Sam hears drumbeats in her head, so it’s hard for her to think about anything but her passionate need to become an accomplished drummer.
Things are ever so complicated for the sixth-grader. Her family, likely white, is struggling financially, her father is constantly angry, and she’s having problems in school. After Sam whacks a classmate with her marimba mallet when he—once again—mocks her, the principal leaves a phone message with her parents—then more messages, all of which she deletes. Then, after her father tells her not to, she starts a lawn-mowing service with the family mower in order to make enough money to pay for drumming lessons with the quirky but equally passionate Pete. Readers will quickly develop a rapport with Sam; it’s impossible not to empathize with both her eagerness and her desperation, nor to recognize that her efforts aren’t sustainable. When things come crashing down, it happens with an appropriate BANG! Sam’s voice is mostly just right, and even the minor characters that surround her are nicely fleshed out, especially her pathetic little brother, who tries so hard to make things right. Sam’s Chicago suburb appears to be a largely white one.
This is a worthy and entertaining read about how talent develops and what the potential consequences of pursuing it are: drumroll, please, for a fine homage to spirited single-mindedness. (Fiction. 10-13)