Cowboy Joel and the Wild Wild West


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


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.



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


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.

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.

Nathan A (

“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.”

Lisa Fuller, B.S. Early Childhood Education, Kindergarten Teacher

“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.” 

Jessica Vocca, M.Ed Educational Administration, Principal, Dr. Daniel Bright School

“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.”

James Joiner, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Northern Arizona University

“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.”

Kellen, age 6

“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.”

Cowboy Joel and The Wild Wild West

By The Gagon Family.


Stories of Adopting Children With Down Syndrome.

Compiled by Cady Driver.