The Secret Language of the SB

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When his mother brings home one of her ``problem children'' from the adoption agency where she works, fourth-grader Adam is not very pleased. After all, Susan is from Taiwan, can hardly speak English and is suddenly in his classroom as well as being part of the family. But before long, a special friendship develops as Adam helps Susan learn to read and gain self-confidence and in turn gets help from her--Susan's openness teaches him about sharing. Finally, however, Susan is placed with an adoptive family and Adam has to learn to get by without her. Told in the form of a connected set of short stories, this skillfully written debut novel shows a clear understanding of a fourth-grader's interests and fears. While the story is not an especially happy one, readers should find enjoyable elements in Adam's tale. Ages 8-12. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-- ``SB'' is ``something big,'' 11-year-old Adam's shorthand for the anticipatory feeling he gets before important things happen. It is a gimmick, and really an unnecessary device, to focus readers' interest on the events in Adam's home. Adam's mother, who works for an agency that places children, must find a temporary home for a Taiwanese child whose planned family cannot yet take her. Adam's house seems the logical place. Adam is portrayed as believably ambivalent. He is an only child who must now share his parents; a boy wondering if his mother always wanted a girl; a creature of his own routines reluctant to involve another person even in viewing his favorite TV programs. Scarboro also depicts a very real Susan, who is coping with cultural and language differences and Adam's far-from-cordial reception. As Adam and Susan interact, his empathy grows, and he begins not only to understand what her life is like, but also to help her with her reading problems. Finally the imaginative ``boat'' that Adam is building becomes a metaphor for developing friendship as Susan, whose art ability transcends her language difficulties, becomes a creative collaborator. Scarboro does not write the expected ``happy ending.'' Adam accepts the painful but necessary separation from Susan, and is a wiser and enriched person. Not all the characters have depth, but Scarboro does make readers understand and care about Adam and Susan. Students may also enjoy Elisabet McHugh's Karen's Sister (Greenwillow, 1983). --Sylvia S. Marantz, Wellington School, Columbus, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670830879
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/1/1990
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 1.00 (w) x 1.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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