Friday, May 4, 2012
Sophie Simon Solves Them All
Lisa Graff, illustrated by Jason Beene
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010
February 26th, 2012
Description: Third grader Sophie Simon is a genius. Her parents, however, are worried that she isn’t well adjusted socially since she’d rather read a college textbook on calculus instead of making a friend. When Sophie asks her parents for a Pembo Q-60 calculus calculator they refuse. So how can Sophie earn $100 on her own to buy one? It turns out Sophie’s brain is really good at solving lots of things—not just math problems. While she might not have any friends, a number of her classmates understand that she is super smart and they begin approaching her to see if she can give any advice on some of their own problems. Daisy is a klutz and doesn’t want to perform anymore as the star ballerina her parents want her to be. Owen likes things that are clean, quiet, and bland but his hardworking single mother is the opposite. So when he wants a plain rabbit for his birthday and his mother interprets this as “an exotic pet” what will he do? Lastly, Julia’s dad expects her to be a Mathlete just like he was but she really wants to be a journalist. She’s been given one last chance to find a newsworthy story and get it published by the school paper in order to impress him. For Sophie, she easily sees solutions to their problems and finds a solution to her own—she’ll charge her classmates for her advice. When one of her plans goes awry, Sophie actually finds herself giving up her $100 to get her classmate out of trouble and in turn they all try their best to return the favor in a very roundabout way—Sophie is invited to join the Mathletes in Julia’s place and the present each Mathlete gets when joining—a Prembo Q-60! However, Sophie might have actually ended up gaining something more than a calculator—some friends as well.
Opinion: Lisa Graff has a way with writing about oddball characters. While Sophie is a character that many readers probably can’t relate with she is still enduring and readers will enjoy reading about Sophie’s originally selfish journey that ends in the beginnings of some true friendships. Sophie is an odd character since she is much older than her eight-year-old self. She’s already doing college level course on her own and she’s socially awkward. A lot of kids wouldn’t be able to understand a character like this. Some parts of the novel are a little incredulous—a real child in Sophie’s place would probably have supportive parents and not be forced to remain in third grade where she is bored to death; instead Sophie’s parents seem to actually want to stifle her genius and force her to be the little girl she is not. The best readers will be able to relate to Sophie is by comparing her to any other oddball kids they might share class with but hopefully they’ll realize, like Sophie’s classmates did, that while people can be really different they could end up being good friends.