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Sahara Special

Sahara Special

4.3 20
by Esmé Raji Codell

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Sahara Jones is going into fifth grade-again. Although she won't be "Sahara Special" anymore (special needs, that is), she doesn't expect this year to be any better than last year. Fifth grade is going to be different, though, because Sahara's class is getting a new teacher: Miss Pointy. From her eggplant-colored lipstick to the strange subjects she teaches,


Sahara Jones is going into fifth grade-again. Although she won't be "Sahara Special" anymore (special needs, that is), she doesn't expect this year to be any better than last year. Fifth grade is going to be different, though, because Sahara's class is getting a new teacher: Miss Pointy. From her eggplant-colored lipstick to the strange subjects she teaches, like "Puzzling" and "Time Travel," she is like no other teacher Sahara has ever known. With Miss Pointy's help, Sahara just might find a way to redefine special for herself.
The latest chapter in her book unfolds when her mother insists that she be taken out of special Ed. So Sahara is facing fifth grade in the regular classroom, again. But why even try to do the work, Sahara wonders, if everything just winds up in the counselor's file?
Enter Miss Pointy, the new fifth-grade teacher. With her eggplant-colored lipstick, and strange subjects such as "Puzzling" and "Time Travel," she's like no other teacher Sahara has ever known. Through Miss Pointy's unusual teaching, storytelling, and quiet support, Sahara finds the courage to overcome her fears and prove which file shows her true self.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
First-time children's book author Esmè Raji Codell delivers an uplifting tale of one girl's discovery of her inner talent with the aid of a remarkable teacher.

When a self-conscious and quiet Sahara Jones gets put into Special Needs class, she gets dubbed "Sahara Special." Thankfully, her mom insists that she be put with the other kids, and Sahara winds up with Madame Poitier, or "Miss Pointy," as her teacher. Miss Pointy exposes her class to eccentric subjects like Puzzling and Mad Science, talks one-on-one to students through class journals and notes, and treats her students with respect and fairness. Slowly, Sahara begins to feel like a talented human being as Miss Pointy encourages her to tap into her writing talent, and when Sahara receives a personal gift, she feels extra-special indeed.

Quiet and gentle, with an underlying sense of power -- a reflection of the main character herself -- Codell's novel is an inspiring read that will touch readers' spirits. Audiences will be entranced by the author's almost magical storytelling, while budding writers in particular will be encouraged by Sahara's inner shine. An excellent read that will speak to kids, parents, and especially teachers. Matt Warner

