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Sahara Special

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  2,873 Ratings  ·  323 Reviews
Esmé Raji Codell, author of the bestselling Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, makes her children's book debut with the warm, funny novel Sahara Special. "Can't a woman get a divorce without her kid going special ed on her?" This is the question Sahara's mother asks her daughter after a huge stack of letters that she'd written to her dad (but never mailed) fa ...more
Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published July 22nd 2003 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published March 24th 2003)
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Jessica Anderson because its sahara who's reading it
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Lindsey Azu
Nov 01, 2012 Lindsey Azu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esme Codell tells a pasonite story of a young girl as a writer. A young girl who is put in special needs, but who is a true writer on the inside, expresses herself as a true writer as she goes through fifth grade again. Sahara Special is a good example of fiction and realistic fiction because a lot of things that happen in the book can happen in real life. Middle School readers will realate to this because they know what the character is going through. Overall this book is a very pasonite book f ...more
Kimber Carnahan
Mar 13, 2012 Kimber Carnahan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eced-221
Sahara is going through the fifth grade - again. Her mother elected to have her repeat the fifth grade instead of staying in special services in sixth grade, and Sahara is worried. What if her teacher doesn't like her, or thinks that she's stupid? Everything changes the day Miss Pointy walks into the room. Wild, eclectic, and tons of fun, she encourages her students to be whatever and whoever they want to be - especially Sahara. Maybe Sahara can fulfill her dream of becoming a writer, with Miss ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. As I finished I felt I had just been hugged, or snuggled into a fluffy blanket as I stared at snow gently falling. I felt content. Maybe 3/4 of the way through there is a delightful story told by Miss Pointy that I want to retell ... it was so entrancing and heart warming... It is later now and I can still feel it holding my heart ...
Disclaimer -- I am NOT a Codell fan...I found her memoir irritating to the max. That said, Mrs. Pointy is Esme, in all her glory. Flaunting rules, being rude for effect, flamboyant beyond belief. I see this book as Codell's love letter to herself and her unconventional know-it-all attitude about education. Did I mention, I'm not a fan?

That rant aside, Miss Pointy is exactly what Sahara needs at this moment in her life...what Darrell needs too. She shakes up the typical school environment, she fo
I respect Esme Raji Codell. She is a fabulous teacher and writer. Sahara Special was a sweet story about how a hardworking, creative, witty, and innovative teacher can bring the best out in her students. It reminded me of Esme's autobiographical story Diary of a Teacher's First Year, and while I thought there were parts of that autobiography that were "cocky", more power to her if she could extract the quality work from her students that she did.
In the novel, Sahara Special, Sahara was in "spec
Nov 08, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well the protagonist in this book is Sahara. This book mostly takes place at Sahara's school. The antagonist is not a person but it is Sahara's beleif. Sahara beleives that she need special ed class mostly because her mother thinks that she need it to hide the fact that Sahara is just a lazy girl.Like on page one, Sahara's mother argues with her teachers to be in a special ed class "Sahara does need this class, it will be the only way that she would pass" Sahara's teachers beleive in Sahara so ...more
Stacie (BTR)
Feb 13, 2017 Stacie (BTR) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-like
This is a chapter book for elementary age students. It is lacking in entertainment value and in realism. I have really been striking out lately with my picks, and I feel sorry that I've felt compelled to give so many low ratings.
Ruth Ann
Aug 13, 2010 Ruth Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile, fiction
OHHHH! If only every child could be blessed with a Miss Pointy at least once in their lifetime! This is the story of a diverse Chicago 5th grade class and their witty, caring, but unconventional teacher, Madame Poitier. She generously & passionately shares her love of stories, but more importantly, she helps each child discover his/her unique talents. These children's lives are not ideal: broken families, non-English speaking parents, learning difficulties, and behavioral/emotional issues. W ...more
I want to be happy about how it deals with the social repercussions of being labeled "special needs" and the complexities of the Venn diagram that is "smart" and "good at school," but also this book is basically "Freedom Writers" for kids and I don't need that in my life.
Mar 13, 2015 Betsy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was not really impressed with this as a children's book. The book could probably be easily adapted to a YA or adult genre, but as a children or tween book there was just too much swearing and disrespect to be redeemed by the feel-good parts and ending.
Heather Newman
We read this one aloud, my girls and me. Loved it! This author is really good at explaining a kid's world. We want to be in Ms. Pointy's class!
Lilian Sarlos
I love this book as a read-a-loud for my 4th and 5th graders along with Vive Paris.
Nov 08, 2010 Reese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sahara Special:
Not The Desert, The Girl
Sahara‘s life is about to change, she just doesn’t know it. The book Sahara Special, by Esme Raji, is realistic fiction because the events that occur in it could easily occurs in someone’s real life and the characters are very well portrayed. Sahara Special is about a girl named Sahara and her journey through her second time in fifth grade. The book takes place in modern day Chicago, Illinois. The main characters are Sahara, Miss Pointy, Darrell, Rachel,
Jill Williams
Mar 06, 2013 Jill Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a refreshing read! I read it in one day while sitting up north.

