Sam Graham is a dragon fan and a big truck man. Monster trucks to be specific. And when the family minivan needs replacing, Sam has the perfect plan: get a family monster truck instead!
But convincing Mom that a monster truck is the way to go may prove to be a little too difficult, even for Sam. So he comes up with another plan: Turn the minivan into a monster minivan with a super-cool dragon painted on it! First, though, Sam has to convince his family why a monster minivan is the best choice—oh, and learn how to paint a dragon...
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About the Author
Amy June Bates has illustrated books including the Sam the Man series; Sweet Dreams and That’s What I’d Do, both by singer-songwriter Jewel; and Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan. She is the author-illustrator of The Big Umbrella, which Booklist raved, “A boundlessly inclusive spirit...This open-ended picture book creates a natural springboard for discussion.” She lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children.
Read an Excerpt
Sam the Man & the Dragon Van Plan
Sam Graham was a monster truck man.
Every year he and his dad went to the Monster Truck Jam downtown. They cheered for trucks with names like “Master of Disaster” and “Big Dawg.” Sam’s dad made him put squishy orange earplugs in his ears, but he could still hear the roaring engines as the trucks raced across the arena.
Every year Sam asked his dad if they could get a monster truck of their own, and every year his dad said, “Sorry, Sam the Man, we’re sticking with our minivan.”
Every year Sam pointed out that there was never a minivan jam at the downtown arena.
“You know what a monster truck would be great for?” Sam asked one morning at breakfast. “If there were a huge blizzard and you were out of milk, a monster truck would get you to the store.”
“So would a snowplow,” Sam’s sister, Annabelle, pointed out. Annabelle was in sixth grade and always pointing out stuff to Sam, who was in second grade and was tired of people always pointing out stuff to him.
“A snowplow wouldn’t be any good in summer,” Sam replied. “But you could take a monster truck camping. You could roll out your sleeping bags underneath it. It’s like an automatic roof.”
“But where would you put your camping gear when you were driving?” Annabelle asked.
“In the truck bed, of course!” Sam said, wondering how someone as smart as Annabelle could be so dumb.
“What if it rains?”
Sam rolled his eyes at his sister. “You get waterproof stuff for camping. Everybody knows that!”
Annabelle picked up the sports page. She looked like she was losing interest in the conversation. “What about the fact that it’s illegal to drive monster trucks on regular streets?” she asked. “Wouldn’t that be a problem?”
Sam stood up and carried his cereal bowl over to the kitchen sink. He was losing interest in this conversation too, especially because Annabelle didn’t know what she was talking about.
If anyone would know about trucks, Sam thought as he put on his coat and hat, it would be Miss Louise, the school bus driver. A school bus was even bigger than a monster truck, although it wasn’t as high up in the air, and it usually didn’t have a scary monster face drawn on the hood. In fact, buses never had anything good painted on them. Sam could think of a million things you could paint on a school bus—dragon scales would be cool, and so would big, creepy eyes around the headlights so that maybe the front of the bus looked like a really spooky jack-o’-lantern.
“Do you think Miss Louise has ever driven a monster truck?” Sam asked his friend Gavin as they waited at the bus stop. “I think she’d be good at it.”
“Miss Louise would be an awesome monster truck driver!” Gavin agreed. “But once, I heard her say that she spends her weekends making cat videos. Did you know she has five cats?”
“I wonder if her cats like chickens?” Sam had a chicken named Helga who lived in a coop at his neighbor’s house. Mrs. Kerner had five chickens, and Sam’s friend Mr. Stockfish had one chicken, so there were seven chickens in all. Maybe Sam should start making chicken videos. He’d probably get famous and make lots of money, and then he could buy his own monster truck. He’d call it the Sammer Hammer Jammer, and he’d drive it all over town as soon as he got his driver’s license.
“Monster trucks are legal to drive anywhere, right?” he asked Miss Louise when he was climbing up the steps of the bus.
