Draper, S. (2009). Sassy: Little Sister is NOT My Name! New York: Scholastic Press.
Nine-year-old Sassy loves to express herself. With her colorful Sassy Sack over her shoulder everyday, she takes on wearing her drab blue and white school uniform, being the youngest child in a family of five that are always calling her "Little Sister" instead of her name.
Sassy's sack is a super-purse, filled with everything she needs. While I tend more toward a backpack myself, after reading how much stuff (although mainly small items) it holds, I can't help but want my own Sassy Sack. At the very least, so I can find out exactly how much such a sack would weigh.
After going through an eventful school day and dreaming of having more color in her school, Sassy is surprised by a visit from her grandmother. It turns out, a visit from Grammy is just the first of several surprises.
Since this is decidedly a "girl" book, what with the sparkles on the cover and with a protagonist that is very concerned with fashion and her appearance, a teacher may not want to assign this book to an entire class. Rather it could be used as a literature circle read or individual recommendation. While fashion and appearance are emphasized, Sassy's Grammy still makes sure to reinforce the idea of inner beauty and strength. A teacher or parent may want to make sure to reinforce that point though.
Of course, a teacher could still try to get boys to engage with the text. (Alas, removing the paper cover will not be enough, the outside of the book also is colored in light hughes and sparkles) A teacher could have more masculinely-inclined students focus on Sassy's brother, Sabin or on the tension-filled last few chapters.
This is the first book in a new series by Draper, who has begun extending beyond her usual young adult books. Although race issues are not at the center of this book as with many of Draper's other novels, it is still present in the backdrop, allowing readers historically ignored by these types of series to feel represented. The book emphasizes and prizes literacy and storytelling.
Activities to Do with the Book:
Sassy spends a chapter giving a speech to her fellow fourth graders describing her ideal school. As an assignment, a teacher could have students create illustrations, prepare an argument, or give a performance of what their perfect school would be like. What would be taught? How would the day be scheduled? Would the students have uniforms? How would the students interact? The teachers? What would the building or space look like? etc.
Since Sassy focuses on her name and how it is used, it could promote children to narrate about their own names. Who chose their name and why? Do they like it? Do they prefer a nickname? Not only could this begin as an introductory story exercise, but students could also write poems about their names.
Toward the end of the story there is a power outage. In response to that scene, students could talk about their own experiences of power outages or other emergencies.
"Little Sister, did you touch my lipstick again? I can't find the new tube of Kissable Kiwi lip gloss I just bought. I told you to stay out of my makeup!" That's my sixteen-year-old sister, Sadora, yelling at me from her bedroom.
I didn't take her stinky old lip gloss, but I did test it out. It smelled like prunes, so I put it back" (p. 1).
"Actually, it's not like anybody is noticing I'm giving them the silent treatment. I'm pretty invisible around here. I'm nine and a half years old and in the fourth grade, the youngest of three kids. I don't weigh very much. I'm just plain teeny.
I'm the one who has to settle for the last piece of chicken on the plate, usually the wing, which I hate. I'm the one who's stuck with the last slice of bread in the loaf, the thick end piece. I'm the one who gets the last choice of jelly beans in the candy bowl. Nobody ever takes the icky licorice ones.
My name is Sassy Simone Sanford" (p. 3).
"My mom says she gave me that name right after I was born, when she first took me in her arms, and I stuck out my tongue at her. "What a sassy little princess you are!" she said right then and there" (pp. 3-4).
"Style and flair come from within. If you feel elegant on the inside, you'll look lovely no matter what" (p. 50).