A young boy with light skin, tall black hair, glasses, a blue shirt, and green pants holds a red door closed with a look of fear on his face. Eyes glare at him in the black background behind the door. Text: "Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts. See, totally NOT scared. Katie & Kevin Tsang. Illustrated by Nathan Reed."

KidLit Book Review: Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts by Katie & Kevin Tsang and Nathan Reed


Synopsis

After an unfortunate (and very embarrassing) incident in the Space Museum, Sam goes on a mission to prove to the school bully, and all his friends, that he’s not afraid of anything — just like the heroes on his favorite show, Space Blasters. And when it looks like his house is haunted, Sam gets the chance to prove how brave he can be.


Details

  • Title: Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts
  • Series: Sam Wu Is Not Afraid, Book 1
  • Author: Katie & Kevin Tsang
  • Illustrator: Nathan Reed
  • Designers: Sam Perrett and Lizzie Gardiner
  • Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
  • ISBN: 1454932554
  • Publication Date: October 9, 2018
  • For Ages: 7-12
  • Category: Chapter Book
  • Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.

I’d like to thank Sterling Children’s Books for providing a free copy via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review.


Review

Hilarious and heartfelt, Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts is a delightful beginning to a series about a Chinese-American boy trying to convince his classmates (and himself) that he’s not a scaredy-cat. The illustrations are charming and funny, and the book design — filled with expressive fonts, sly footnotes, and humorous asides drawn in the page margins — brilliantly enhances the story and increases the reading pace. Though the publisher recommends this title for ages 7 to 12, I think 6 to 10 sounds more appropriate given the reading level. Regardless of age, though, this fun and lively book would be a great choice for reluctant readers.

The book features a diverse and relatable group of friends and a family dynamic that will allow many Asian-American kids and/or children or grandchildren of immigrants to see themselves represented in a book. Sam’s favorite breakfast food is congee (his second favorite is chocolate chip pancakes, which earns a fist bump from me), and he admits that he’s embarrassed to invite his friends over to his house because his Na-Na doesn’t speak perfect English. (Incidentally, Sam’s friends are really rude when they go over to his house for dinner and complain about the roast duck and turnip cake that Sam’s parents make. If your kids need a refresher on this lesson, this would be a good opportunity to teach them about respecting cultural differences and showing gratitude for hospitality.)

The story is funny and sweet, bouncing from one kooky idea to the next in an enjoyable whirlwind that will keep kids giggling. In one of my favorite exchanges, Sam’s friends Zoe and Bernard discuss the finer points of ghost-hunting:

“What would a ghost want with a snake?” Zoe asked.
“Why do ghosts want anything?” replied Bernard. “To SCARE people! And what is scarier than a ghost? A GHOST WITH A SNAKE.”

I mean, you really can’t argue with that logic. And it’s exactly the type of discussion kids would have. I think a lot of young readers will see themselves in this book and cheer for Sam as he tries to shed his scaredy-cat reputation. Sam Wu Is Not Afraid of Ghosts is a quick, fun read with great illustrations and engaging design. There are two books in the series so far, with a third scheduled to release on August 6, so if you’re looking for some great summer reading then Sam Wu Is Not Afraid… is a perfect choice.


Rating

Give that ghost a spider and it’ll be the scariest thing that ever existed. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.

4.5 Coffins


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