Sassy: Little Sister Is NOT My Name!
Sharon M. Draper.
Scholastic Press, $14.99 (112p)
Two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winner Draper hits her middle-grade target in this cheerful yet reflective novel about feeling appreciated and finding one's place. "I'm pretty invisible around here," complains fourth-grader Sassy, who is annoyed that her parents and older siblings insist on calling her "Little Sister," and that she's always last in the family pecking order. Though she also grumbles about having to wear a drab uniform to school, Sassy does her best to look "distinctive and unique" by wearing glittery fingernail polish and shimmering lip gloss-and by toting her "Sassy Sack." Made by her beloved Granny, this colorful bag holds everything from Life Savers to shoelaces, sunglasses to mittens. "Even I'm not sure what all's in there, but I know when I reach down into it, I always seem to find exactly what I need," she says. A "Who Am I" class project and a situation in which Sassy's diminutive stature saves the day underscore Draper's clever and careful consideration of external and internal qualities. Filled with energy and opinion, Sassy more than lives up to her name. Ages 7-10. (Mar.)
Nine-year-old Sassy, the youngest child in an active, warm family, wants to be taken seriously. Teasing seventh-grade brother Sabin and sophisticated 16-year-old sister Sadora get to be called their given names, but Sassy is called Little Sister most of the time. Her loving African-American family gets so busy that they sometimes even forget she is there, despite her fancy clothes and unique style. But Sassy never forgets them. Whenever there is an emergency, Sassy is there with her Sassy Sack, full of just what is needed, from lip gloss to glue to a flashlight. Sassy might be small, but she is the right size to save the day just when her family needs her most. While her first-person voice sometimes slips from a genuine-sounding fourth grader to that of an adult, Sassy's story of family, school and one special grandmother is a sweet one. Newly independent readers, especially little girls who love fashion, will identify with Sassy and will look forward to more stories about her life and family. (Fiction. 7-10)
Sassy finds her school uniform boring, and she loves shopping at the mall, dressing up, and eating out at fancy places. As the youngest in her African American family, she hates being called Little Sister, but it is hard to get her busy parents to hear her.
In fact, she feels pretty invisible at home, except when her beloved Grammy, who first turned her on to reading, comes to visit and performs as a professional storyteller in Sassy’s school. Draper is an award-winning teacher and writer, and the classroom scenes, including the teacher’s mistakes, are as much fun as the family uproar.
Told in Sassy’s lively voice, this first title in the new Sassy series is more than a situation, and in the story’s dramatic climax, it is the smallest kid who saves the day. Young grade-schoolers will eagerly wait for more about resourceful, “sparky” Sassy and her search for herself. — Hazel Rochman
SASSY REVIEW FROM KIDSREADS.COM
5.0 out of 5 stars
Whether It is Magical or Not, Her Story Most Definitely Is, June 3, 2009
By Kidsreads.com (New York, NY)
Sassy Simone Sanford is only nine years old, but that doesn't stop her from resenting the fact that her glamorous 16-year-old sister Sadora and her chowhound 12-year-old brother Savin call her "Little Sister." Even her parents are guilty of this. The reality is that she is little --- teeny-tiny to be exact.
Sassy lives up to her real name. She has to wear a boring blue and white uniform to school but jazzes herself up with glitter polish, shiny lip gloss and her fabulous, magical Sassy Sack. Her grandmother made the handbag especially for her. It's shimmery-shiny and sparkly, all purple, silver, pink and magenta, with buttons, compartments and zippers galore. Sassy keeps that bag filled. She not only has items you might expect a fourth-grade girl to carry, such as stickers and hair doo-dads, lotion and nail polish, she also stocks the Sassy Sack with the most unexpected objects --- things that just seem to come in handy during the most unusual circumstances.
The other characters in the story don't quite fit the expected mold and are all the better for it. Sassy's dad is a teacher who loves his wife's cooking a bit too much, her mother is an executive who works in a very fancy office building, and her grandmother is a famous storyteller who has performed in Africa and the White House.
Sassy has tons of friends; she entertains them by telling how it would be if she were in charge of the school dress code and other items of school business. Mondays would be strawberry days, for example. Everyone would wear pink (boys, too!). Each student would get pink bubble gum for the mandatory bubble-blowing contest. The cafeteria would serve up strawberry jelly doughnuts and pink lemonade.
School is the source of adventures that are relayed with great good humor. When a boy gets his head stuck in his chair, a student who wants to be a nurse covers the back half of him with his jacket. Sassy confides that poor Travis "looks like a horse with a blanket on his back, ready to go to the barn." She pulls a few goodies out of her bottomless Sassy Sack to soothe the victim, sharing some tropical fruit Lifesavers and cooling him down with a small battery-run fan. And when her teacher's camera runs out of film, Sassy pulls out a disposable camera. The book's eventual culminating adventure involves Sassy's family and is the perfect, fitting climax to her story.
It is such a refreshing delight to read of an angstless girl with many friends and a warm and loving family. Sassy has major attitude, but it's never of the mean-girl variety. She has lots of self-confidence and an inviting, upbeat personality --- and yet she manages to be a complex, fully-formed character who tells a good story. Sassy has some insights on adults that are hilarious and right-on (for example, her utter scorn that her mother believes fourth-grade girls are too young to be interested in boys). Her Sassy Sack is a great nearly/definitely/maybe/almost magical embellishment on the order of Mary Poppins's carpet bag. Whether it is magical or not, her story most definitely is. --- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon
The Sassy Series