- Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too!) by Leslie Kimmelman
Young Sam is expecting his new neighbor, Charlie, to be a boy, but it turns out that "Charlie" is Charlene and that Charlie's sibling Sam (who is soon dubbed "Sam Too") is Charlie's little sister, Samantha. Sam and Charlie quickly become pals anyway, and four short self-contained chapters follow them on their adventures. "Sharing" finds the friends arguing over who gets the last bite of prune hamentaschen (clearly superior to the alternative apricot ones), "Sick Day" sees Sam cheering up a sick Charlie, "The Bad Haircut" has Sam trying to make amends for inadvertently insulting Charlie's new haircut, and "I'm Sorry Day" humorously recaps the previous stories as buddies Sam and Charlie discuss Yom Kippur. The plot and the writing are kept simple but appealingly realistic as Sam and Charlie negotiate their newly formed friendship; when Sam, for example, tells Charlie that her hair looks "electric or something" after her new cut, he doesn't understand why she gets upset ("Sam didn't know what he'd done. 'I told the truth,' he said. 'It does look electric'"). The use of Jewish holidays as a backdrop for some stories is refreshingly subtle; eating hamentaschen and attending synagogue are clearly as much a part of the kids' lives as going to camp and playing baseball. Tambellini's digital illustrations in low-key hues are cartoonish and casual, and dark-haired Sam and freckled, brunette Charlie are an attractive pair; Sam Too, in her ever-present bear hat, is equally charming. Kids somewhere between Frog and Toad and beginning chapter books will find this bridges that gap nicely.