A new voice in fiction that will bring you to tears.
My name is Sam.
I am eleven years old.
I collect stories and fantastic facts.
By the time you read this, I will probably be dead.
Living through the last stages of leukemia, Sam wants to know facts. Facts about UFOs, ghosts, how it feels to kiss a girl. He wants to break a world record, watch horror movies, go up the down-escalator. And Sam is determined to find answers to all of the questions nobody ever answers - all of them.
Written as a collection of journal entries, lists, questions, and pictures, Sam's story will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will show you how one boy finds a way to live forever.
Reviews and Awards
Waterstone's Children's Book Prize, 2008
Glen Dimplex New Writers Award, 2008
New York Public Library Children's Books 2008: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Horn Book Fanfare Book
The Luchs Prize (Germany)
ALA Notable Children's Book, 2009
USBBY Outstanding International Book 2009
A Junior Library Guild Selection
NCTE Notable Children’s Book for Language Arts, 2009
"Nicholls’s debut skillfully avoids bathos at every turn, sketching a fully-formed character readers will be glad they’ve met and sorry to bid farewell." - Kirkus Reviews
⋆ "This year's answer to 2007's Before I Die, this first novel written by a 23-year-old Brit likewise features a young narrator with incurable cancer—and, while it doesn't entirely escape the conventions of the dying-child novel, it skirts easy sentiment to confront the hard questions head-on, intelligently and realistically and with an enormous range of feeling. Sam, facing his third recurrence of leukemia at the age of 11, keeps a journal, and among his entries are facts, questions and lists: “Questions Nobody Answers No. 1 – How do you know that you've died?”; “True facts about coffins”; “Why does God make kids get ill?” Sam starts out with a buddy, another terminally ill boy who shares Sam's sense of humor and who with Sam is taught by a visiting teacher (“No dying at the table, Felix,” she tells him in the opening scene when he is mocking melodramatic portrayals of “the poor, frail child... struggling bravely”). How Sam and his family cope with Felix's death and Sam's own inevitable decline—ultimately, with humor, grace and generosity of spirit—will bring on tears; more impressively, it will also help readers address the hard questions for themselves." - Publishers Weekly, starred review
“There’s an authenticity to Sam’s informal preteen voice and his boyish worldview that gives this story a quiet underlying wisdom.... Nicholls is particularly deft at providing observable clues to Sam’s family’s turmoil as they veer between denial and acceptance, and while Sam’s situation remains paramount, the book offers and elicits sympathy for his wounded family as well as for him. Though this inevitably concludes as a tearjerker, the outright pathos is largely limited to implication, making this not only a moving read but also one that might provide some useful perspective for friends and sibs of kids who, like Sam, are facing an end before their time.” - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
⋆ "Eleven-year-old Sam knows that he is dying from leukemia. He has decided to write a book that includes his thoughts on the matter as well as his lists and his questions, particularly those that no one ever answers like, "Why does God let kids get ill?" Through his writing, Nicholls has drawn a portrait of a family coping with a child's terminal disease. Readers meet Sam's mother, father, and younger sister, each of whom is dealing in a different way with his illness. Well researched and beautifully written, the book is equal to the best of children's literature about death and dying, Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia (HarperCollins, 1977) and Deborah Wiles's Each Little Bird That Sings (Harcourt, 2005). Sam knows that his father rushes off to work each day because he cannot admit to himself that his son is dying. He knows that his mother keeps Ella home from school during an unexpected snowstorm in March so they can have one last sledding day together. But, he does not verbalize this knowledge, just as his parents and Ella don't speak of his death. Sam is a child whom readers would want as a friend and he will be missed when the book is done." - School Library Journal, starred review
“Nicholls balances passages of heavy despair with moments of inspirational bravery, and Sam’s unapologetically sentimental narrative is always honest and never cloying.... The story ends as promised, but Nicholls invests the final moments with appropriate grace, reminding the reader of Sam’s courage, frailty, and resilient humanity.” - Booklist
⋆ “Sam is eleven, and he is dying of leukemia. In this journal record of the final four months of Sam’s life, Nicholls creates a character and a world that are authentic, buoyant, honest, and stripped of sentimentality. The story is structured around Sam’s eight goals, from breaking a world record to going up a down escalator, from being a teenager (smoking, drinking, having a girlfriend) to seeing the earth from space. In varied, plausible ways he accomplishes all his goals, and with each one he grows as a person. The world record involves his friend Felix and their construction of the world’s smallest nightclub, a classic vignette of a middle-grade project gone awry. Sam’s achievement of a girlfriend (a relationship that lasts as long as a single kiss) reveals the further quirky kindness of Felix. The texture of the narrative, with lists, clippings, footnotes, and doodles, allows for quick shifts in tone. In all the events recorded by Sam we see his degenerating physical condition without Nicholls ever once explicitly alluding to it. The overarching story is the hard-won rebuilding of Sam’s relationship with his father, a man who simply denies the tragedy of Sam’s illness. Most original of all is Nicholls’s handling of the religious questions that Sam faces. Nobody provides him with easy or doctrinaire answers, but in his passionate exploration of spiritual issues he reveals himself to be fully alive until the moment of his death, engaged with the world, trying to make sense of it, being and becoming a unique, thinking, questing human. The energy and joy of this novel is a remarkable feat.” - Horn Book, starred review
Middle Grade Novel
Price: $16.99 / $18.99
Trim Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
Page Count: 224
Foreign Rights: Scholastic UK
Translation Rights: Scholastic UK
Rights Available? yes