The short middle grade novel Oh, Sal! by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, September 2022) gives us the story of Billy Miller’s little sister, Sal. Billy Miller got two books from his perspective: The Year of Billy Miller (reviewed in 2015) and Billy Miller Makes a Wish (reviewed last month, June 2023). Now, in Sal’s book, we follow the delightful four-year-old through one busy day as she faces normal four-year-old kid problems that, to her, seem insurmountable. She also is dealing with the recent arrival of a new baby, who she still isn’t sure about.
Henkes manages to tell Sal’s story of just one day with emotion and meaning, all from a 4-year-old perspective that makes her “tragedies” feel like “tragedies.” A young one can relate to Sal when her “snow star” is destroyed by someone running across it, or when she can’t find her favorite pair of underwear. As adults, sometimes we discount little kids because their concerns don’t really affect them in the long term.
“Just make another snow star over there!” we might say, or, “Just wear a different pair of underpants!”
But to a child, the disappointment, frustration, and annoyance is real and feels intense. Henkes’ book Oh, Sal! does a fantastic job of capturing this emotional perspective.
Anyone young reader will enjoy her story, but in my opinion, Sal’s story for mostly for a young reader, 6-8 years old. Although the writing is pretty approachable, a parent can read it aloud with them if it is still too hard. Fans of Billy Miller might like seeing his little sister’s perspective too, even if her story is more immature. From her perspective, her big brother is annoying a lot of the time!