Publishers Weekly
In her first book for children, the author of Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year shows a keen understanding of classroom dynamics, a finely tuned ear for preadolescent voices and a lively, original wit. Her feisty narrator, Sahara Jones, does none of her schoolwork even though she loves to read and writes in secret she's been traumatized by her father's abandonment. Her classmates call her Sahara Special because she has to work with the special-needs teacher out in the hall along with the disruptive Darrell Sikes. When Sahara's mother objects to the arrangement, Sahara is held back to repeat the fifth grade; Sahara is thrilled to transfer from the land of special dumb to the realm of normal dumb. Her new fifth-grade teacher, Madame Poitier, better known as Miss Pointy, is dedicated but irreverent, and not easily categorized (She was pale, but I couldn't tell for sure if she was white or Asian or Puerto Rican, or maybe light-skinned black, observes the narrator. Miss Pointy wins her students' trust and manages to instill in them hope and confidence; while the outcome can be predicted, Miss Pointy's methods (and Sahara's responses) are full of surprises. Presenting memorable characters in spirited scenes, this novel will surely be empowering for reluctant learners and thought-provoking and gratifying for everyone. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Codell has fame as a teacher, a children's literature expert, and now she is writing novels for children. Those who have read her popular Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, will find obvious similarities in her first novel. The comparisons to the teacher, particularly, are unmistakable and sometimes feel a little self-serving. But the main character is one seldom seen in the pages of a novel. Fifth-grader Sahara Jones is a talented writer, a committed reader, but her father has left and she comforts herself by writing him a pile of unsent letters. When her schoolwork falls off and these letters are discovered, she is labeled a "special" student, which basically means she sits in the hall with a series of ineffectual teachers. Sahara's mother is furious and gets her daughter's label removed. Happily, Sahara's new teacher, Miss Pointy, is magically unconventional and refuses to read old school files or follow designated labels of past teachers. Best of all, she is patient and stubborn enough to outwait Sahara's unwillingness to learn and caring and wise enough to mend her with storytelling and the allure of stickers. 2003, Hyperion, Ages 10 to 12.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Sahara Jones finds a way out of the special-needs classroom and into the mainstream school population, where she not only learns quite a bit about herself, but also teaches others in the process. In the audio production Phylicia Rashad performs brilliantly, portraying children from a variety of backgrounds. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sahara Jones really is Sahara Special. Although she's given the name because she receives Special Education services, it becomes a true description of the person hidden within her. Her mother recognizes these hidden depths and demands that she be removed from Special Education and given the chance to succeed or fail by her own will. Enter Miss Poitier, usually called Miss Pointy, an extraordinary new teacher who teaches "time travel," "puzzling," and other odd subjects. She challenges, probes, inspires, praises, chides, and otherwise awakens Sahara and most of her classmates. Sahara has always written in her secret journals, tearing out pages and hiding them in the back of the "900" shelves in the public library for them to be found and marveled at by some future reader. Some of her writing, especially unsent letters to her runaway father, have been confiscated and placed in an official school file. Now she has a school journal, read only by her teacher. At first terrified of writing anything that will be seen by a teacher, she spends her time really listening, soaking up the evocative vocabulary that fills every discussion, and immersing herself in the poetry that Miss Pointy provides without comment or direction. When she finally allows herself to raise her hand in class, to open herself to friendships, and most of all, to write from the heart, she recognizes that she truly is Sahara Special. Codell has created a remarkable, unforgettable cast of characters. Sahara's first-person account beautifully and poignantly captures her tenuous steps to a sense of self-understanding and maturity that is rare indeed. Oh that a teacher the likes of Miss Poitier could really survive and multiply inour regimented, standards- and test-driven public schools. An absolutely lovely debut for children from the author of Educating Esmé (1999). (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Esm Raji Codell is the author of Hanukkah, Shmanukkah!, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Diary of a Fairy Godmother, with illustrations by Drazen Kozjan; a memoir for young readers, Sing a Song of Tuna Fish: Hard-to-Swallow Stories from Fifth Grade, and the IRA Children's Book Award winner, Sahara Special. Her first book was the memoir Educating Esm : Diary of a Teacher's First Year, and her most recent book for adults is How To Get Your Child to Love Reading. She has worked as a children's bookseller, teacher, and school librarian, and now runs the popular children's literature Web site www.planetesme.com, and literary salon, The Planet Esm Bookroom. Esm lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

