Simon Sort of Says

Simon Sort of Says cover
Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

By Erin Bow
Disney/Hyperion, 2023
320 pages

Ages 9-13

The town of Grin and Bear It, Nebraska, is located in the National Quiet Zone, an area in which scientists listen for radio signals from outer space, and where interfering signals like internet, Wi-Fi, cell phones, radios, and microwave ovens are prohibited. To Simon (white), the sole survivor of a horrific school shooting in his fifth grade classroom in Omaha two years ago, Grin and Bear It sounds ideal: There he will be able to escape the media attention that has been hounding him ever since. At his new school Simon befriends Kevin (Filipino/white), the son of a local scientist; and Agate (white, autistic), who plans to use a microwave oven to send fake alien signals and would like Simon’s help. With a wonderfully effective blend of slapstick humor, witty dialogue, and deep emotion, the narrative follows Simon through the spring semester of seventh grade; eventually he is outed as “the kid from the school shooting photo,” triggering renewed panic attacks and severe anxiety. This time, though, Simon is supported not only by his steady, loving parents (his mom is an undertaker; his dad a Catholic deacon—careers that add surprising humor and levity to the plot) but by his new friends as well. A moving, sensitive story of trauma and grief, family and love, friendship and support shows great respect for its protagonist, who does not miraculously overcome his PTSD but moves to a more comfortable place by story’s end. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center