Sahara Special is a beautiful story about a shy introverted 5th grade girl who was placed back into mainstream class after being "held back" after a year of "special ed". She has amazing dreams and aspirations of becoming a writer, is inherently creative but is too shy to even raise her hand, let alone speak in class.

Along comes Mrs. Pointy, whose unusual teaching, storytelling, and quiet support help Sahara find the courage to
Sep 27, 2011 Loryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sahara may be struggling in school, but she is not dumb! After some letters she wrote (privately) to her father are found by her teacher, Sahara is started on “special” classes out in the hallway. This is where she gets her new embarrassing nickname “Sahara Special”, and the start of a rough fifth grade school year ensues. After being held back, Sahara is surprised to see that this new year, still in the fifth grade, she has a brand new teacher, Ms. Poitier who all the kids call “Ms. Pointy”. Ms ...more
Jan 07, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I. adored. this. book. Thank you, Esme Raji Codell, for writing it. Beautiful.

Sahara Special shines of Esme through and through. I first encountered Codell when I read Educating Esme, her memoir of her first year teaching, and loved her sassy teacher attitude. Esme is a teacher like no other, as is Miss Pointy, the fabulous teacher in this novel. Sahara Special is the story of 5th-grade repeat Sahara Jones, labeled "special ed" after her father left her 2 (3?) years prior to the novel's beginnin
Erin Dixon
SUMMARY: Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell is about a young girl, Sahara, who is held back in the fifth grade because she does not do her work and does not want to be in the Special Needs class. However, this year there is a new fifth grade teacher, Miss Pointy. Using journals, Miss Pointy helps all of the children come out of their shells, including Sahara, giving them all a year to remember.
CRITIQUE: The book Sahara Special fits under its genre, realistic fiction, because it could happen to
Apr 30, 2013 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tween readers
Sahara’s dad was gone and never coming back. She was heartbroken over her parent’s divorce, so she started to act out in school, resulting in the creation of her infamous file. No longer doing any school work, Sahara started to meet with a special need’s teacher for individualized attention. Sahara’s mom felt she was smart enough, so she convinced the principal to treat Sahara like any other student, therefore she should be held back and taken out of the Special Ed classes. Now, Sahara was repea ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all parents and teachers of under-achieving students.
..the main character is the one who changes. (From Sahara Special spoken by Madame Poitier AKA Miss Pointy)

If the quote is applied to this book, we'd almost have to say that it has more than one main character, though it is written from the point of view of only one -- Sahara Jones. You might say that this book is several stories within a single story, and the teacher, "Miss Pointy," tells most of them. She is the inspiration and the catalyst for the changes in her multicultural students' lives.
Ms. Yingling
Codell, Esme Raji. Sahara Special
April 1st 2003 by Disney-Hyperion

Sahara is bright and loves to read and write, but after she turns in no work in the fifth grade and her teacher uncovers a bunch of sad letters to her father (who has abandoned the family), Sahara is given a tutor to work with in the hallway, leading the other students to call her “Sahara special”. When the tutor also has to work with recalcitrant and possibly violent Darrell, Sahara’s mother has her moved back to the regular clas
Mar 06, 2010 Mimi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying that I re-read this awesome book back in 2006 as part of the investigations I did for my Masters thesis paper. At the time I was exploring the issue of how works of grade-level fiction that will encourage at-risk learners to become life-long readers while achieving grade-level benchmarks.

Next...I just want to say that this was one of my favorites amongst those books I considered for my research! This is is an uplifting story that demonstrates how schools and individual tea
Could have devoured this one in one sitting, but chose to spread it out over a few days b/c I loved it so much. That's my only criticism...that it wasn't long enough. I take that back, I wouldn't change a thing about it. My 5th grade student inspired me to read it.