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Sahara Special 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful story. I read this with my 8 year old daughter after reading "Vive La Paris", another novel by the author. They are both written so well. Each night, we would read way past her bedtime because we enjoyed the story so much. I highly recommend this book.
jb70 More than 1 year ago
I listened to this book on audio with my children in the car. It is read by Phylicia Rashad who took me back in time a bit to the Cosby Show. I considered trying to tell my children how I used to watch a TV show she was on, but thought it might take too much time. I almost turned this story off soon after we started it because of some questionable words, but I am glad we stuck with it. Part of me wanted to give it a chance and the other part knew we had a longish drive ahead of us and it was the only audio book I had brought along. Sahara has stopped doing any work at school because she doesn't want the school counselor to have anything else to put in her file but on her own she is writing her life story and hiding it in a little used section of the public library. Getting a new teacher who doesn't read files and doesn't put limits on her students is the best thing that could have happened to Sahara and her classmates. She grows and changes so much through the story, and as with a lot of growth, it isn't always easy or painless. I loved how Miss Pointy had her students write in journals every day. I recall a seventh grade teacher I had who had us keep a manilla folder with paper and we were given regular time to write, sometimes on a prompt and others on whatever we wanted to write. I loved that time and I really think it helped me to grow and understand myself better. It was a school year where I really felt like the future was open before me and possibilities were there, and that is what Sahara comes away with. She also comes to see herself as special as a person and not in having special needs that need individualized attention in the classroom. For children I think it shows that having belief in yourself can change things that you think are set in stone, sometimes it is our own inner critic that is keeping us from moving ahead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NorthReadingMom More than 1 year ago
I checked this audio book out of the library for a long family trip. The audio book is read by Phylicia Rashad, who has a lovely voice and who is a fabulous reader. You should have seen my entire family RUN back to the car after rest stops (parents too) to get back to the CD! Also the frantic cries, "Wait! Rewind! I didn't hear that! Rewind!" Although some of the material and themes are on the mature side, it is a truly rewarding story that gives the listener a lot to think about. In particular, one main character in the story illustrates that even if a teacher [parent/boss/partner] does NOT know how to solve a problem that another person has, he/she can use the amazingly powerful tools of patience, respect and acceptance to encourage personal growth and a good outcome for that other person. I found the story to be inspirational and highly practical while avoiding sentimentality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cinammonbunny More than 1 year ago
I was at my school library and came across this book!!! it looked interesting, so i skimmed the pages. but then a word caught my eye. i went back to the page with where the word caught my eye and it said the B word. the bad b word. it actually was written there, in a children's book. i was so surprised. so i put the book down and didnt get it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sahara Special is about a girl who has special help in school and alot of the time is made fun of it. Her parents are divorced and she is trying to get in touch with her dad. Her life is ok but after she meets the new teacher, everything changes. Sahara is a secret writer until the new teacher, Miss Pointy, finds out. But instead of getting on to Sahara for hiding stories in the school library, she inspires her. This book is not perfect, but reccomended. It's up and down emotional feelings will drive the readers crazy until they finish it. Everybody should have the oppurtunity to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really think the reason this was a great book is because of all the meanings in has and how it has to do with the life from a girl in special ed to a boy in her class that needs help because of the way his mom treats him!! and smacks him in the head! and how sahara must learn to deal with her dad leaving her and her mom..
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was touching in a way I don't know. I cried at the end. This is what I call a vividly written book. You can really imagine what is going on! I think it is a book in which the story can happen in real life, but in Sahara's case, you don't want to believe it has happened to her. Sometimes it's sad. Sahara Special is a mix of reality, emotions, and this book is definetely special!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Sahara Special after christmas. It was a good book. The author described Sahara very well! If she was real i would love to meet her!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is such a touching story-good descriptive words and good stories, and I especially loved the poetry. The only thing was there were a few bad words but not that bad, and I really want to read the next one!