Sophie Simon Solves Them All
What You Need to Know:|
• The kids outsmart the adults in this funny story.
• Most of the adults in this story are over-the-top and quirky while the kids maintain the sanity.
• As the plot moves along, each chapter introduces and develops another character.
• Lisa Graff is also the author of the 2011 middle grade novel, Umbrella Summer.
• Check out Sophie’s “encyclopedia” and taffy recipe in the back of the book.
• There are amusing illustrations sprinkled throughout the pages.
This book is like some third graders that I know - silly, funny and goofy on the outside and thoughtful and astute on the inside – making it a perfect choice for newly independent readers. While on the surface, the characters and the things they do are over-the-top and comical, underneath they are dealing with very important issues like parents that don’t understand them, teachers that are mean and friendships that are tough to navigate. These subjects are portrayed with humor, though, leaving readers with a fast, funny and entertaining read.
Sophie Simon’s world seems like an upside down, backwards, exaggerated version of the life most third graders lead. Sophie is “a genius” but her parents want their "lamb chop" to read comic books instead of textbooks and learn pig Latin instead of Japanese. Most of all they’d like their "snickerdoodle" to be “well-adjusted” and make friends. They’re appalled to find their little "garbanzo bean" studying math, saying, “You try so hard to be a good parent...And then you find out your eight-year-old is studying calculus.” Sophie, who performed open-heart surgery on an earthworm, at the age of seven, briefly wonders if these people are even her real parents. Apparently, some other kids at school, Daisy, Owen and Julia, have similar problems and even wonder the same thing about their own parents. The adults all seem to want them to be something they’re not or do something they hate. How to solve the problem? That’s probably a question children around the world have asked themselves for centuries, but now Sophie Simon is going to give it a try. For a small fee, just enough to get the graphing calculator that her parents refuse to buy her, Sophie uses the teachings of “civil disobedience” and a little reverse psychology to help Daisy, Owen and Julia, and ultimately, herself.
Lisa Graff's version of third grade is filled with action, from a sit-in to a leaping lemur, and most importantly with opportunities for kids to feel empowered and friendships to develop. Graff has also created some memorable characters like the outlandish teacher whose classroom rules include "no wearing orange socks...no talking about fungus" and the ballet teacher who threatens to cut off the girls' pinky toes if they lose their balance. I especially liked the way each of the children's stories were cleverly tied to one another. The only thing I would change about this book is the cover art - I don't feel it indicates just how funny the story is, and the lima bean shaped graphic over her brain is a little disturbing. The interior illustrations, on the other hand, are very appealing and show just the right amount of comedy and drama.
Check out this fun book trailer:
2010, 112 pages
Family Life, Friendship, Humor, School
• How is Sophie different from the other kid at school? Do you ever feel different?
• Why isn’t Sophie interested in making friends?
• Are your parents like any of those in the book? In what ways?
• Name something, if anything, that your parents want you to do that you’d like to stop doing.
• Is Sophie a good friend in the end? In what way?
• What do Sophie, Daisy, Julia and Owen have in common?
This recommendation was written by: