Eleven is another book about whether or not girls and boys can be friends. Like Nadie and Nick in The Trouble With Rules, Sam and his new friend Caroline are friends outside of school but hide their friendship while they’re at school for fear of being teased.
However, being friends with a girl is the least of Sam’s worries. Sam is almost eleven years old, and he can’t really read. And he’s afraid, for some reason, of the number eleven. And worst of all, he’s found a newspaper clipping in the attic with a photograph of himself at three years old and an article he can’t read. It says something about “missing” and “Sam Bell”, but Sam’s last name is MacKenzie, not Bell. Sam lives with his grandfather, Mack, but now he’s wondering: is Mack really his grandfather? Where does he really belong? What are the dreams that disturb his rest, dreams about shouting and a terrible house and a boat and drowning? WIll Caroline help Sam find out the truth about his past?
This one is a sort of mystery/problem fiction title since Sam is learning disabled and out to solve a mystery, too. I can’t put my finger on the exact cause, maybe because I’m not a talented writer myself, but something about the writing or the plot felt disjointed or full of holes. Ms. Giff may have written the book to mirror the way Sam thinks, disorganized and fragmented, and if so, I got the message. I didn’t love it, but it’s a serviceable title about kids with a reading problem and about friendship and about a loving and supportive family and community. Some kids who identify with these themes will probably like it very much.
Blogger reviews of Eleven:
The Reading Zone: “Sam is a very likable character, and I was immediately drawn into his story. He struggles with school, specifically with reading, but he is talented in woodworking and design. . . . While this is not an edge of your seat mystery, it is full of suspense and I kept turning the pages, hoping to learn who Sam really was!”
Brooke at Story Pockets: “Giff (author of the Newbery Honor-winning Pictures of Hollis Woods) is a master at showing the way kids internalize their struggles, and how clueless the adults around them can sometimes be. Sam and Caroline’s journey into friendship and family is a quiet study of an ordinary kid facing some pretty extraordinary questions about his past, and the strength that can result afterwards.”