*Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan

Likeable characters and a gently-humorous style introduces early-elementary readers to the rewards of hard work and free enterprise.

*Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan by Frances O’Roark Dowell, illustrated by Amy June Banks.  Atheneum, 2016, 112 pagessam-the-man

Reading Level: Chapter books, ages 6-8

Recommended for: ages 6-10

Sam Graham wanted a job.  Everyone else in his family had a job.  His dad did something with computers, his mom did something with clients and his sister Annabelle, who was twelve, mowed lawns.

But there’s not much employment for a seven-year old—until the neighbor Mrs. Kerner stops by to ask if Annabelle can look after the chickens while she’s away.  Annabelle is busy, but what about Sam?  With Mrs. K’s hesitant consent, and the help of his family’s constant reminders, Sam has himself a real job.  While it takes some reorientation of habits, he’s admirably conscientious, even to climbing out of bed late at night to watch a raccoon who’s watching the chickens a little too intently.  But it doesn’t stop there.  As it happens in “real life,” one opportunity leads to others.  Suppose he buys a chicken of his own?  And suppose he gets one that lays blue eggs? And suppose his classmates want to buy the pretty blue shells?  And suppose another neighbor, Judy, hires him to take her cranky, sedentary dad for walks, and suppose Mr. Stockfish likes chickens?  Like many an entrepreneur, Sam discovers he can do well and do good at the same time.  He makes a likeable, good-hearted poster boy for free enterprise and the work ethic, and may inspire readers to look around for opportunities in their own neighborhoods.

Cautions: None

Overall value: 4.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic value: 5


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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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