Over the past few months, readers of My Brave Little Man have been kind enough to share their thoughts about the book. Some reviews were uploaded to and while others were sent to the author as personal letters, cards and e-mails. One was an anonymous note left on the table during a book signing. The following is a collection of both the online and personal reviews. Please take the time to share your thoughts with the author once you've read the book.

Book Reviews

"Growing up I heard my dad's stories often, he has always been open about sharing his life experiences. I received the manuscript from him over Christmas to read. I began right away. As I journeyed through the chapters with streams of tears rolling down my eyes, I realized reading my dad's story was much more difficult then hearing it. It is still hard for me to comprehend his younger years, because it is difficult to fathom that type of life. Thankfully I know the outcome, he is the best dad a girl could ask for and the best grandpa a grandchild could have. My life has been boring comparatively and for that I am extremely grateful. He took a life that started with tragedy and didn't allow that to be his heritage."
Nicole Hoel; Author's Daughter


"As a volunteer book reviewer for the American Adoption Congress, I very much recommend this author's story.

This book suits the primary audience of the AAC (adopted adults and their families through birth and adoption) very well. The entire portion of the book is devoted to the author's (an adult adoptee) first eight years of life, and his life experience in those young years--along with those of his siblings--read as if an entire lifetime is "squished" into just eight short years. The young boy faces many adult situations and has to cope with them as best he can. His responses and reactions include signs of attachment deficiencies, anger, fear, feelings of not being in control, bed wetting problems, age-inappropriate independence and more. The policies and conduct of the orphanage (Children's Home) included in his story are a great vision of the orphanages of the decades past--good food for thought for today's policies and conduct. And, My Brave Little Man speaks to extended birth families, birth mothers, birth fathers and reunion with such. Lastly, the author speaks favorably of his adoptive parents.

The author does a great job of conveying that adoption is a life-long process. Throughout the book, he links some of his current tendencies as an adult to some of the memories of his past (both traumatic and comforting memories). He expresses joy regarding his adoption, referring to it as a "new lease" on life. He recognizes, after searching relentlessly to find every piece and bit of pictures, notes, records, files, that things most likely turned out for the best--that his birth mother probably loved him, but was truly not capable of caring for her children.

The book displays the damage secrets cause, the complexity of reunions, the ambiguity of being blood-related to strangers, and perhaps most wonderfully--hope (particularly related to adoption) for those who have such a difficult
beginning in life.

Jamie K. Nagy, American Adoption Congress


“It's Great! And it's a hansome volume too.”
Patricia Maus, UMD Library Archives


“My Brave Little Man is a captivatingly detailed account of T.A. Degner’s early life, beginning with his sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet rural childhood, and ending in a Dickensian description of the years he and his siblings spent in a Duluth orphanage. The story profiles an era in a setting that has not been well documented in either fiction or memoir until now. The author spins tales of his transformation from a sweet little blond cherub to a strong-willed school-age rebel. Often funny, sometimes hair-raising, it is the inspirational story of a vigorous spirit meeting multiple challenges and emerging, though somewhat bruised, as essentially whole and strong.”
Lynn Cross, editor; storyteller; poet, and copywriter


"My Brave Little Man is the inspiring true story of shattered innocence. Full of spunk and determination the author shows us an interesting and compelling look at the difficult choices he was forced to make. We share his confusion as he deals with an alcoholic and absent father. We feel his pain as he courageously faces the loss of his mother. I’m looking forward to the second installment."
Jim Downs, author of The Book of Positive Qualities


Thank you for writing this. I hope there will be more installments. I like the writing style - the memories are told from a child's perspective and are vivid flashes that paint great pictures. I really appreciate you doing the research and combining it with your own recollections to create a quick reading memoir like no other. If I didn't know it was true I wouldn't believe it. There is always another layer to the wild stories - with the existence of Dennis/Keith being perhaps the biggest one of all!
Georgia Conley


Terry Degner has given us an outstanding memoir in My Brave Little Man. He chronicles his journey through the early years of his life...growing up in Minnesota, the realities of a sometimes-absent family, and the stark existence of life in an orphanage. He braves his way through his early years with courage and grit, looking out for the welfare of his two younger siblings, himself, and sometimes his parents...such awesome responsibilities for such a young man. Terry leads us through the adventures, sweet and bitter, of his life; and we gladly go along for the journey. My Brave Little Man is meticulously researched, bringing to life many of the places and colorful characters Terry met along the way. The reader is satisfied, too, with the rest of the story : Terry fills us in, in the epilogue, with what happened afterward, and lets us know how things turned out. I took this book on my 4th of July vacation, and couldn't put it down. A page-turner, and smartly written! Great work, Terry!
Jean Childers, Poet


TA Degner's memoir, "My Brave Little Man", is a touching portrayal of one boy's experience becoming a man all too soon. This sometimes difficult story weaves an intricate tale of what life becomes when the one who loves you most dearly, isn't fit to raise you. The love between mother and child is indescribable, suffice it to say, being torn from your mother at such a young age during the formative years can really strain the relationship.

The story and anecdotes found throughout this story informs the character growth and personal struggles a boy must undertake for himself and his siblings. Through it all, Terry and his siblings thrive on the belief that one day they will be reunited and a family once again. It is heart wrenching to learn what occurs later on, but the last few chapters really wrap up Terry's life as a child and what went on behind the scenes.

