SAHARA SPECIAL by Esmé Raji Codell
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 10 - 14


Sahara Jones really is Sahara Special. Although she’s given the name because she receives Special Education services, it becomes a true description of the person hidden within her. Her mother recognizes these hidden depths and demands that she be removed from Special Education and given the chance to succeed or fail by her own will. Enter Miss Poitier, usually called Miss Pointy, an extraordinary new teacher who teaches “time travel,” “puzzling,” and other odd subjects. She challenges, probes, inspires, praises, chides, and otherwise awakens Sahara and most of her classmates. Sahara has always written in her secret journals, tearing out pages and hiding them in the back of the “900” shelves in the public library for them to be found and marveled at by some future reader. Some of her writing, especially unsent letters to her runaway father, have been confiscated and placed in an official school file. Now she has a school journal, read only by her teacher. At first terrified of writing anything that will be seen by a teacher, she spends her time really listening, soaking up the evocative vocabulary that fills every discussion, and immersing herself in the poetry that Miss Pointy provides without comment or direction. When she finally allows herself to raise her hand in class, to open herself to friendships, and most of all, to write from the heart, she recognizes that she truly is Sahara Special. Codell has created a remarkable, unforgettable cast of characters. Sahara’s first-person account beautifully and poignantly captures her tenuous steps to a sense of self-understanding and maturity that is rare indeed. Oh that a teacher the likes of Miss Poitier could really survive and multiply in our regimented, standards- and test-driven public schools. An absolutely lovely debut for children from the author of Educating Esmé (1999). (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7868-0793-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2003


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