Friday 18 March 2016

Sammi Jo and the BEST Day EVER! - A Review

Sammi Jo and the BEST Day EVER! by Dede Stockton

This is going to seem like an awfully long review for a children’s book.  Apologies in advance.

Samantha Josephine lives at a boarding school throughout the year.  She is 8 years old and her parents are very famous authors who must travel on book tours.  Sammi Jo likes her boarding school and doesn’t mind living there, especially since her best friend Kara also lives there.  The summer months are a different story.  The summer is when Sammi Jo spends all her time on the shores of New Hampshire with her parents in the summer cottage they own.  Usually Kara comes along for part of the summer but this year Kara’s family is traveling to Europe and that means Sammi Jo will be alone at the beach.  She is convinced that, although she loves being at the beach with her parents, without Kara there to play with it is going to be the WORST summer EVER!

Sammi Jo and Kara bid their tearful goodbyes at school and then go off on their own adventures for the summer, missing each other before they even get out of the parking lot.  It’s a whirlwind week of sightseeing in New York City, visiting a circus where she sees a baby elephant being born and then off to stay at the beach, where Sammi Jo and her parents start off the summer with their ritual first night bonfire for roasting hot dogs and making smores.

Right from the first day, hunting for dry driftwood for the fire some unusual things begin to happen.  No one can explain the strange splashes and mysterious piece of wood that appears but right then and there Sammi Jo decides she is going to solve the mystery.  And solve it she does … winding up with a new special friend and what turns out to be the BEST summer EVER!

Having no little ones at home I seldom get the opportunity to read children’s literature anymore.  But, having had some recent conversations about books for young people and then seeing this book available for request (Thank you Netgalley) I decided to give it a look-see.  I found it hard to resist the title and picture of the little red-headed girl on the cover.

I think any youngster would find this story of Sammi Jo’s summer exciting to read (or listen to).  Sammi Jo is smart and very self-reliant for an 8-year-old.  She comes from a privileged family but still has to make her bed and do her chores before going out to play.  Sammi Jo’s new “friend” is more than adorable and who wouldn’t want to go along on their adventure.

That’s how I think my daughters (20 odd years ago) would have reacted to the story.

As a (somewhat) responsible (and I realize now – somewhat jaded) adult I had a slightly different reaction to Sammi Jo’s adventure.

(Spoiler alert for the following section)

The first part of the book was charming and I loved the week that Sammi Jo spent with her parents in NYC and then on the trip to the Hampshires.  After that I started having some serious questions about the parents (and YES I realize this is a children’s book and their role is minor on purpose).

Sammi Jo’s mom and dad spend the first night with her at the bonfire and then as we read about the next few days – they have breakfast with their daughter and then each retreat to their respective offices to work leaving Sammi Jo on a deserted beach to fend for herself.  She is a very clever little girl and manages to amuse herself while trying to uncover the mystery, but she leaves after breakfast and returns home in time for supper?

She discovers and then meets her new “friend” who happens to be a “Loch Ness” type of sea creature.  Yes, he’s cute (as the charming illustrations imply) and yes, he’s friendly, if a bit shy.  She goes home with her fanciful tales of sea creatures and her parent smile and nod and speculate on her future career as a novelist.  Do they ever go out with her to see what has their daughter so captivated?  No!  Even when a bad storm was on the horizon they waited anxiously on the front porch for her to arrive rather than go out to find and bring her home. 

I even got a little bit of a “creepy” feeling about how “Screech” (the sea creature) and Sammi Jo met.  He started leaving mysterious gifts and shiny objects lying on the beach.  One of these was a “shell-phone” on which only Sammy Jo could receive his messages.  Soon after Sammy Jo merrily hops on his back to go for an undersea sight seeing tour.  It’s a delightful tour and Sammi Jo meets Screech’s parents for lunch before (thankfully) being returned safely home.

So, would I read this book to little ones?  Absolutely!  It was a charming story with lovely illustrations.

Would I have a little discussion afterwards?  Absolutely!  Maybe I have watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds, but I would want to have the “Stranger Danger” talk and stress the importance of Mommy meeting all new friends before any trips are taken.

My only other problem with this book was that it came to such an abrupt end.  I don’t know if there are any other Sammi Jo books but I would have liked to know more about Screech and Sammy Jo and their summer.  Maybe if the story had gone on a bit longer it would have addressed and alleviated some of my “creepy” feelings.

I received this book at no charge from the publisher, Tate Publishing,
via Netgalley in exchange or an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)

Hi! My name is Dede Stockton. I love to read and have enjoyed reading my whole life. As a child, I was a military brat and so lived all over the world. Most places did not have television, or at least not American television, and because I am an only child and there were no electronic devices in those days, I read… Anything I could get my hands on!
Growing up in Colorado, I have grown to love “The Tattered Cover Bookstores” and am so pleased to announce that Sammi Jo and the BEST day EVER is now a resident on their shelves! Please visit my link in the left hand border!

I live in Colorado, with my husband, children, grandchildren and dogs. I absolutely love Colorado! I see the mountains from the windows in my office and can frequently enjoy all 4 seasons on any given day! I also own a home based business as a virtual assistant and love interacting with clients all over the country. Part of the freedom of being self-employed is one of being able to pursue other dreams. Writing a book is one of those dreams and I hope to be able to write many more in the coming years.

I have two grown children, Kirstin and Cody, who were the inspiration for the book. I look forward to writing additional stories about Sammi Jo and Screech in the future, as the first book is intended to be the beginning to a series of many adventures under the sea!
Current Books in the Series are:
Sammi Jo and the Best Day Ever – Book 1 and the beginning of the Sammi Jo Adventures

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