Friday, June 28, 2019

Review - Sam!

by Dani Gabriel
illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Date: 2019
Publisher: Penny Candy Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 52
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Sam is a nine-year-old boy who loves riding his bike and learning about the American Revolution. There's just one problem: Sam's family knows him as a girl named Isabel. Sam feels a sense of relief when he finally confides in his sister Maggie, and then his parents, even though it takes them a while to feel comfortable with it. But with lots of love and support, Sam and his family learn and grow through Sam's journey to embrace his true self. In the vein of I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Sam! is based on a true story. With a note from the author explaining her family's experience, Sam! is an important addition to a list of books that help children and adults discuss gender identity.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This kind of picture book is difficult to review, given that it's based on a true and personal story. While I appreciate the intent and overall premise, I have problems with some of the execution.

The writing has some technical issues. I also wasn't sold on the dialogue and behaviour of the kids, especially Maggie. Too often, children in literature come across like little adults.

While it's wonderful that Sam's family was so accepting right from the start, I don't know how universal of an experience that is for transgender kids. I think this may have worked better as a non-fiction title, rather than as a picture book that appears to tells a fictional story, because it does little to address the resistance that some kids face within their own families when they reveal who they truly are. (I understand that the book says it's based on a true story, but if kids fail to read that little bit of information, they're likely to assume it's a fictional tale.)

The illustrations are really not my cup of tea. The perspective is odd at times, making the characters' bodies look like they have strange proportions.

Overall, I wasn't that impressed with this. Books tackling this subject are important, but I think this would've worked better as a biography rather than as a "based-on-a-true-story" picture book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penny Candy Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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