Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
Sammi Jo and the Best Day Ever by Dede Stockton is a gentle and imaginative story about a little girl called Sammi Jo and her summer shore adventure. An only child, Sammi Jo goes to boarding school because her parents are both busy writers. Every summer the family takes a break together at their beach side cottage, and usually Sammi’s best friend from school goes for part of the holiday too. But one year Sammi must manage without Kara and she feels lonely without her friend to share in her adventures. Then some strange things begin happening on the shore line: a flying stick, some mysterious splashing sounds, something with big eyes peeping out from behind a rock, and some pretty, scale-like shells on the sand. Sammi investigates, puts the clues together, and discovers an unusual new friend. The two go on a magical underwater trip. No longer lonely, Sammi decides the holiday had plenty of best days ever after all.
Dede Stockton’s story will appeal to children around middle grade age who are confident readers. The chapters and overall book length of seventy pages make it a manageable length. The writing style is clear and succinct with a plot that moves along at a good pace, and, of course, a happy ending. I loved the sense of mystery concerning the puzzling items and noises that Sammi comes across on the beach, and the wonderful discovery of a magical sea creature – the perfect holiday friend for the lonely little girl. Sammi Jo herself is a believable and likable character and her desire for friendship and fun is something children will identify with. I did feel sorry for Sammi who is expected to entertain herself when her parents spend time working at the holiday cottage too. But having busy working parents is, of course, real life for many children, and an important ability - perhaps especially for children without siblings – is knowing how to safely occupy yourself at those times in fun and healthy ways. There is a good message here about using your imagination to overcome boredom and even loneliness, and not spending time feeling sorry for yourself. Sammi Jo just gets on with exploring the adventures and opportunities around her and has so much fun after all. An entertaining and imaginative story for younger readers.