“I don’t know much about monster trucks,” Miss Louise told him, “but I do know you can’t drive them on streets or highways. They’re too high off the ground, for one thing, and too dangerous. They’re more likely to roll over than regular cars.”
So the two things Sam liked best about monster trucks were what made his dream to drive one impossible?
After that, Sam was in a grumpy mood for the rest of the day. He was grumpy in math because they were doing subtraction. He was grumpy in PE because they did square dancing. He was grumpy at lunch because his dad put strawberry jam on his peanut butter sandwich instead of grape jelly. Sam hated strawberry jam.
He was still in a grumpy mood that afternoon when he got off the bus. He was looking forward to stomping across the kitchen floor and eating frozen waffles without even bothering to put them on a plate when he got home. Then he would go take Mr. Stockfish on their daily walk to visit the chickens. Mr. Stockfish was always grumpy, so he and Sam would get along better than ever.
But when Sam got to his house, something was weird. His family’s blue minivan wasn’t in the driveway, even though it was Tuesday, and his mom worked from home on Tuesdays. Maybe she had to go to the store. But usually when Sam’s mom had to go to the store, she made sure to be back when Sam got off the bus.
The front door was unlocked. “Mom?” Sam called out as he walked inside. “Are you home?”
“In the kitchen,” Sam’s mom said. Her voice sounded sort of strange. Maybe she was in a grumpy mood too.
Sam found his mom sitting at the table, drinking a cup of tea that smelled like apples and cinnamon. Sam’s mom only drank tea when she was trying to calm down or right after she talked to Aunt Karen on the phone.
“Did someone steal the minivan?” Sam asked. “Is that why you’re drinking tea?”
“I wrecked the minivan,” Sam’s mom said. She sighed. “I hit a bus.”
“A school bus?” Sam practically shouted. He thought his mom might go to jail for that.
“No, a city bus. I was changing lanes. . . .” Sam’s mom stopped and rubbed her forehead. She looked like she had a headache. “It’s a long story. Let’s just say I wasn’t paying close enough attention.”
“Were you talking on your phone?” Sam asked. “Because you always say it’s stupid to talk on the phone when you’re driving.”
“No! I never talk on my phone in the car!” Sam’s mom sounded like she couldn’t believe Sam would even suggest such a thing. “I was . . . singing. And . . . dancing. Well, not exactly dancing—it was more like bouncing.”
“Did that song about walking on sunshine come on the oldies station?” Sam asked.
His mom nodded. “It’s very hard not to bounce to that song. And really, it’s not like I ran into the bus. I just got very, very close to it. There was no damage done to the bus at all. The minivan, on the other hand . . .”
Sam’s eyes widened. Would they have to get a new car? His eyes opened even wider. Maybe they could get a really cool car this time, a car that didn’t make Sam practically fall asleep from boredom every time he got into it.
“What’s wrong with the minivan?” Sam asked, trying to sound like he was very concerned with the minivan’s health and hoped it would get well soon. “Is it okay?”
“No, Sam, it’s not,” his mom said, and then she took another sip of her apple-cinnamon tea. “It was pretty old to begin with, and then with the damage, well, it would cost more to repair it than the van is worth. We’re going to have to get a new one.”
Yes! A new car! Maybe they could get a red car, or a yellow one; maybe one that sort of looked like a race car. Sam wouldn’t mind driving around town in a car that looked like a race car.
Wait a minute! Maybe instead of another minivan, they could get a monster truck, a small one that you could drive without getting a ticket! Sam wasn’t sure if there was such a thing as a mini–monster truck, but there might be.
He knew he needed to be very careful. If Sam asked to get a monster truck—or even a mini–monster truck—while his mom was feeling sad and upset, she’d probably say no. He’d have to figure out the right way to make her see that a monster truck was the right choice for their family.
Sam would have to come up with the perfect monster-truck plan.