Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan, by Frances O’Roark Dowell, illustrated by Amy June Bates published in 2016 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers 112 pages
Sam Graham, age 7, wants a job. A high-paying job. He’d love to make “twenty bucks a pop” like his sister Annabelle does when she mows lawns. Although his mom is not so sure 7-year-olds can find high-paying jobs, Sam gets lucky. Mrs. Kerner needs help caring for her chickens, and Sam turns out to be just the right fellow.
It’s a hard-earned twenty bucks, complete with sitting up all night protecting the brood from a determined raccoon. On the heels of his success, Sam decides to become a chicken expert. He has a rather long-range plan in mind: Earn more money. (The first wad disappeared rather quickly.) Buy a chicken that lays blue eggs. Bring one of the eggs to show-and-tell. Feel like a winner!
It’s a circuitous journey, eventually involving taking old Mr. Stockfish out for his daily walks, patiently habituating his new hen to the rest of the flock, and waiting an interminably long while for that beautiful, blue egg.
I just have to say: Sam is an awesome boy! Warmhearted, earnest, respectful, responsible. He reminds me of my other favorite boy, Billy Miller. His dear naivete, meandering course of action, kindness to Mr. Stockfish, and proud wonder over that blue egg completely stole my heart! O’Roark’s gentle humor, warm family camaraderie, and sense of neighborliness make this a delight, start to finish.
It’s illustrated lightly with Bates’ friendly graphite drawings. Read this gem aloud to listeners as young as 5, or hand it to a burgeoning reader ages 7-9. A second Sam-the-Man story is due out early next year, and that’s great news.