Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: Zooman Sam by Lois Lowry (1999)

At long last, we come to the end of the Anastasia and Sam Krupnik series with Zooman Sam. When Sam's nursery school teacher invites each member of the class to dress up for  the career they might like to have someday, Sam decides he wants to be a zooman. His mother makes him a zookeeper's jumpsuit, and Anastasia's boyfriend lends Sam a collection of baseball caps bearing the names of mascots of animal-themed teams. Quickly Sam realizes that he can't possibly talk about how a zooman cares for every single animal on one day, so he and his teacher devise a plan  to present a few each day until he runs out of hats. Unfortunately, while some of the animals are easy to talk about, others are scary, and Sam isn't sure he'll be able to see his commitment through to the end.

As I read this last book, I couldn't help but think about my intense dislike for the Gooney Bird Greene books. If Lois Lowry can write Sam so well, how is it that she misses the mark so completely with Gooney Bird? I intend to revisit those books now that I've finished this series, in the hopes that my trained eye is sharper now than it was in library school and I might discover that they aren't terrible after all. (As nice as it is to complete a series, I will miss Sam and would love another young character to read about!)

In any case, Zooman Sam is especially impressive because it makes such a great, compelling story out of a small classroom event. Lowry has taken on big things (dystopian societies, the Holocaust, death), but her talent for writing effectively about little things is what has elevated her to a favorite author for me.

There isn't much more to say about this book that I haven't already mentioned in a previous review; children's literature enthusiasts who haven't read the Sam books just need to see for themselves how sweet, charming, and timeless they are.

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