Seven-year-old Sam’s search for a job leads him to chickens and an unexpected friendship.
Sam’s father does “something with computers,” his mother does “something with clients,” and his older sister, Annabelle, mows lawns at “20 bucks a pop.” When his neighbor stops by to ask Annabelle if she’d take care of her chickens while she’s away for the weekend, Sam persuades Mrs. Kerner that he can do it. He soon realizes he needs a steady stream of income and thinks that maybe his own chicken could help. He arranges with Mrs. Kerner to board his new chicken with hers in exchange for overall chicken care, and he pays his father back for Helga, who lays blue eggs, by taking a job as his elderly neighbor’s exercise companion. Dowell creates in Sam a completely believable 7-year-old whose desires “to be an expert on something” and to emulate his family members combine organically to drive this story of intergenerational (and interspecies) friendship. His burgeoning relationship with grumpy Mr. Stockfish is as much a joy to watch as his excitement over Helga’s first egg. The financial lessons he learns are valuable ones, delivered painlessly in the tightly focused third-person narration. Bates’ soft pencil illustrations depict Sam’s close-knit family as white, Mr. Stockfish and his daughter as black, and his classmates as diverse in color.
A sweet slice of neighborhood life; here’s hoping for more of Sam the Man. (Fiction. 6-9)