Verdict: The thread of Scott Semegran’s fun-filled SAMMIE & BUDGIE takes a meandering course, but ultimately wraps itself up in a satisfying narrative bow.
SAMMIE & BUDGIE follows Simon Burchwood and his two children, Sammie and Jessie, through their daily lives in Austin, Texas. They are in many ways your typical family, except for that fact that Simon is pretty darn sure his son Sammie can see the future. Semegran’s novel opens with this bold reveal, immediately engaging the reader. When Simon picks him up from elementary school, Sammie tells him he thinks his school counselor is going to get seriously hurt. Shortly after, Sammie’s counselor is lying on the ground, unconscious. Simon is taken aback by Sammie’s ability to predict the future and stresses over whether or not he should tell anyone else about it.
After a strong first chapter and an undeniable hook, however, the story trails off and loses its momentum. Though there are other instances of Sammie being able to tell the future, none of them hit like the initial reveal. This is most likely due to a lack of character objective and stakes for much of the novel. Though it is entertaining to be inside Simon Burchwood’s head, it doesn’t do much to advance the story or keep the reader engaged. Though authentic, he is not particularly likable. His two children, on the other hand, are fascinating. His daughter Jessie is strong, snappy, great at Taekwondo, and though she teases him from time to time, really loves her brother. Sammie is inquisitive and charming, and his obsession with budgerigars (or budgies) acts as a powerful narrative glue.
The concept was great, but the execution could use a little work. Certain passages felt awkwardly placed, as if the author was trying to hit a word count rather than tell the most absorbing story possible. Chapters often started with anecdotes that only indirectly related to the narrative. Shifting these anecdotes to another part of the chapter, or getting rid of some altogether, would have helped with the pacing issue. A little more than half way into SAMMIE & BUDGIE, Simon receives a phone call that shifts the story into literal motion, and the family goes on a road trip as a result. This shift is smart, and its movement breathes life back into the story.
Though Simon’s love for his children shines through as one of the novel’s biggest strengths, its illustrations are perhaps the the best part. Expressive, adorable, and adding a fun surprise, they are a welcome addition to the reading experience. You may need to take a breather in between chapters, but you’ll still enjoy your time with the Burchwood family.
~Christine J. Schmidt for IndieReader