In Puccia’s debut novel, a third-grade girl learns a little bit about politics—and a lot about friendship and believing in herself.
Samantha Pojanowski is the smart kid in her elementary-school class, which has earned her the unfortunate nickname of “Samantha Smartypants,” a moniker she tries her best to ignore, even though it bothers her. When their teacher announces that the class is going to learn about elections by electing their own class president, Samantha wants no part of it. After all, who would want to stand up in front of a class and make a speech? Puccia shows her emotional ups and downs, which will help young readers understand that they can still try things that scare them. When Samantha’s best friend, Peter Cavelli, nominates her, she does her best to decline. He believes in her, however, and she slowly begins to acclimate to the idea of becoming class president. Her first two tasks—making a poster and coming up with a slogan—crash and burn because she focuses too much on what’s important to her, instead of what’s important to the class. Peter helps her with her final task, which focuses on both. Although Samantha isn’t as popular or cool as her two opponents, she soon learns that straightforward honesty triumphs over broken campaign promises and lies. When she’s elected, she graciously gives credit to Peter for his ideas, and the two of them became co-presidents, which will help teach kids that it’s okay to share the glory. Puccia’s text is largely straightforward and engaging, which makes it accessible to early readers. (The opening is somewhat stilted, but the prose gains smoothness as the story goes on.) She provides plenty of details about the basics of real-life presidential elections, and keeps them compelling by weaving them into Samantha’s personal journey. The few illustrations, however, are rather simplistic, and add little value to the reading experience. Overall, however, Puccia’s sympathetic characters will draw readers in.
A great way for kids to learn about honesty and the electoral process.