Attaboy, Sam!

by Lois Lowry. Chapter Book. 144 pages. Grades 1-6.
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Sam is Anastasia Krupnik's brother and he has appeared as a supporting character in several Anastasia books as well as starring in his own series "Sam Krupnik". It is likely that when children finish reading Attaboy, Sam! they will be anxious to read other books in the series and other books by Lois Lowry.

The series starts with All About Sam (Find this book: Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N icon). In that volume he gives his viewpoint on the household Anastasia has described in her volumes. See You Around, Sam (Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N icon) has Sam running away from home for a reason that might seem trivial, but which Sam takes very seriously. As he stops to say goodbye to the neighbors before leaving for Alaska, he gathers more and more things to take with him until he begins to think he'd better stay home.

Sam is sincere and, to say the least, inventive. Although readers may well think he's hilarious, Sam seldom tries to be funny. He is usually quite serious about his deeds and the reasons for them. Sam's family is warm and loving without being too good to believe. Lowry captures the thoughts, deeds and perceptions of children in many of her books and this series, starring pre-schooler Sam, is no exception. The family respects Sam and the feeling is reciprocal.

They make great read-alouds and most kids grade three and up will be able to read them independently. Often students are not interested in reading about children younger than themselves, but the Sam books are so funny and delightful that they will capture readers of any age, even those who don't have siblings Sam's age. We've used these all the way up to fifth grade.

These are full of light writing that still leave us things to think and talk about between and after the laughter.

Although all the Sam books are wonderful, we've chosen Attaboy, Sam! to highlight because it shows the knowledge a family's members have of each other and the ways they demonstrate this love and respect, which make it great for any unit on social skills. In Sam's attempt to make his mother's perfume, for instance, he shows how carefully he has watched and listened to her.

Plot Summary

We begin with a question that seems very silly to Sam. His mother asks, "What on earth are you doing, Sam?" He feels that she should know what he's doing by just looking. As he's thinking about that, we learn of some of his previous mischief-making. This time, however, Sam is using his father's typewriter to type his name. With his mother's help, he goes on to type her name and then various symbols. His mother proudly tacks the paper on the bulletin board in the kitchen.

Sam declares that now that he is a "typer" he will no longer need the magnetic refrigerator letters by which he was learning to read. His father and Anastasia return from grocery shopping and Mr. Krupnik has bad news. Sam is delighted because he finds bad news much more exciting than good news. However, this bad news isn't quite what Sam had hoped to hear. It turns out that his mother's birthday is coming up and Mr. Krupnik had intended to buy her a bottle of her favorite perfume, but the store no longer carries it.

At first this is of little interest to Sam until he remembers that her birthday is next week and she had asked for homemade things. He's been making her a birthday card in nursery school but he begins to think about her perfume. He knows what all her favorite smells are. He could collect those favorite smells and put them together for her perfume. The first quest is to find a suitable container and he settles on a grape juice bottle with a little grape juice at the bottom. He places it in his toy box which he now renames: Lab.

The first smell he acquires is the smell of his father's pipe. Even though she hates that his father smokes, Sam has heard her say that she loves the smell of his pipe. He commandeers one from his father's pipe rack and places it and some water in the grape juice bottle.

Sam is surprised to hear his mother say that she loves the smell of babies. He asks if he can accompany Anastasia on an afternoon baby-sitting job. There he takes a tissue that was used to clean the baby's bottom and one that Anastasia had used to clean the baby's spit-up and places them in a Zip-loc bag that he thoughtfully brought with him. Although he thinks their smell is gross, at home he places both in the jar and closes it up inside his toy chest.

Next, Sam's mother mentions that she likes the smell of chicken soup. She also admires the smell of Sam's shampoo. At nursery school Sam is sent to the time-out chair for cutting a piece of his hair off. This he has placed in another Zip-loc bag. Getting the chicken soup is easier because his mother is making some.

He also hears her say that she loves the smell of fresh-baked bread. Sam's neighbor, Mrs. Stein, has just made bread and Sam visits her. She tells him that it's the yeast that makes bread smell so good. He takes some yeast home and puts it in the jar.

The jar is beginning to exude an unpleasant odor. Anastasia notices it when she comes in to tuck Sam into bed. Even Sam thinks the smell is disgusting by morning. He gets his mother to promise to stay out of his room.

Since his mother has also admired the smell of the sea, Sam is delighted when his nursery school field trip is to the Aquarium. He puts some water and a little seaweed from the tide pool exhibit into a Zip-loc bag. As he adds it to the jar, he notices that the jar not only smells bad, it's bubbling.

Sam is worried about the perfume so again, he follows his mother's advice, this time to do something different when you are depressed. He takes possession of a free kitten being offered by a neighbor and puts it in his bedroom.

Sam helps Anastasia make the birthday cake for his mother and, after sniffing the vanilla, he decides it belongs in the perfume too.

Anastasia, Sam and Sam's dad are disappointed in the gifts they have made for Mrs. Krupnik. They show them to each other before giving them to Mrs. Krupnik. Mr. Krupnik has intended to make an oil portrait of his wife. It looks awful, even a bit scary. They all, including Mr. Krupnik, laugh when they see it. Anastasia reads the poem she has been writing for her mother and they all laugh again. The parts Sam helped her with aren't bad, but the other verses are a disaster. They go into Sam's room to see his gift and the perfume explodes all over them and the painting and the poem.

