Thursday, May 30, 2019

Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse

Vaught, Susan. Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse
May 14th 2019 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jesse likes to hang out in her tree house with her Pomeranian, Sam-Sam, when she is not trying to teach the fluffy pup how to do search-and-rescue missions. Sam-Sam's primary purpose is to provide comfort to Jesse, but since her mom is away serving in the military, Jesse hopes to prove that her dog is just as fierce and useful as her mother's. Jesse's father teaches at the local high school, and her Aunt Gus helps run the house and help with Jesse. Sometimes, Jesse can be a handful, since she is on the Autism spectrum and averse to itchy clothes and a variety of other things. This makes her the target of several mean children in her school, who are mean because they have a variety of issues in their own lives. Jesse does befriend a new boy, Springer, who seems to understand her eccentricities. When Jesse's father is arrested after money from a library fund raiser goes missing, Jesse is determined to investigate and prove her father's innocence, and Springer is glad to help. When a tornado touches down in their town and Jesse's home is destroyed, things because more complicated. She and Springer are able to work through the mystery, survive the tornado and help out during it, and finally get some help with the bullying they have had to endure.
Strengths: I loved Vaught's depiction of a neurodivergent character. We have an Autism spectrum unit at our school, and Jesse's behavior is very similar to some of those students. Since dealing with meltdowns in class is hard for the students who have to witness them as well, I think reading about characters like Jesse is helpful in making readers more empathetic to people whose behavior might otherwise just seem to be irritating to them. The "cockroaches" who give Jesse and Springer a hard time would certainly benefit from reading a book like this! Having a parent servant in the military is a nice touch, and the mystery is okay. I particularly liked Aunt Gus!
Weaknesses: My students, sad to say, struggle with even the simplest flashbacks in books. This story goes back and forth between the investigation of the mystery to the tornado a lot of times, and even I got a little bit confused. Since there are a lot of clues that Jesse unearths during her investigation, this would have been a much stronger and easier to process story is the writing had been linear.
What I really think: I'm really torn about this. I need more books about neurodivergent characters, but the cover of this isn't immediately appealing. I'll probably end up purchasing, but it will take some convincing to get children to read it. (Also whispering to myself "Sam-Sam and I. Sam-Sam and I." to myself!)
Ms. Yingling

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