Friday, August 1, 2014

All About Sam

By Lois Lowry. Published 1988.

Alright, since y’all asked for it, here’s the first Sam book!

We start out from just about the very beginning with Sam, with him just a few hours old. He finds things very strange, and very bright. But he quite likes Awesome Parents, and Anastasia. Once she names him, he understands they’re his family. He also enjoys wetting his diaper; it feels good. What does not feel good is the hat they put on him to take him home, which he protests very loudly. Until they get outside, and it’s cold, and he realizes they just may know what they’re talking about.

Sam enjoys life at home for the most part, but it can be a little boring. One day, while left alone on a blanket, Sam discovers he can push himself up, and learns how to roll. So he rolls right under a chair. When Anastasia and Awesome Mom can’t find him, they freak out, but he thinks it’s hilarious.

He realizes life would be a lot easier if they could understand him, so he practices words by himself in bed, so nobody will laugh at him. He also concentrates on how to walk. One day while everyone is in the living room, he just stands right up, and uses his newly acquired words to call attention to himself. Needless to say, Awesome Parents and Anastasia are shocked.

Oh, Sam…this is terrible. Sam wants to know all about where the water goes, so Awesome Mom explains how it goes down the pipes, and after a process, it rains. Sam thinks this is the shit, so he puts different things into the toilet, like earrings and his shoe, because it would be really cool for it to rain shoes and earrings. Fortunately, he thinks Awesome Mom should join in on the fun, so she pulls everything out, explaining that they don’t like to be wet. But Sam knows what does like to be wet. Frank, Anastasia’s goldfish! So, yes, he flushes Frank. Anastasia is heartbroken, and Sam is disappointed when it doesn’t rain fish.

Sam is quite enjoying saying the word no, especially making Anastasia shriek when that’s all he answers. So that’s his response when Awesome Mom says she wishes he would be trained. But then he thinks about it, and he loves trains. So maybe. When Awesome Mom brings home training pants, he gets confused. In his book, the conductor doesn’t have special white pants, but he does have a special hat. So that’s what he wants. Awesome Mom asks him if he wants to be like Awesome Dad. Sam loves him, but he doesn’t want to be like him, especially with the beard. So he says no.

When they move to their new house in the suburbs, Sam really isn’t too sure about it. The house is quite large, and scary. He doesn’t want to be in his bedroom alone.  But Anastasia finds the box with his trucks, and suggests they drive them down the hall to his room, and use the box as a garage. This is a great idea. Soon, Awesome Mom joins in, then Awesome Dad, and then even each of the moving men. It’s adorable. They reach his room, and Sam realizes with everyone in it, it’s not so big. So he will allow them to set up his bed.

Awesome Mom takes Sam to take a look at his nursery school. Sam is not too sure about this, and thinks it might be a place to learn about being a nurse. He insists that all he’s going to do is read his airplane book. But, of course, he has such a great time playing, that he won’t shut up about it at dinner. He says it’s better than junior high and Harvarduniversity. So suck on that, Anastasia and Awesome Dad!

Sam is very displeased when Awesome Mom gets into the No Candy checkout line at the grocery store. So he asks to get down, and sneaks over to a candy line. And there, he sneaks a pack of gum into his pocket. Sam, you little delinquent. The cashier tells them to have a good day, and Sam thinks he has had a hella good day. He got to do all sorts of things at nursery school. The best part of the day was on the way home; their carpool car got a flat tire, one of Sam’s favorite things. But he realizes it ceased to be a good day the minute he put the gum in his pocket. He starts crying, and explains to Awesome Mom. They go back to the store and take care of it, and it’s a good day again.

Sam desperately wants a pet. So when he finds a worm outside, he thinks that will do quite nicely. He fills a small box with dirt and keeps him in his closet, naming him King of the Worms.

The library is hosting a pet show, and Sam is excited to enter. Anastasia takes him, explaining along the way that he might not win a prize, and it’s really not that important. Sam insists it is, though. When they arrive, Sam puts his box on his appointed table, and he and Anastasia walk around to look at the others. Remember Nicky the biter, who got all ofAnastasia’s gerbils? Well, she’s there, with all forty-seven of her gerbils. The judging starts, and the first pet, a rabbit, wins a prize. For Best Nose Wriggler. So everyone gets a prize. When they get to Sam, they poke around the box, and award him Best Invisible Pet. King of the Worms is gone.

Sam is totes upset on the way home, but Anastasia tells him worms are great, because they just disappear into the dirt. He’s probably under the sidewalk right now. Sam says he’ll probably beat them home, and when they get there, he’s out to look in the backyard. And he sure does find himself a worm.

Sam has a weekly problem, of trying to think of something to bring for show and tell. That really can be a lot of stress for a little kid. He goes searching in Awesome Parents’ room, and takes two things off Awesome Dad’s nightstand. That…could go REALLY wrong.

