Wednesday, May 26, 2010

See you around, Sam

Since I joined so late in the month, I thought I would post one more review before the month is up. This has been crossposted from here.

I had been introduced to Lois Lowry a few years back by a teen-aged niece who lent me her copy of 'The Giver'. It was a very powerfully told story, which distressed me with its mind-numbing intensity. How could this be a children's writer? I decided to find out. A visit to my favourite bookstore soon reassured me. I was introduced to the delightful Krupnik family. Mr. and Mrs. Krupnik have two children, Anastasia, the older one, who delights us through the first few books in the series, and her younger brother Sam, who is born when Anastasia is 10, and then wows us with his escapades. I am featuring here the latest that I have found in the series:

Written by Lois Lowry.
Illustrated by Diane deGroat.
Published by Yearling books.
Ages 9-12yrs.

Image courtesy:

Sam is a 4 yr old, who now feels offended if he is told what he may or may not do. He comes back from school one day, the proud owner of a set of plastic fangs that he traded his set of Etch-A-Sketch for. Putting them on makes him "look like Dracula. He felt like the coolest guy in the whole world." He would like to keep them on at home, but his mother thinks otherwise. She tells him that she has "fangophobia" and makes him promise not to wear them inside the house.

Now what is Sam to do? "His day was ruined!" He decides to run away to a place where people didn't have fangophobia. He packs his bag with the things he thinks he may need- mittens, a towel, his teddy bear, band-aids put on his forehead and cheeks in case he fell and needed protection, a fireman's badge, etc. He goes out of his house all the while announcing to anyone who will hear that he was "running far away! Because of the fangs!"

His mother does hear, of course, but feigns mild interest. When asked, she says that she doesn't think she will cry when he is gone, but that she, Daddy and Anastasia will miss him. She also suggests that Sam pack some Kleenex as he might need them if he cries. She matter-of-factly asks him where he may be going, "in case we want to write to you." The fangs make Sam think of walruses, and he tells her that he would be going to Alaska, to "lie around in a pile with walruses."  His mother just nods and bids him good-bye. "See you around, Sam. I'll miss you at dinner, though, as we're having lasagna tonight."

Then begins a very conspirational series of events in which the neighbours, duly warned by Sam's mother of Sam's 'running away,' actually encourage him to run away, giving him their own suggestions on other things to take with him, and speaking brightly of all the animals he might meet out in the wild in Alaska. All the while making sure that he is fed and taken care of, they talk of forthcoming events which Sam, "of course, will miss, because he no longer will be here. He will be in Alaska, lying around in a pile with the walruses, eating (very unappetising sounding) fish and blubber sandwiches," while they will be having lasagna and apple pie, and cake at a birthday, and candy at Halloween, and turkey at Thanksgiving and so many other yummy things.

His sister Anastasia also joins in. She comes to meet him at Mrs. Sheehan's, a neighbour's house, as Sam will not go home, being mad at his mother. She gives suggestions on what he could eat in Alaska-'bearwiches', which he can eat if the bears don't eat 'samwiches' instead. She takes him with her to Mr Fosburgh's to invite him for dinner as their mother has already invited the whole neighbourhood for lasagna and apple pie by phone, (making them aware of Sam's running away, of course) and Mr Fosburgh's phone is out of order. There they all look up Alaska on the globe, and Sam is secretly frightened by the vast wilderness he will be going to. All the while Mr Fosburgh suggests things like a flashlight in case of the dark ("Alaska has six months of night") and a pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes.("six months of day").

At the same time, Anastasia also tells Sam of the time when she had decided to run away. When Sam was going to be born, and she was very angry at having had to share her parents with another child. When Sam asks her why she changed her mind, she told him that their parents promised that she could name the baby if she did.

"You know what else, Sam?"
"It's considered very grown-up to change your mind after you've thought something over."

This is the crux of the story, the gem we find after reading it. Something a lot of 'grown-ups' too may benefit from being reminded of, I am sure.

By the end of all this, Sam is tired, scared, overloaded with things given by his well-wishing neighbours to carry to Alaska, missing his mother, and in desperate need of the bathroom. The fangs too, have become bothersome, unwieldy, sticky, smelly, and not worth all this trouble.

The book ends with Sam taking the 'grown-up' way out about the fangs. He throws them away, comes back home to mother, a warm bath and a yummy dinner, with all his favourite people around.

Both A and I loved this book. The obvious conspiracy amongst the grown-ups, (not so obvious to Sam, of course!), the individual conversations they have with Sam, Sam's perception of the situation from the point of view of a 4-yr-old and Anastasia's 'big sister talk' to Sam are truely heart-warming. A lovely way of introducing a very gifted writer, Lois Lowry. Will be reviewing some other books by her in the future.

In the meantime, see you around!


utbtkids said...

Oh Sandhya, we are so in the middle of the 'running away' phase :(

As kids the girls used to pick a bag and pack namely one diaper, some crackers and few pencils and pretend that they are going bye-bye. It used to be so cute. Modeling adult behaviour.

But of-late the older one, when things don't go her way says, 'If you don't say okay, you are not my friend, I am running away from you.' She means that she 'will walk away' from me - extrapolation of the peace table conversation they are taught at their school.

It takes me all effort to put a plain face and say, 'Sure. I will be very sad if you run away. I am sure I will cry. But have you realized what you will do for , when you are away? Think about it.'

She some how has started connecting running away and safety. I was surprised when we were talking about good touch and bad touch she asked, 'If I run away, will strangers hurt me?'

Choxbox said...

Wow. At this rate, you will need to keep a steady supply of books to these parts!

Anusha said...

welcome aboard, Sandhya! that was an awesome review, for a book that sounds equally awesome! we have to get it...although I don't want to introduce the 'running away' idea, I hope it will nip the 'I will not be your friend/not talk to you' phase.

sandhya said...

@utbtkids: I know what you mean. We too had this kind of pretend play many times when A was younger. Now that she is 9, things are a little more serious, and she tries to play the 'running away' card sometimes. I am sure she doesn't really mean it, but as a mother I am sometimes frightened. You hear of so many horror stories, that I decided to point out the beggar children we see at traffic signals and told her that some of these children have run away from home, and that they have landed in a much bigger mess than just having to disagree with parents and having to follow some rules. I am not sure if what I did was right, but they need to know the bigger picture too. We sometimes have conversations about the more unsavoury things in the world, as I think she is now old enough to be told that these things happen.

Chox: No sweat. It will be my pleasure. Actually I am quite impressed at the rate at which your FB devours books. And books are meant to be shared. Don't worry, we'll be raiding your bookshelves too!

Kodi's mom: Thanks. And I am enjoying being on ST. Yes, it is a very enjoyable read.

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