Simon Sort of Says
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Simon Sort of Says, by Erin Bow (The Scorpion Rules), is a tragicomic, ultimately uplifting tale of a 12-year-old facing regular middle school problems. He's also the only survivor of a notorious school shooting, his mom's a mortician, his dad's a Catholic deacon, and they've all moved to an internet-free town where no one knows their story so they can live in peace, and maybe heal. There's a lot of macabre humor, a lot of religious humor, a lot of macabre religious humor, plus an ongoing gross-out contest among friends that results in way too much information about the reproductive systems of farm animals and the tendency of corpses to fart. Friendship, kindness, and empathy are strong themes as Simon's new friends learn his story and the bonds between them strengthen. There's a lot about science, prime numbers, farm animals, and clever strategies for faking messages from outer space. The gradually revealed trauma of the massacre looms large, both when the victims are trying to keep it quiet and when everybody knows, and Simon is victimized anew with smarmy displays of ribbons and teddy bears.
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What's the Story?
SIMON SORT OF SAYS finds 12-year-old Simon O'Keeffe starting seventh grade at a new school in a new town, which is already a lot to deal with. But in this case, there's more: Simon's dad is a Catholic deacon (think sermons and dad jokes), his mom is a mortician (think T-shirts that say Got Formaldehyde?), and Simon is the sole survivor of a mass shooting that killed all his classmates back in fifth grade. The new town is Grin and Bear It, Nebraska, where there's no TV, no radio, no internet, because the whole town is surrounded by satellite dishes listening for signals from outer space. The O'Keeffes hope to recover and build a new life where nobody knows about what happened to them in the past. Simon soon makes friends withAgate, a classmate who's larger than her peers, redheaded, and forceful, and who announces, "I am an autistic person," separates her food by texture, and presents him with a guide dog puppy to socialize. He also makes friends with Kevin, who helps his dad in the halo halo shop while his mom nags him about his science fair project. Simon's not sure about sharing his past with them. But it may not be up to him.
Is It Any Good?
Author Erin Bow creates a darkly hilarious, ludicrously poignant tale of family, friendship, corpses, emus, and space aliens, as seen by a 12-year-old who's the sole survivor of a school massacre. Between the science, the religion (Catholic), the funeral parlor, the farm animals, the traumatic flashbacks, and the day-to-day challenges of middle school, Simon Sort of Says finds its hero dealing with quite a lot. But also finding support from new friends amid tragicomic struggles, brilliant breakthroughs, and puppy snuggles.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how mass shootings have become so much a part of the United States' national narrative that they're a topical theme of kids' books, including Simon Sort of Says. Do you think reading stories like this helps you understand the experience of those affected? Do you think it can prevent such tragedies from happening again?
Do you think there are other species in outer space trying to communicate with us? If so, how do you feel about it?
Which characters show empathy? Who shows courage and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?
- Author: Erin Bow
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: January 31, 2023
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 10, 2023
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