Overall, this was a great read for anyone who wants to know what life was like in a orphanage in the mid 50s. Further, the geographical and landmark references stand out to anyone familiar with Duluth and its history. Finally, I can say that this memoir left an impression on me - in that it has demonstrated the resolve and determination that we are all capable of, and of course it was all from a child who was less than 8 years old!

To summarize, My Brave Little Man by TA Degner is a powerful story of mother and child and what happens when a bond and relationship is altered. This memoir is well written and seemingly allows the reader to be transported back into time to what life was like on a farm, in an orphanage, and on a constant search to find your mother.


There is a wide range of emotions and traumas displayed in My Brave Little Man. It is a good example of how events witnessed during a child’s important, formative years can affect them. Because of our age and having been adopted together, we had each other to keep the memories of our past alive; even names and actions of the children in the orphanage. We never forgot where we came from and we even remembered some of the names of our biological family members. Thank you for sharing these memories with me, Terry.
Jean Haraldson, Sister


An absorbing read, and a fascinating profile of a unique personality, an area, and an era. The quality of the detail is amazing--this is a first-rate memoir that allows the reader to step inside the truth of the author's own experiences of his childhood. Some of the events, like the tots taking a ride into the sky on the Duluth Lift Bridge, seem almost unbelievable, yet it's clear they really happened, and in the way they are described. His family might be called dysfunctional, but it was at the same time a source of strength. Each character is carefully and sensitively profiled. It's an often humorous, but also poignant and even hair-raising portrait of resilience. Today's children are rarely treated to such an up close and personal look at how their grandparents lived "back then." Highly recommended for young people and adults alike!
Lynn Cross,editor; storyteller; poet, and copywriter


“My Brave Little Man“ captured my attention with its simple approach by telling the story of the author's difficult stage of life – facts as they really were, how he felt and what his thoughts were. I can only imagine how vulnerable a child must feel, how brave to overcome what had happened and through it all to gain confidence and self worth. I liked how honest and without extra dramatization the orphanage was described, in my view that is crucial to the reader. “My Brave Little Man“ kept my attention from first to last page and was very realistic and sincere. I loved reading it and I am looking forward to the next book.
Stefka from Bulgaria


Wow, what a great book you wrote.  I couldn't put it down and just finished it this afternoon. I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I read about your last encounter with your mom. This is a very sad story, but you were an amazing little guy.  I can't believe the things you did at your young age ~ escaping with your siblings to go find your mom, the adventure to go
see her at St. Scholastica....just to mention a couple.  I think of the little 4 and 7 year olds I know right now and can't imagine them doing such things ~ you were a Brave Little Man! 
Laura H


I found "My Brave Little Man" a story that tugged at my heart throughout. Terry reveals the hard choices of a child and yet securing his independence and bravery in order to face all the obstacles! Heartwarming.
Renee E.


In his memoir, "My Brave Little Man," the author takes the reader on a journey through a childhood most people in the Western world may find difficult to comprehend. The author not only made this journey, but managed to survive and mature into the strong yet caring person I am happy and pleased to call my friend today. "My Brave Little Man" is a book about character-building experiences and hope; about a little boy who became a man before his time. He shows us the power of perseverance and a strong will.
Andrew Ogg – a fellow traveler through the mysteries of life.


Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. I couldn't put it down. Just great!!! It brought up many memories of my childhood. The clothes, hair styles, gramma and grampa's outhouse! The drinking drank a lot and I remember many times sitting in the car in front of Stockman's bar in Fergus and waiting for him. Then one of us girls would finally have to go in and try to get him to come out. And he still always drove us home…..Sometimes wonder, with mom's smoking and father's drinking, how we all managed to grow up. Certainly not with today's standards was it. Thank you so much for the signed copy.
Sharon Spencer: childhood acquaintance


My Brave Little Man is a compelling story about incredibly formative years in one man's life. I enjoyed not only reading about the trials of the author's early childhood, but also hearing his perspective as a now grown man reflecting on these experiences and how they shaped his entire life. The book also provides an interesting and informative historical perspective on social norms, economics, and public institutions (such as orphanages) during the mid-1900's. It is an easy and enjoyable read.
R. Rushdy


Many nights I took my pajamas down to the furnace room to dry them out. I would sleep on the concrete floor while I waited for them to dry and so that no one would know. Good luck with your book!

My Brave Little Man is a book that was very hard to set down. Following Terry and his siblings childhood experiences show the resiliency of children. The strong bond they form when they depend on each other shows how strong the family bonds can be. It is a book that makes one realize that one should never give up on life's tough times.

I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by a Minnesota author. I found his story to be both sympathetic and captivating. His memory of events from such a young age was remarkable and pulled at my heartstrings. I highly recommend it to a wide audience. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading it.
Sara McCoy

This book was absolutely amazing. I loved it. It was interesting at every turn. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read.

Terry Degner does a great job of advocating for fellow adoptees in his book, "My Brave Little Man." Through his own personal experience he explains why older adoptees often have such a hard time adjusting to their new families, and the importance of having adoptive parents who are patient and loving, and serve as good role models. Congratulations to the Degners for doing such a great job with Terry and his sister Jean.
R. Anderson