Goodreads: Sophie Simon Solves Them All
Third-grader Sophie Simon loves calculus, but her parents believe “well-adjusted” children don’t like math or science or thick books. So Sophie knows that they’ll never buy her the latest graphing calculator–especially not for $100. Little does Sophie realize that her classmates have problems of her own. And, if she helps them, she might just help herself.
Sophie Simon Solves Them All is one of those feel-good books where everyone’s story is connected and helping one person can set off a chain reaction that helps them all. The story seems meant for a younger middle-grade audience, so the connections do not have the subtlety of a Dickensian novel–most readers will probably guess immediately how Sophie will solve most of the problems–but watching everything together is still fun. Readers looking for something light and light-hearted will enjoy this offering from Lisa Graff.
I particularly enjoyed the way in which Graff plays with the stereotypical genius character. Sophie Simon, as many a young intellectual will relate to, has no friends. However, in this story, that is not because Sophie’s classmates find her weird (although they do, a little) or socially awkward, or because they fear some sort of social repercussions if others see them speaking with her. Rather, Sophie has no friends simply because she does not feel she needs any. She is happy by herself studying and sees no reason to change just because others want her to. Sophie is an extreme introvert and confident about it. And I loved that about her.
Startlingly, however, Sophie’s introversion leads her to be a little uncaring about her classmates. In a feel-good book where problems are solved, one does not expect the protagonist to decline repeatedly to help her classmates with their problems unless they can hand over enough cash for her to buy a calculator (in this case $100). Sophie may not feel the need to interact with people, but that should not translate into practically extorting one’s fellow third graders. Of course, in the end she finds she needs friends. Or so I think the message goes. But I wonder if the people she helped will really be her friends. Sophie still thinks she does not need any, so I think “friends” in this case means people she might not mind talking to on occasion, especially if she can get something from them.
Aside from Sophie’s attitude (which I admit is a realistic one, if unusual for this type of book), I found Sophie Simon Solves Them All a generally charming read, if a bit young for me. Some middle grade books speak to all ages, but I think I would have liked this one more had I read it when I was the age of the target market.