KidPages: Number One Sam

Apr 26, 2014

Last year, we fell in love with Greg Pizzoli’s The Watermelon Seed. It was simple; it was funny; it had just the right amount of unpredictability. 

So when I saw that he had a new book coming out this spring, I couldn’t wait to read it . . . um, to my kids, of course. Not just to myself. Please

Sam always wins. In speed, turns, and finishing races, he’s number one. Always. Until one horrible day when he finishes behind his good friend,  Maggie. He is devastated.

Before the next race, Sam can think of little else besides regaining his title as number one. The race gets off to a poor start, but Sam is determined and is soon in the lead. But then, without warning, he is confronted with a choice. And that difficult choice helps Sam realize sometimes you don’t have to win to still be number one.

Although very similar in style to The Watermelon Seed, Number One Sam is grounded by a stronger moral message and consequently not quite as funny. By “stronger moral message,” I don’t mean that it was heavy-handed in any way; only that there was more to think and talk about afterwards than just whether or not swallowing a watermelon seed is a good idea. We love funny books, but we also love serious books if the subject matter is treated in a fun and engaging way. Now that we've read both books, it seems Greg Pizzoli can handle either genre within the realm of his unmistakable style.

His illustrations are simple but distinct. They have a subtle, retro feel about them. I love the way he uses limited color and patterns. One of my favorite pictures in the book is when Sam loses. It goes from being yellow and sunny to blue and depressing. The contrast is striking.

At first I thought this book was just going to be about being a good loser—a good topic for kids (and adults), no question. But then, it ended up being about so much more than just how to handle a disappointing event, and the turn of events was fantastic. 

This book has only cemented our affection for Greg Pizzoli. He can count us among his loyal fans, and we will read anything he writes.

Many thanks to Disney-Hyperion for sending us a copy. Rest assured that all opinions are my own.

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