After cleaning up the mess, they survey their gifts. Thick purple liquid covers the painting and has thoroughly destroyed the poem. Both Mr. Krupnik and Anastasia declare that they think both are improved by it, but they still have a problem: they have no gift for their mother. It's Sam who comes up with the solution. They give her the kitten.



Things to Talk About and Notice

  • Health: Sam's mother wishes her husband would quit smoking. What might Mr. Krupnik do to help himself break the addiction?

  • Social Skills: There are many places in the book that show good manners as, for instance, when Sam asks to be excused from the table. How many of those manners are you apt to use? Why bother? What do manners do for society or for the individual?

  • Social Skills: Sam asks permission before entering Anastasia's room. Mrs. Krupnik does not commit Anastasia to a baby-sitting job without consulting her first. Is there anything you can do to show more respect to others?`


  • Social Skills: Find evidence in the book to show various family members' knowledge or awareness of each other. For instance, Sam knows where and how his father sits and what he's apt to say when he's watching a football game on TV. Can you do the same for members of your own family?

  • Language Arts, Vocabulary and Finding Information: Make a list of words that you think describe Sam. Then find evidence in the book to support each word or phrase.

  • Language Arts, Reading: Although Sam is a preschooler, he has learned to read and to write many things. Find evidence of Sam's skill in reading and writing.

  • Language Arts, Characters: Read the other Sam and the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry (see below) to learn more about this family. Make a chart showing what you found out about each family member in one or more of the other books.

  • Social Studies, Occupations: Mrs. Krupnik is a children's book illustrator. How does that job fit in so well with the household? What about Mr. Krupnik's job—how does it fit into the household? Find places in the book that show the family's awareness of the work others do.

  • Science, Chemistry: Would the perfume mixture that Sam creates really explode? Find someone skilled in chemistry to explain and demonstrate what happened and why.

  • Math, Analyzing Data and Science, Senses: Construct a scent survey. Assemble a variety of scents and find ways to chart the results of people's preferences. Include such things as garlic, oranges, sweaty socks, flowers, and chocolate chip cookies. Ask a wide number of people. Can you come up with adjectives to categorize them? Are their differences between what people of different genders or ages preferred? Can you show your results in charts and graphs?


Related Books

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    Grades PreK - 3
    Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin. Easy Reader. 48 pages.
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    Ling and Ting are Chinese American twins, but they are not exactly the same. For one thing there is the jagged cut in Ling's haircut due to a sneeze while her bangs were being trimmed. Then, of course, there are the differences in their personalities and behavior. This beautifully done Easy Reader explores the similarities and differences while affirming their affection for each other. Small vignettes break the book up into accessible chunks each with a dose of gentle humor at the end. Grace Lin won a 2011 Giesel Honor Book award for this strong entry in the beginning reader genre.

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    Grades 2 - 6
    The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. Illustrated by Small, David. Picture Book. 40 pages.
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    This is a thoroughly delightful book showing that family continues even through separation. During the Depression, Lydia is sent away from her parents and beloved Grandma to work in her uncle's bakery. The uncle, an unsmiling man, is kind enough, but Lydia resolves to make him smile. Letters home tell a bit of her plans and we know they involve using the seeds and the knowledge of gardening her grandmother has given her. The lush roof garden she creates gives as much delight to the reader as it does to her broadly smiling uncle. A Caldecott Honor Book.

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    Grades 1 - 4
    All About Sam by Lois Lowry. Chapter Book. 135 pages.
    Find this book: Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N icon

    This is the first book in the "Sam Krupnik" series. This is Anastasia's baby brother's story told from Sam's point of view. It starts at his birth and ends when he gives up his nightlight. In between we have the hilarious perspective of the world, and particularly the warm and loving Krupnik household, as seen from a very young child's viewpoint. Like the others in the series this is laugh-out-loud funny. This is funnier than the movie, Look Who's Talking.

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    Grades 3 - 6
    Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry. Novel. 144 pages.
    Find this book: Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N icon

    Lowry's series of books about Anastasia Krupnik and her younger brother, Sam, are unlike many series in that she doesn't rely on stock characters; the plots are well-conceived and both Anastasia and Sam grow emotionally as well as physically in these often hilariously funny books. If "functional" is the opposite of "dysfunctional," the Krupnik family is functional. They love and usually eventually manage to understand each other even while reacting to the latest misadventure of Sam or Anastasia.

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    Grades 3 - 6
    Anastasia on Her Own by Lois Lowry. Novel. 160 pages.
    Find this book: Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N icon

    Both Anastasia and her father are annoyed by her mother's slipshod housekeeping. They set up a schedule to make the chores more efficient and divide them up when Mrs. Krupnik takes on a consulting job. Running a household isn't quite as easy as they thought. Then there's Sam, the baby, who gets chicken pox to complicate matters.

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    Grades 1 - 4
    See You Around, Sam by Lois Lowry. Chapter Book. 128 pages.
    Find this book: Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N icon

    Sam is running away to Alaska because his mother won't let him wear his fangs around the house. With his mother's helpful suggestions, he packs his bag and sets off. He stops by at his favorite neighbors' houses to say goodbye and get suggestions for his trip. When it begins to get dark, he realizes he doesn't know the way to Alaska and is not sure he'd like a diet of blubber anyway.



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