cover image Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too!)

Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too!)

Leslie Kimmelman, illus. by Stefano Tambellini. Albert Whitman, $13.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8075-7213-9

Charlie is Sam’s tomboy new neighbor (“I’m warning you: Never call me Charlene,” she tells him) who quickly becomes Sam’s best buddy. Sam Too is Charlie’s younger sister and is, as the parentheses in the title indicate, mostly peripheral to the story. In five short chapters, Kimmelman (The Three Bully Goats) explores how Sam and Charlie negotiate the rough patches of their friendship. Although the dynamic is familiar—think Marc Brown’s Arthur and Francine—what sets this story apart is that all the characters are Jewish, something that is matter-of-factly revealed in chapter two through Charlie and Sam’s mutual love of hamantaschen but never referred to directly. For many Jewish readers (and their parents), Kimmelman’s breezy, unshowy assumption of a shared faith and vocabulary will be refreshing; it also means she doesn’t stop her narrative to explain what a hamantaschen is, what Purim is, or, later, that “Cheery Bin” is a beloved Jewish camp song. In genial, full-color cartooned drawings, newcomer Tambellini underlines the messy and imperfect moments in a budding friendship through his characters’ untamed hairdos and rough-and-tumble outfits. Ages 6–8. (Mar.)