Friday, September 26, 2008

Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head by Nancy Viau

Summary

Ten-year-old Samantha Hansen is a mad scientist. But not the crazy kind—she doesn’t blow stuff up or mix potions or dissect bugs. She just loves science—especially rocks—and figuring out how the world around her works. But there are some things there just isn’t a scientific answer for. Like, why can’t her bossy big sister keep her hands off Sam’s rock collection? And why can’t Sam control her temper? There are some bigger questions, too, like why did her father have to die? And why won’t her mom talk about him anymore?

When Sam’s mom announces a family trip to the Grand Canyon, it’s a dream come true. But it’s also a challenge: If Sam can’t learn to calm down and ignore her irritating sister, she’s going to miss her chance to see one of the world’s biggest rocks and maybe find the answers to some of her questions.

Grade: B+

Thanks to Nancy for the ARC!

Funny ARC Tidbits:
Hehe, this one had the history of the font used on the penultimate page. I thought that was so weirdly cool.

Review:
Wow, how long has it been since I last picked up a MG book? Four years? I’m not familiar with genre at all anymore, so forgive me if anything I say is hogwash. I accepted this to review because I loved the title.

*fourth grader hat on*

Not a perfect novel. I don’t mean this to detract from the praise I think it deserves (which you can scroll down to get my take on), because it’s a good read, but I’m just saying. For the first portion of the book, there isn’t much of a discernible plot: it’s, by and large, a lot of setup. I say this because, as a munchkin, I had many friends who went for plot-driven, and if that’s what you’re looking for, Samantha Hansen’s first instalment probably won’t be a match.

Now! This novel had some killer qualities: Sam is such a humorously quirky character, in the vein of Junie B Jones. Her voice sings—which is a sizable feat, as the pacing zips by and—blink!—before you know it, the novel’s over. Sam’s mannerisms, fixations (on rocks, specifically), impassés, and lists were clever—endearing, even. She was just such a fun character. (And good thing, too, for a character driven story.) For all her traces of aforementioned Junie B Jones (never an insult), she’s also got a straight line of noticeably unique traits, from the way she thinks to her love for science. (I take my hat off to someone who can make science sound vaguely non-torturous.)

And then there’s the writing.

The first lesson my legendary literature teacher taught me last year was, writing simply is complicated—it takes hard-earned skill to mask effort with grace. I’d imagine it’s the norm for MG to be to-the-point, but the conciseness in Ms. Viau’s voice is taking it to the next level. It’s easy to fall into this narrative, with its subtle wit and sophisticated simplicity. What can I say? Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head is simply sophisticated.

Oh and for a moment of undiluted fangirl appreciation: Sam’s penguin stuffed animal is named Ace! How perfect a name for a penguin is that?!

So, yeah, recommended for people looking for good MG novels for their offspring, siblings, library flock, cats, etc.

3 comments:

Amee said...

Sounds like a cute novel. Maybe I'll buy it for my cat to read. :P

Book Chic said...

I loved this book- great review! Glad you liked it too. :)

Lenore said...

I loved this review - one of your best yet! And I know a 10 year old who would love this too.

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