Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sam I am by Ilene Cooper

A few years ago a new topic was introduced for our Grade 3 students called People and their beliefs.  In this topic the children learn about some of the major religious beliefs in the world.  We have an extensive collection of books on this topic in our Non Fiction section.

Sam I am takes up this theme from the point of view of a family where the dad is from a Jewish family and mum is an Episcopalian Christian.  The sticking point comes with holidays like Easter and most especially Christmas.  The compromise they have developed is called a Hanukkah Bush.  Sadly as Christmas approaches the energetic family dog knocks over the tree breaking it and most of the delicate vintage decorations.  Mrs Goodman is so upset she refuses to replace the tree and so the stage is set for a very different Christmas this year for Sam and his family.  Meanwhile Sam struggles with his first boy girl friendship/relationship, a term in school where the topic is the holocaust and the family tensions surrounding these different religious beliefs.

This book is only suitable for Senior Primary students because Sam's holocaust assignment takes up about one third of the book but teachers of younger grades could read extracts. The explanations of Hanukkah are a little overstated but would be useful for students with no background knowledge of this festival.  There are also extensive details about the bar mitzvah of Avi, Sam's best friend.  Here is a web site for the author where you can read a detailed re-telling of the plot.  Here is a review.  I did not purchase this book for my school library and I am not sure where it came from but it would be a good book for a Senior student who is interested in religion or the holocaust.

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