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Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan

Book #1 of Sam the Man
Illustrated by Amy June Bates



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About The Book

Sam the Man wants to earn some money and he’s got a cluck-worthy plan in this endearing chapter book that’s the first in a new series from Frances O’Roark Dowell.

Sam the Man needs a job. Even his sister gets twenty bucks a pop for mowing people’s lawns! But seven-year-olds aren’t allowed to mow lawns, so Sam decides to ask his next door neighbor if she needs help doing other chores. It turns out she’ll pay him a whole dollar each time he can convince her dad, Mr. Stockfish, to join him for a walk. But it turns out that getting Mr. Stockfish to leave the living room isn’t easy. AND a dollar a pop isn’t going to cut it.

So when Mrs. Kerner, another neighbor, asks if Sam would like to watch her chickens, Sam jumps on the task. You can count on him, yes indeed. Watching chickens is more fun than he expects, and comes with an added bonus: it turns out that visiting the chickens is the one thing that can coax Mr. Stockfish out of the house! But what does a seven-year-old do with all the money he’s earning? It’s too little for a bike, and too much for candy. But wait! It’s just enough for a chicken of his own—the kind that lays BLUE eggs! Soon he has a whole waiting list of kids who want to buy a blue egg. And what does Sam plan on doing with his new fortune? Buy Mr. Stockfish his own chicken, of course!


Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan

A Job for Sam
Sam Graham wanted a job.

Everyone else in his family had a job. His dad did something with computers, and his mom did something with clients, and his sister, Annabelle, who was twelve, mowed lawns.

“Twenty bucks a pop,” Annabelle said when she came home from a job, sweaty and flecked with little bits of grass. “Hard to beat.”

“What can I do for twenty bucks a pop?” Sam asked his mom.

“There aren’t many jobs for seven-year-olds,” his mom said. “I’ll give you a dollar to clean your room.”

Sam didn’t want a job that only paid one buck a pop.

Besides, his room didn’t need cleaning.

When Mrs. Kerner stopped by to see if Annabelle would take care of her chickens while she was away, Annabelle said she couldn’t do it.

“I have three lawns to mow this weekend,” she told Mrs. Kerner. “Hate to say it, but there’s no time for chickens.”

Sam raced over to Mrs. Kerner. He waved his arms in the air. “I’ll take care of your chickens!”

“You’re only seven,” Mrs. Kerner said. “Seven-year-olds don’t know the first thing about chickens.”

“I know they lay eggs,” Sam said, holding up one finger.

“I know they like to be around other chickens,” he added, holding up a second finger.

He tried to think of one more thing he had learned on the second-grade field trip to the farm.

Aha! He held up a third finger. “I know their poop is good for the garden.”

“Don’t say ‘poop,’ ” said Mrs. Kerner.

“I like the way it sounds,” said Sam.

“Still,” said Mrs. Kerner. “Still and all.”

She looked at Sam for a long time. “You know a lot about chickens. But you’re awfully small.”

“I’m bigger than a raccoon,” said Sam.

“I despise raccoons,” said Mrs. Kerner.

“Me too,” said Sam.

“Okay, then,” said Mrs. Kerner. “I think we can work together.”

About The Author

Photograph (c) Clifton Dowell

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to BeThe Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far AwayChicken BoyShooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Award; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling InThe Second Life of Abigail Walker, which received three starred reviews; Anybody Shining; Ten Miles Past NormalTrouble the Water; the Sam the Man series; The ClassHow to Build a Story; and most recently, Hazard. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at

About The Illustrator

Provided by the author

Amy June Bates has illustrated books including the Sam the Man series; Sweet Dreams and That’s What I’d Do, both by singer-songwriter Jewel; and Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan. She is the author-illustrator of The Big Umbrella, about which Booklist raved, “A boundlessly inclusive spirit...This open-ended picture book creates a natural springboard for discussion.” She lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (August 30, 2016)
  • Length: 128 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481440660
  • Grades: 1 - 4
  • Ages: 6 - 9
  • Lexile ® 640L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ O These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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Raves and Reviews

Seven-year-old Sam's search for a job leadshim to chickens and an unexpected friendship.Sam's father does "somethingwith computers," his mother does "something with clients," andhis older sister, Annabelle, mows lawns at "20 bucks a pop." When hisneighbor stops by to ask Annabelle if she'd take care of her chickens whileshe's away for the weekend, Sam persuades Mrs. Kerner that he can do it. Hesoon realizes he needs a steady stream of income and thinks that maybe his ownchicken could help. He arranges with Mrs. Kerner to board his new chicken withhers in exchange for overall chicken care, and he pays his father back forHelga, who lays blue eggs, by taking a job as his elderly neighbor's exercisecompanion. Dowell creates in Sam a completely believable 7-year-old whosedesires "to be an expert on something" and to emulate his familymembers combine organically to drive this story of intergenerational (andinterspecies) friendship. His burgeoning relationship with grumpy Mr. Stockfishis as much a joy to watch as his excitement over Helga's first egg. Thefinancial lessons he learns are valuable ones, delivered painlessly in thetightly focused third-person narration. Bates' soft pencil illustrations depictSam's close-knit family as white, Mr. Stockfish and his daughter as black, andhis classmates as diverse in color. A sweet slice of neighborhood life; here'shoping for more of Sam the Man. (Fiction. 6-9)