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was just okay. It does teach a few lessons here and there such as, it doesn't matter how good you are at something, everyone is the same. I really liked that because it can teach other kids that are kind of in the same situation as Sahara was in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was really REALLY touching. The characters' personalities are very strong, but if you are nine years old or younger, I advise you not to read this book because it has some bad words in it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book because Esme Raji Codell wrote it so detailed and interesting, I didn't want to stop reading it. I love how the characters relate to students at our very own schools. Sahara Jones is the main character in this book and since her mother decided to hold her back, she is in the fifth grade for the second time. Darrel Sikes is the problem student in her class. He is always being disruptive and disobeying Mrs. Pointy. I admire Mrs. Point because she handles very intense situations so well, and she barely ever raises her voice. Sahara's best friend's name is Rachel, they are also cousins. Rachel and Sahara are nothing alike, Sahara keeps quiet in class and Rachel is very attentive in class. Reading this book has inspired me to let out the inner person that I may have locked up tight inside of me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book because it is so detailed and so interesting to read. Once I started reading I couldn't stop, I wanted to just keep on going to see what would happen next. I liked how the characters in the story could relate to the average students at our own schools. The name of the main character in this book is Sahara Jones. She is very uncomfortable when she is around a large group of people. Her best friend, Rachel, is also her cousin. Rachel is nothing like Sahara. Rachel is very attentive in class and she was always raising her hand, waiting to be called on. One student named Darrell Sikes, who I found the most interesting to read about, was the type of kid who did nothing but what he wanted to do. He always disobeyed the teacher and talked back to her. I admire Mrs. Pointy because she could handle very intense situations so easily, and she barely ever raised her voice to anyone. I really loved how the book ended. I don't want to spoil it so you'll just have to go and check it out! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is truly outstanding. It combinds fear, happyness, and tears. I absolutely adore this book and I'm reccomending it to all my friends
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great gift for a teacher or any child, whether sh/e loves to read and write or is having trouble doing so. Esme Codell is a talented and funny writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi i am Louise Aka lulu I got to choose a book for a prodgect and I chose this one. I learned this was a big mistake! Sahara special The fictional novel Sahara special by Esme Raji Codell takes place in New York City during the present day. Sahara is having problems in school when the story begins. When Sahara was young her father left her and her mother to take care of them. Sahara misses her father very much. She would write letters to her father but she wouldn't send them because she had no idea where her father is. Her desk was over flowing with letters to her father. And her teacher comes across the letters. She suggests to the school that they would move her to a special Ed class but her mother negotiates to keep her in a regular class since it was the end of the year. Sahara stays back a year and she is placed in a new room with a new teacher. Her teacher is named Mrs. Pointy, and she wares unusual lipstick. She has unusual subjects such as time travel and journaling. In Sahara's class there is a boy named Daryl Strikes who is rude and cusses to the teacher, and who No one ever speaks up to. But the new teacher is watching him very closely. Sahara would like to be a writer when she grows up but in class she is being lazy and won't write, so Mrs. Pointy helps her become a good writer and a good student. There were a lot of good things about the book. The story of Sahara is special has good description. When the story told about Mrs. Pointy I could see her in my head. The story had many interesting characters. The people were Darryl and Sahara. The size of the book was good. The book was 178 pages. Even though the book was very good there was a few bad things about it. The vocabulary was very easy. The words were not that descriptive, as I would like it. There were some inappropriate words. Sahara would talk to herself. It would get confusing. The story was in first person. I know this because she said " Why did I do this, why did I write them?" The book used slang. A child said " For my birthday I wanna puppy!" Last of all a he book uses sensory details. Which is when the book pains a picture in my head. I do not recommend this book. The story has a realistic scenario. It isn't a fun easy book to read. There are many interesting characters in the book. Some of them are Darryl and Mrs. Pointy. There are many books like this one such as Come again. Some other books I recommend are Franny K. Stine by Jim Benton, witch is about a girl that is a mad scientist. A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King- smith witch is about a mouse that can sing. And The Outsiders by S.T Hinton witch a fast moving action book. Almost all of the books are fantastic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it is about a girl named sahara..her dad named her sahara to make her feel special...when she was in 2nd grade people started calling her sahara special...
Guest More than 1 year ago
If your a kid, teenager, adult, whatever... then you'll love this book. If you like to laugh and giggle then here ya go! This book is truly inspiring. It has everything a great book needs. A funny story with a happy ending. This is just too perfect for words! And it's a postive story and a real page turner. I cant wait to do my book report on it! And the writer is outstanding. She has a wonderful gift for writing. We need more writers like her! And I know what people too! Here they are: Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling, Sharon Creech, Ann M. Martin, Jean Ferris, and finally Micael Hoeye. All these wonderful authors I have listed, I love. Who wouldnt? There writing is just so awesome! I think all writers have great talents, but I think these and probably many more out there, are the greatest writers in history! Each book inspires us in a lot of different ways. And I think 'Sahara Special' inspirs us all. I hope everyone reads this book and enjoys it. Also enjoy other writers whether, it's the ones I listed or your favorites. It doesnt matter. But above all, Have fun reading. ;-)