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Sam and the Lucky Money



Last updated Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Author: Karen Chinn
Illustrator: Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Date of Publication: 1995
ISBN: 188000013X
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2007

Synopsis: From School Library Journal: Sam receives four bright red envelopes decorated with shiny gold emblems as part of the traditional Chinese New Year celebration, each containing a dollar. As he accompanies his mother through Chinatown, his anticipation of how to spend it diminishes when he realizes that the "lucky money" won't buy as much as he had hoped. His mood is further sobered after an encounter with a man he stumbles upon in the street. He nobly, though not surprisingly, concludes that his four dollars would be best spent on the barefoot stranger. Though the traditional message that it is better to give than to receive will be apparent to adults immediately, it is handled in a genuine, thoughtful manner that will be realistic to children. Detailed descriptions of the sights and sounds of the New Year celebration build in contrast to Sam's growing introspection, becoming even more dramatic and adding to the depth of the story. The illustrators masterfully combine Chinatown's exotic setting with the universal emotions of childhood through expressive portraits of the characters.

Note to readers:
•  This book is fairly long. Volunteers can ask whatever questions arise as they read the book.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Looking at the cover of the book, do you know what culture this is?
•  Have you ever seen a Chinese dragon dance?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What kinds of family traditions does your family have? What does your family do for New Year’s or other holidays?
•  Do you ever get money as a gift for special occasions? What do you do with the money you get?
•  What nice things have you done to help other people?
•  What is “lucky money”? [It’s money in a red envelope given on Chinese New Year to kids.]

Craft ideas:
•  Fold a square of red paper into an envelope; use a glue stick to glue it. Cut some pieces of paper and decorate them to look like money to put in your envelope.
•  Make a dragon mask. Decorate your mask to look like a Chinese dragon.
•  Fold a piece of paper back and forth to make a fan like the man has in the parade. Decorate your fan.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!