Title: MY SHAPE IS SAM
Written by: Amanda Jackson
Illustrated by: Lydia Nichols
Page Street Kids, 2019, fiction
For ages: 4-8
Themes/topics: identity, self-discovery, self-confidence, nonconformity, differences, community, self-expression, shapes, careers/jobs, empathy
Sam had four even sides. Four pointy corners.
And like all other squares, he was a builder.
He lived in a place where everyone had a job,
depending on their shape.
Summary (from the publisher):
Circles were smooth and round. Good at rolling, spinning, and pushing. They all turned together to make things go.
Squares were sturdy and even. Good at stacking, steadying, and measuring. They all fit together to make things stay.
In a world where everybody is a shape and every shape has a specific job, Sam is a square who longs for softer corners, rounder edges, and the ability to roll like a circle. But everyone knows that squares don’t roll, they stack. At least that’s what everyone thinks until the day Sam takes a tumble and discovers something wonderful. He doesn’t have to be what others want or expect him to be.
With playful imagery, this story considers identity and nonconformity through the eyes of Sam, a square struggling to find his true place in the world.
Why I adore this book:
For anyone who’s ever felt constrained by a label, MY SHAPE IS SAM will speak to you! Sam has the job of a square – keeping things together, making things stay. Sometimes he’s part of a building or a bridge. But he’s happiest when he’s on the move, like “part of a train rolling over a bridge. Or a truck zooming past a building.” But circles? Well, they could roll and race at will. They could really get moving! And that’s what Sam wanted. Not satisfied with the narrow confines of his “box,” Sam learns how to roll. And while a square doesn’t roll quite like a circle does, he can roll all the same!
So what shape is Sam, who looks like a square but rolls as enthusiastically as a circle? The title provides a hint, but I also love how the question is answered in the book!
And from a writerly perspective, I am super impressed by the many LAYERS in this picture book. Just look at the number of themes I was able to list! Amanda Jackson’s choice of making Sam a square – at least in appearance – was pure brilliance. Shapes are a familiar, and newly-learned, concept for most picture book readers. And kids already tend to ascribe personalities to shapes, colors, etc. Thinking about identity and self-expression in terms of shapes feels like a very natural fit for young readers.
Lydia Nichols’ illustrations are bright, clean, and cheerful and allow this powerful text to shine.
Resources for educators: Check out the fun ACTIVITY GUIDE from Page Street Kids!
Please also check out this week’s other PPBF posts on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog: https://susannahill.com/blog/!
(For a colossal collection of picture book reviews, please visit this page on Susanna’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)