The best presentation of the day is a little girl who teaches everyone how to fake burp. A valuable skill. Even the teacher learns, because she’s pretty awesome herself. When it’s Sam’s turn, he pulls out Awesome Dad’s pipe, sticks it in his mouth, pulls out a lighter, and goes to light it. Needless, to say, his teacher flips out. She makes Sam understand that he kind of stole from his dad, and he feels terrible. But she tells him he helped her teach a good lesson to the class about not playing with fire, and no smoking, and all that. Everyone gets really into it, and Sam loves it.

Sam’s friend Adam apparently has a punk haircut, with a little tail in the back. I’m all for a lot of things coming back into fashion, but I really hope those little tails NEVER come back. Ugh. Anyway, Sam decides he hates his curls, which everyone else loves. While playing in the bathroom one day, he finds scissors in the medicine cabinet. The first curl cuts easily, and falls in the sink. So he really goes at it, convinced he’ll look just like Adam.

Of course, he doesn’t quite succeed. It’s really patchy, and bald in some places. Awesome Mom calls for him, and he says Sam isn’t there; he’s been replaced by someone else. When she opens the door, she gets really quite upset. She tells him she’s so upset that she’s like to spank him. She’s not going to, but she wants him to know it anyway. Sam says that’s ok, he wants to spank himself. They’re both near tears, but Awesome Mom says they should try to laugh about it. They give a pretty poor showing at first, but it gets better. Soon they’re almost hysterical, and Anastasia and Awesome Dad come and join in. And after a visit to the barber, Sam has a very cool punk cut for about a month, until the curls come back.

Sam says it’s very confusing with Awesome Mom being called both Mom and Katherine. Why don’t they call him Son? They try that, and end up laughing. But what he really wants them to call him is He-Man. Hell yeah, Sam! If people had called me She-Ra, I would have been so fucking happy.

He becomes slightly obsessed with getting big muscles. Anastasia tells him to pump iron. So he gets the iron and a pair of Awesome Mom’s heels, but then doesn’t know what to do. Awesome Mom tells him to eat spinach like Popeye. He’s not happy about it, but he does it. Awesome Dad walks in on him, and tells him that only works on Popeye. Besides, Sam doesn’t want to be like Popeye, he has to wear a sailor suit and smoke a pipe. Neither of which Sam approves of.

Sam wants Anastasia to play, but she’s busy working on a secret code. After swearing him to secrecy, she tells him about it. It’s pretty much if you say you hate something, it means you love it. Sam’s confused and doesn’t think it was worth swearing about.

Of course, he goes straight downstairs and tries to explain to Awesome Mom, essentially explaining opposites. Then he goes next door, to see Gertrustein! Yay, I’ve missed her! He tries telling her about the code, and she says that’s made up. But she knows a real one. She spends the rest of the afternoon teaching Sam Morse Code.

That night Sam gets all ready at his window with his flashlight. He and Gertrustein establish contact, and then say Hi. They’ve decided they’ll flash each other Hi every night for the rest of their lives. Aww. Then Sam gets in bed, and just for himself, flashes his name on everything in his room.

o   When they bring Sam home, Anastasia holds him in the car. Wtf, Awesome Parents? I know it was a long time ago, but my brother was born in 1988, and I’m pretty sure he had a car seat from the very beginning.

o   Holy shit, Awesome Dad. We learn a tiny bit about his past. He started, I assume as a student, at Harvard. And then he goes on to Yale, and then Columbia. I don’t know if those were as a student or teacher. And then to now, as a professor, back at Harvard. Myron Krupnik, you must be smart as hell. Rock on with your bad self.

o   Nursery school carpool. A nice idea, but who in their right mind would want to be driving seven preschoolers around? Good lord. But as they don’t seem to worry about car seats, they don’t have to deal with seven of those.

o   Yeah, so I just realized that during my Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst post, I totally switched between calling them hamsters and gerbils. Wtf, me? Get your shit together.


  1. I thought I read all of the Anastasia books between 1988-91, but I don't remember this one for some reason. They had a great family!

    A newborn definitely would have needed a car seat in 1988. A preschool-age kid would maybe have had a booster seat, depending on their size. I do not miss those haircuts with rat tails!

    1. It's a four-book series starring Sam. I never read them originally either, so I'm pretty excited about this. I'm all about getting some more Krupnik love up in here!

  2. Car seats were definitely more popular and maybe the law in some states at the time, but it was still pretty normal to carry babies home in the front seat in the 80's. Mrs. Quimby does that with Roberta at the end of Ramona Forever. People really thought it was the safest place for babies. And I bet Awesome Dad smoked his pipe in the car too!

    1. Also, there were most definitely not booster seats until the 2000's! The 80's and 90's were all about piling as many kids into cars, onto laps, doubling up seat belts,two in the front seat...I must be really old.