Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell. (Children's Literature novel)

Codell, Esme Raji. Sahara Special. Scholastic, Inc., 2004. (175 pages)
This book is narrated by the title character, Sahara. Kids at her school call her “Sahara Special” because she spent time in the special education program. Her story is one of overcoming stigma and educational struggles with the help of a very unconventional teacher.
The style and language in this book are very urban and modern. The school described could be any public school. While readers are never given a clinical description of what Sahara’s special needs are (I kind of like that it was left unexplained), they can clearly see what other children think about her as a student who is pulled out from regular classes to get individualized attention. Readers can also see what it feels like to be a student like Sahara with a big file in the office and adults arguing about what to do with you.
Sahara is won over to literature by reading Aesop’s fables, poetry, and Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. She decides that she will become a writer. Literature and education are both colossal themes in this book. One reading it would understand the message very clearly = give children in special education a chance to fall in love with literature and it will improve their lives.
Overall, it was nice, but not earth-shattering. It was somewhat predictable and didactic, which can create boredom in a book’s readership. It reminded me of the section in the C.S. Lewis' On Stories where Lewis talks about how overly-didactic books can be condescending. 

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