cover image Sam and the Big Kids

Sam and the Big Kids

Emily Arnold McCully. Holiday House, $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2427-6

What child hasn’t felt the sting of being told to “get lost” by an older kid? In this I Like To Read book, that’s the cross borne by bear cub Sam. “You are too small.... Go home,” he hears over and over again as he follows his big sister and her friend through the forest. When the older bears get into some mild trouble, however—they’re stranded on an island when their rowboat floats away—they turn to unwanted tagalong Sam: “The big kids called, ‘Sammy! Sammy! Go get Mom!’ ” Readers will appreciate the impressive geographic features of McCully’s (The Helpful Puppy) ink-and-watercolor renderings, and her approach to emotions, while understated, never fails to convey the older kids’ casual cruelty and the impressiveness of Sam’s leap into action. What’s more, the author’s willingness to avoid a hugging-learning moment in the wrap-up feels downright brave: Mom rows everyone home, the two older kids remain engaged with one another, and Sam, sitting behind his mother, is focused on feeding a fish. In short, life goes on. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)