Sashi Kaufman, Author
Quill Tree Books, Fiction, Oct. 18, 2022
Suitable for ages: 8-12
Themes: Loss, Identity, Family secrets, Mental illness, Middle School, Bullying, Friendships, Trust, Hope
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Lucas Barnes knows it’s possible to stand out in middle school and still feel completely invisible. That’s what happens after his older brother, Charlie, dies and his mom disappears.
Stuck at aftercare every day until his dad can pick him up, Lucas gets to know Anna, the popular girl; Cat, the basketball star; Robbie, who’s nice to everyone and funny; and Finn, the new kid.
Between games of Sardines played in the woods behind school, they realize that each of them has a secret wish — something he or she desperately wants — and that by working together, they might actually have the power to make each wish come true. Lucas knows what he wants more than anuthing, but he isn’t sure if he can trust the group with his families secrets.
Told with humor and heart, Sardines is for any kid who’s felt second best or out of place, a book about an unlikely crew thrown together by fate and held together by friendship.
Why I like Sardines:
Sashi Kaufman’s debut novel is a heartwarming and original story about loss, identity, mental health, bullying and friendship. She nails the rocky transition for 6th grade students entering middle school. Many are still kids who like to play and aren’t ready for the pressures they encounter.
I admit I was drawn to Sardines because of the beautiful cover. It just spoke to me. When I read the summary, I was sold.
This is a character-driven story with Lucas, narrating. He deals with his brother’s death, his mother’s disappearance and his strained relationship with his father. Lucas knows his mother was very sad after Charlie’s death, but he doesn’t understand why she left and why she hasn’t attempted to contact him. .
All five kids, Lucas, Robbie, Anna, Cat and Finn, are from different backgrounds, yet they manage to forge an unlikely friendship at the after school program. They connect over Sardines, a game of hide-and-seek. And they find a tree fort in the woods where they meet after school. While Lucas is the main character, I admit my favorite character is Finn, who memorizes the atlas. He’s smart, confident, and a bit quirky. Little is known about him, but he holds the group together. Finn comes up with the idea to collect acorn caps in a jar. Once full, each person shares a secret wish that the others will help come true. This takes their relationship to a whole new level of trust and devotion. No one knows Finn’s wish until the end.
The story is realistic, relatable and messy. But there is growth and hope for this group of friends. And it is nice to see the growth in Lucas’s dad. Sardines really is a compelling middle grade story about resilience and the power of friendship. This novel will be popular with students.
Sashi Kaufman writes for kids and young adults, including The Other Way Around and Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature. She’s a middle school teacher in southern Maine, where she lives with her family. When she’s not reading or writing she likes to hike, explore, and eat ice cream. Visit her online at http://www.sashikaufman.com
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*Reviewed from a library copy.