Sahara Special

Common Sense Media says

A lovely, moving book about a student and teacher.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Sahara doesn't do schoolwork, and one of her classmates is very rude to the teacher.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Some mild swearing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults smoking and drinking is mentioned.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's nothing of concern but plenty to talk about in this story of a girl who gets much-needed help from an unconventional teacher.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Sahara loves to read and is a gifted writer. But after her father leaves, her letters to him end up in the school counselor's file, and she is placed in Special Needs. Sahara stops doing schoolwork (\"I was through giving them evidence. They wouldn't get anything more out of me.\"). When she continues to do no work, and her mother pulls her out of the Special Needs program, she has to repeat fifth grade.

There she meets the new teacher, Madame Poitier, called Miss Pointy, who's not like any teacher she's ever met. She behaves outrageously, is contemptuous of school rules and bureaucracy, and teaches subjects such as Puzzling and Time Travel. And when she finds out that Sahara wants to be a writer, she has only one thing to say: \"A writer writes.\"

Is it any good?


Esmé 'aji Codell's first novel for children is not a new story: Unconventional Teacher Bucks Authority, Changes Students' Lives. But Codell's lyrical take on it is sharply observed and poignantly funny. This is a lovely, moving book.

Miss Pointy is front and center here, but Sahara's sharp voice crackles across the page as compellingly as Miss Pointy's antics. Sahara is one of those children who doesn't say much but who thinks a lot, and who notices everything. Her sometimes caustic observations are penetrating, and her writing talent is powerful, as revealed in a climax as satisfying as the end of one of Andrew Clements' books. Codell knows children and teachers, and the little graces of writing -- the rhythms, metaphors, insights, and turns of phrase that turn a story into a song.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Miss Pointy's unconventional style, Sahara's way of dealing with her problems, the rather negative view of school counselors and special education teachers, and lots more. Because there's so much to talk about, this would be a great book for school and parent/child literature groups.

Book details

Author:Esme Raji Codell
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date:November 30, 2003
Number of pages:175
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

This review of Sahara Special was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 15 years old Written byxo.Christine.xo April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Read it its awesome

this book was awesome i thought it was amzing and so does my class i think this would be good for people 9 and up beacuse it was a great book im sooo speechless that i couldnt say how GREAT IT WASS OMG!!! IT WAS great!!!!!!
Kid, 9 years old November 1, 2014
Bacon Pancakes
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

An amazing, touching book

This book was just amazing. I had a clear picture of what was going on during the story. I felt like I was the one dealing with Sahara's problems, instead of her. I too, had a stong love for Miss. Pointy, and my heart also reached out to Daryl! A must read for anyone 9 and up!


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