cover image Jackhammer Sam

Jackhammer Sam

Peter Mandel, illus. by David Catrow. Roaring Brook, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-034-1

The star of this show is a proud, beefy New York City jackhammer operator—a “sidewalk blasting man.” He may be a legend in his own mind (“My hammer broke th’ break of day./ My hammer drained the Milky Way”), but readers will have to hand it to him: he’s taken full ownership of the disruption he wreaks on the city with his “ATTA-RATTA-TATTA-BAM./ ATTA-RATTA-BATTA-BLAM.” (Readers will also have to hand it to New Yorkers, most of whom seem unperturbed by the racket—a police officer even smiles in solidarity, like one king of the hill to another). Mandel (Bun, Onion, Burger) occasionally jars with a meter misfire, but he’s captured the patois of the Big Apple’s working class, and his text should bring out the performer in even the most mild-mannered Midwesterner. Catrow (the Max Spaniel series), the magical realist of children’s literature, is wholly in his element with this character—Sam is by turns brutish and balletic, possessing both a jelly belly and twinkle toes. Like New York City itself, Sam is wonderful and overwhelming, rattling and mesmerizing. Ages 4–7. (Nov.)