Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review: All About Sam by Lois Lowry (1988)

After seven books about Anastasia, Lois Lowry took a detour in 1988 and gave Sam Krupnik his own book. The story begins just moments after Sam is born, and it follows his observations and reflections as he becomes acclimated to the world, learns to walk and talk, and grows into the precocious preschooler who helps Anastasia hide hamsters and befriends “Gertrustein.”

This is the best-written book of all the Anastasia books, which is saying a lot, considering how wonderful the others have been so far. Lowry’s efforts at getting inside the mind of a baby are clever, even if they may not be completely true to life, and Sam generally becomes a more believable character as we witness his development. I loved getting Sam’s take on his sister and parents, and the way Lowry provides logical and thoughtful reasons for his crying, such as the failure of his sister and father to blow on his stomach during diaper changes. Lowry also does a really nice job of seamlessly weaving Sam’s story in with the events the reader remembers from the Anastasia books.

I am biased toward liking this book because I’m a new mom of a baby (now 7 months), and I have to admit that I’m not sure how it would be received by kids. There are lots of chapter books and middle grade novels addressing the birth of new siblings - and Sam’s birth is already addressed from a middle grade point of view in an earlier Anastasia book. I’m not sure a book from the baby’s point of view is something kids in late elementary school are really interested in. I’m sure the connection to the Anastasia series is what keeps it on so many library shelves, and maybe what brings some readers to borrow it, but otherwise, I imagine it’s a hard sell. I would, however, add it to the list of chapter books that can be read aloud to preschoolers, along with Ramona the Pest, and the Nora books by Johanna Hurwitz.

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