.

    This book is a straightforward one with didactic aims as is often the case for children’s literature. The book begins with various virtues that the authors expect children to model, namely: courage, respect, modesty, friendship, and loyalty. After this the plot of the story begins, with Joel and his lizard friend Blackbeard showing up in Tumbleweed Town on a hot day, setting up the classic stranger in town Western. After arriving in town the two of them go into the Sideways Saloon and seek to get some drinks quietly and discreetly, only to draw the attention of the the bully El Maton, who has a gang of flunkies to support his oppression. While Joel is timid, his lizard speaks up for the two of them and provokes a duel with someone who had chased out the law in the town and set himself up as a corrupt authority. The duel takes place, with words as weapons, and Joel wins, at which point Joel realizes that the problem with bullies isn’t so much they themselves but the lies they tell that we can believe about yourselves, at which the book ends with some humorous Old West expressions and an introduction to Joel, his lizard, his family, and the book’s illustrator.

    It is easy to recognize this book as a labor of life, and though the book is certainly simple it also has a worthwhile point. Those who stand out and are different and either look or behave oddly will tend to draw a lot of negative attention. Such people are often already rather nervous and timid and feel as if they don’t belong, and the response they receive from others often confirms that feeling of being unloved and unwanted. There are a great many efforts, especially in contemporary schools, at attacking bullying, but so long as children (and adults) react towards outsiders with reflexive hostility, there will be bullying around. Indeed, it may even be argued that the hostility to outsiders has a good and worthwhile purpose and does not deserve to be stigmatized as a whole, but merely focused on those differences that reflect genuine moral issues rather than, in the case of Joel, merely someone who looks different because of a disease he suffers from. There can be a great deal of gain that one receives in life from being kind to the right kind of outsider, as it would appear that Joel is, and it is touching that a negative experience led to such a touching book as this.

  2. IBJoy (

    Bullying is something I don’t tolerate with anyone. A few years ago, a 12 year old cousin took her life due to bullying. So I don’t mind voicing my opinion when I hear of someone bullying another. Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West is an awesome story that shows kids, and anyone else reading it, how to take up for themselves against bullying. And to understand and realize that it is ok to he different. God made us and loves us the way we are and no one has the right to say anything about another.

    Another thing about this book is that Cowboy Joel and Blackbeard are real. Joel’s family, the Gagnon Family each had their own unique part in writing this book. Knowing real people face the issues in this book brings the story more to life.

    And Seth Yoder does a fantastic job illustrating this story. The illustrations are beautiful, and I love that children now old enough to read can make up their own story just by the pictures.

    You really don’t have to know anyone being bullied to check out this book. This story can help everyone. Those facing these issues can find confidence reading this story. And those who haven’t been bullied will learn how to deal with the issue if it ever happens to them. I highly recommend this beautifully written and illustrated book to everyone.

    A copy of this book was given to me by the author or publisher. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions here in this review are totally mine alone. I am disclosing this with my review in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

  3. Hannah H (


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Authors and Illustrator

The Gagnon family is an atypical, hodgepodge mix of humanity. The entire family enjoyed writing this book, with each one contributing their own input. Each child in the family has their own special story, and each one faces their own unique challenges.





Seth Yoder thinks it’s cool that drawing, which he used to do for fun, is now part of his job! He loves art, singing, hunting, and the fact that God gave a name to each of the trillions of stars in our universe. If there’s a deep theological discussion or chicken-bacon-ranch pizza, you’ll find Seth in the immediate vicinity. Seth illustrated this book from his corner office in the small town of Winesburg, Ohio.


“I loved the message in the story about being brave.  Oftentimes children, as well as adults, do not realize the impact we are making when we stare at others that may ‘look’ different than we do, or use unkind words to mock and hurt them.  I look forward to reading this story to my kindergarten students and explaining to them that we are all the same, no matter what our differences are, and that we need to be kind and treat others the way we want to be treated.” —Lisa Fuller, B.S. Early Childhood Education, Kindergarten Teacher 

“Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West
 is a great book about overcoming the everyday fear of being different and of bullies. The great balance of wit and bravery displayed by Joel and his sidekick Blackbeard teaches kids that it is not only okay to be different, but everyone has something special that makes them an individual.”Jessica Vocca, M.Ed Educational Administration, Principal, Dr. Daniel Bright School

“When a thrilling imagination meets the sturdy virtues of moral character, what you have is more than a book; you have a tool to shape and sharpen the next generation. Cowboy Joel
 provides the charm, intrigue, and spirit to capture any child’s attention while subtly weaving in the principles needed to strengthen every heart.” —James Joiner, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Northern Arizona University 

I liked the part where the lizard told Cowboy Joel he could be brave. It made me very happy. I want to be brave like Cowboy Joel.”— Kellen, age 6