Sam Wu is still totally NOT scared.
Even though he’s already demonstrated his bravery by conquering a ghost (Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts, 2018), Sam somehow once again finds himself trying to shake the nickname “Scaredy-Cat Sam.” After an embarrassing incident during a school trip to the aquarium, he and his friends face a beach birthday party and the twin specters of swimming (turns out his brainy friend Bernard can’t swim) and sharks (obviously). He notes, in his characteristically wry way, that “apparently, bravery is something you have to prove over and over again.” This second installment, like Sam, seems anxious of venturing beyond the surf; it largely clings to the format of the first book, nearly act for act. Nonetheless, it should find its readers, who may find comfort and confidence in following Sam’s incremental growth. Additional time spent with Na-Na, Sam’s sharp and sassy grandmother, reveals more about Sam’s family’s Hong Kong origins and highlights a loving, realistic, intergenerational relationship. Foodies will enjoy the additional references to Chinese fare—one memorable scene finds Sam, white-skinned Bernard, and darker-skinned Zoe happily chewing on grilled squid. While Reed’s Na-Na isn’t a particularly compelling image of a Hong Kong grandma, readers will otherwise appreciate the illustrations’ big-eyed humor as well as the dynamic type styling, graphics, and page design.
A sequel skittish of unchartered waters still finds its way. (Fiction. 7-10)