"Sometimes the books have pictures of the authors on the inside back covers. It's fun to see what they look like. Sometimes they look much older than I thought they would be, or are a different color than I imagined. Sometimes there is
Shyana Marie
Sep 08, 2016 Shyana Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-10
Type of book: fiction, chapter book
Awards: IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award for Intermediate Fiction
Summary: Sahara special is about a little girl that is repeating fifth grade. The councilor wanted to test Sahara for special education, however her mother wouldn't allow it. Her father just left and she was a little down. Sahara didn't want to do any work. She didn't see a point. She got a new teacher that she calls Ms.Pointy. She was an interesting lady with dark green eye shadow, pu
Caitlin Schwatka
Mar 08, 2012 Caitlin Schwatka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eced-221
Sahara is not only called special by her mother, but the whole 5th grade. The school counselor has a file stating Sahara needs special help. While Sahara is an incredible girl, and reads books more than she inhales oxygen, she has lost all motivation to do her work since her father left when she was 3rd grade. Because of this, the school has labeled her “special”, leading her classmates to refer to her as “Sahara Special.” This all changes when the 5th grade class gets a new teacher, Miss Pointy ...more
Tempest S.J.
Dec 24, 2013 Tempest S.J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find that I mostly read fantasy books. However, the new unit in school, Following Characters Into Meaning, requires that I read realistic fiction. Not owning many of these (I am sad to confess) caused me to look in the classroom. Here I have found a whole new genre that I have not spent much time with. My favorite (so far) is Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell.

One of the reasons I like this book is the main character, Sahara. As an “educationally challenged” girl, you wouldn’t think she would
Mar 19, 2012 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eced-221
Sahara was deemed the nick name "Sahara Special" when her school counselor classified her as a special needs student; however, she has the potential to be an amazing student. She reads and writes at the library every day. She just lost all motivation to do her school work when her father left her and her mother. Because of this, Sahara's mother, and entire fifth grade refer to her as “Sahara Special.” This perception changes when Miss Pointy, the new fifth grade teacher, comes and changes the pr ...more
I thought it would be nice to read a book about a student who was really inspired by an amazing teacher. It was a fun read (well, technically, a "listen" for me), but when I looked up the author and found out that the amazing teacher is supposed to be her, I kind of felt like "oh, how nice for you." Maybe it's silly, but my annoyance at the author was strong enough that it affected how much I enjoyed the book, and ended up knocking a star off my final rating. For author-inserts, I prefer Louis S ...more
Codell, E.R. (2003). Sahara special. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.

Sahara Jones (also known as Sahara Special) was taken out of special education by her single mother and put into the mainstream classroom. Her ambition is to be a writer, and her new teacher, Miss Pointy, is an unprincipled, original, and unique teacher, who helps Sahara to learn about her classmates, her writing, and herself.

School Library Journal 10/1/2004
Voice of Youth Advocate 12/1/2003
Horn Bo
Ally Copper
"Sarahara Special" by Esme Raji Codell is an uplifting story for young readers. Sahara Jones is a fifth-grade girl who misses her dad and who longs to be a writer. She writes heartfelt letters to her father, who left Sahara and her mom, and her letters end up in her school file as evidence to her teachers and principal that she is troubled. This coupled with the fact that Sahara refuses to do her schoolwork causes Sahara to be labeled "special" and forced to attend intervention sessions in the h ...more
Feb 01, 2012 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sahara Special is a story about inclusion. It follows Sahara, who used to be taken out into the hall during class for individualized attention. Her mom knew she was intelligent, so she decided to pull her from the program and hold her back one year. With the help of her new teacher, Miss Pointy, Sahara finally learns to shine.

This story was very well-written. The characters were very believable - they were complex, just like real people, and had very unique personalities. I’m sure most kids woul
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Esme Raji Codell is the recipient of a prestigious James Patterson Pageturner Award for spreading the excitement of books in an effective and original way. She has been a keynote speaker for the International Reading Association and the American Library Association, a “virtual” keynote for the National Education Association’s “Stay Afloat!” online conference for first-year teachers, and a featured ...more
More about Esmé Raji Codell...

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“That file full of letters meant I met with a Special Needs teacher in the hallway to get something called Individualized Attention, and let me tell you, working in the hallway with a teacher is like being the street person of a school. People pass you by, and they act like they don't see you, but three steps away they've got a whole story in their heads about why you're out there instead of in the nice cozy classroom where you belong, Stupid? Unlucky? Unloved?” 0 likes
“Oh, thank you, Darrell Sikes, for being wild and nasty and rude and getting me out of The Program and making me Normal Dumb, not Special Dumb. I owe you one, Darrell Sikes.” 0 likes
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