What’s it about?
Sam is a ninth grade girl trying to enjoy her first year of high school. Sam knows she has Down syndrome but she doesn’t feel different; even though other kids sometimes treat her that way. Sam’s new adventure involves a mini family reunion, exploring the interesting spaces of a retired military base and learning how hard it can be to “do the right thing”. Challenges and new mysteries are all chronicled in Sam’s private journal. In this book, Sam discovers that being yourself isn’t just about what people can see; sometimes what you can’t see is the most important part.
My Review of Sam’s Top Secret Journal: Memorial Day
Another book that promotes diversity in kids literature, Sam, the title character, has Down Syndrome. You’re hardly aware of it, though. The emphasis is not (and indeed it shouldn’t be) on Sam’s Down Syndrome, but instead on the vacation she’s taking with her family, and a problem that lots of kids with or without disabilities get faced with. On this trip, she finds herself wondering what the right thing to do is when she witnesses someone doing something they shouldn’t. It also teaches the reader a little bit about Memorial Day, valor, and veterans.
Dr. Adelman does a good job of making it clear that even though Sam is different, she’s not different. He occasionally talks about her problems (like being unable to easily run, and her words getting muddled), but in her thoughts and her behaviors, you don’t see a child with Down Syndrome. You see a perfectly normal kid.
It is too easy to make a child or an adult who has a disability / is differently-abled an object of pity or even almost alien depending upon their level of affliction. This sends entirely the wrong message to the many kids that have either physical or developmental disabilities. (According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2012-2013, that was about 6.4 million school-aged kids.) We need to empower them, and give them role-models who they can identify with. This also sends the wrong message to “normal” kids because it perpetuates, if by nothing else than the almost complete absence of kids with some sort of disability in kids lit, the alienation or segregation of them, instead of promoting acceptance and understanding.
Overall, Sam’s Top Secret Journal is a solid, quiet read for middle-graders, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to diversify their child’s bookshelf or give their child a protagonist they can identify with.
Title: Sam’s Top Secret Journal – Memorial Day | Series: Sam’s Top Secret Journal | Author: Dr. Sean Adelman (site) | Publisher: Raise Expectations | Publication Date: 2015-2-5 | Pages: 107 | ASIN: B00T8V3BJE | Genre: Childrens | Language: English | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Triggers: None | Date Read: 2015-11-14 | Source: Received a copy free from the author in exchange for an honest review.