– Kirkus Reviews, 6/1/16

Sam wants to have a job, like his mother, father, and big sister. Soon he has two, both involving neighbors. First, he looks after Mrs. Kerner’s chickens. Next, he takes elderly Mr. Stockfish for walks. Sam’s interest in chickens flourishes after his father helps him buy his own hen, Helga, who lays blue eggs. Soon Sam is taking Mr. Stockfish on walks to visit her, an idea that pays off all around. His neighbor grows stronger, while taking a supportive interest in Sam and Helga. This very accessible chapter book offers a simply told, well-knit story with a multicultural cast of likable characters. The author of Dovey Coe (2000), Chicken Boy (2005), and the Phineas MacGuire series, Dowell portrays seven-year-old Sam with a quiet perception. Many readers will relate to his pride in figuring out for himself how to earn money as well as how he’d like to spend it. Well-structured, shaded pencil drawings illustrate characters and scenes with energy, perception, and gentle humor. This satisfying story sets the stage for the Sam the Man series. — Carolyn Phelan

– Booklist, 7/1/16

In a warm family story, Dowell introduces Sam Graham, age seven, who wants to earn money like his older sister, Annabelle. He offers to care for a neighbor’s chickens while she’s away, opening the door for a chicken of Sam’s own, as well as a friendship with the somewhat cantankerous Mr. Stockfish, another neighbor. Dowell’s story shines in Sam’s believable and often-funny interactions with his family, community, and friends. “You really needed to use the whole roll?” Sam’s mother asks after he makes a toilet paper nest for his chicken’s first egg. “Sam nodded again. Did she really need to ask?” Final art not seen by PW.

– Publishers Weekly, August 1, 2016

Those looking for that first chapter book that might be the hook for an aspiring reader will want to take a look at this one. Sam is the only member of his family who doesn’t have a job. He is on a mission. He convinces a neighbor that he is responsible enough to care for her chickens while she is away even though he is only seven-years-old. As a result, Sam embarks on an entrepreneurial adventure, and many ancillary events occur. This is a story of siblings, family, neighbors, and generations, woven together as Sam learns about money, responsibility, and helping people. Dowell has crafted a story that has kid appeal, humor, and fun with chickens. Teachers will appreciate Sam’s initiative and the enriching vocabulary. Amy Bates’ pencil illustrations will be a valuable asset to the storyline. Readers, teachers, and school librarians looking for that special, easier chapter book will enjoy this title.

– School Library Connection, 10/01/16

Seven-year-old Sam Graham wants money, but he’s too young to have a real job. When neighbor Mrs. Kerner tries to hire Sam’s too-busy older sister to take care of her chickens for a few days, Sam rushes to do it. Soon Sam is in business: the chicken business. Once he’s made a little money chicken-sitting, he decides to get a chicken of his own, Helga, whom Mrs. Kerner agrees to let live in her coop (for a price, of course). Because Helga lays blue eggs, Sam figures it will be easy to keep them separate from the others; what he doesn’t realize is that the blue eggs are also the answer to his money problems. Helga entertains everyone, whether she is laying eggs or just learning how to fit in with the other chickens. Blackand- white illustrations, some humorous, some gentle, accompany each chapter. The short sentences and amusing situations make this a perfect read-aloud or first read-alone for young readers, whether they have a chicken or not.

– The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2016

Arriving in his second-grade classroom late after a dental appointment, Sam finds on his desk a rutabaga, his very own vegetable, assigned for a project. Sam soon warms up to “Rudy,” particularly after his sister draws a smiling face on him. Warned repeatedly that Rudy has stopped growing, Sam is happy when his rutabaga surprises everyone. Simply written, this early chapter book features well-drawn characters in believable situations. Readers who warmed to Sam, his family, and his neighbors in Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan (2016) will find the second volume in the Sam the Man series just as enjoyable as the first. — Carolyn Phelan

– Booklist online, December 2, 2016

Awards and Honors

  • Gryphon Award Honor Book

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Frances O'Roark Dowell

More books from this illustrator: Amy June Bates

More books in this series: Sam the Man