As soon as I saw this comment about the Louis L'Amour book Down the Long Hills, I requested the book from the library. I'd never read any L'Amour books, and generally don't like westerns. But, there's no investment other than time in a library book, so...
This was a really good family read-aloud. It's not a kids' book (was in the adult fiction section in the library) but since it's about a couple of kids, it's a natural. A young boy and girl traveling in a wagon train are out of the camp when Indians attack. (I am using the word "Indians" as that is the word used in the book.) They are the only survivors. The boy knows his father is waiting for him and makes his way west with his good horse and the little girl. In the meantime, his father (a widower) learns about the massacre and the chance that his boy is alive; he and some companions go searching for him. Also in the meantime, an Indian gets his eye on the boy's horse and attempts to get it from him. And, there's more. It's very exciting and had my kids asking me to read more when it was time to stop. I'd find it at my place at the kitchen table in the morning - a not so subtle hint to read, please.
My kids really loved this book. They agreed that it was unlikely a 7-year-old boy would be so savvy in the wilderness. But, it was not completely fantastical and was a good story anyway. The were fascinated by the descriptions of the men reading the trail, observing signs and tracking the boy's progress.
The book is not the least bit politically correct; there is no sympathy for the oppressed Indians forced to attack the wagon train. It's bloody. I did a little editing on the fly as I read aloud. I would not hand this off to a child, even one who has read all the Harry Potter books. It is not fantasy.
I wish I still had the book so I could quote a passage. The perspective of the story alternates between the kids' journey and the father who is looking for his son. At one point the father thinks about how hard he has worked his son all the boy's young life. He has a moment of regret that the boy had not had more fun in his life, more leisure time. Then he realizes that because of the boy's hard life, he is better equipped to survive his journey in the wilderness.
I don't know if I will seek out any more Louis L'Amour books. Maybe my kids will when they are older, if they remember this one. This is probably one to buy to have around when they are ready to read it on their own.