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Sahara Special

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,411 ratings  ·  372 reviews
There are two files on Sahara Jones. The one the school counselor keeps is evidence that she's a fifth-grader who needs special education. The other is the book Sahara is secretly writing, her Heart-Wrenching Life Story and Amazing Adventures. The latest chapter in her book unfolds when her mother insists that she be taken out of special Ed. So Sahara is facing fifth grade ...more
192 pages
Published (first published March 24th 2003)
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Jessica Anderson because its sahara who's reading it
its in her mind…more
because its sahara who's reading it
its in her mind(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  3,411 ratings  ·  372 reviews

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Lindsey Azu
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I should begin by saying that this is a hesitant three stars. Two felt too harsh, but I can't say I'm overly thrilled with it, either. What is it about this book that has me in knots?

Maybe, perhaps, it's the overall attitude of Miss Pointy. Looking at the reception of her memoir, Miss Pointy is obviously Codell. While there's no denying her character manages to make huge breakthroughs and supports her students in exemplary ways, there's this stick-it-to-The-Man sentiment that's almost cloying.

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
Kimber Carnahan
Mar 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i can understand now how miss pointy might rub some readers the wrong way but i'm a sucker for eccentric, no-nonsense, oddball romantics and this would've been even more so the case the first time i read this in elementary school. having just re-read sahara special for the first time in many, many years, i feel i can now truly appreciate just how formative sahara's story was for me growing up. i have so much love in my heart for her... sahara jones 4eva!!! <3 ...more
Becca Nunemaker
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is very special to me. I read this with my student, just the two of us. She excelled so much after reading it, and I saw her grow as a student. She loved it and I did too.

It’s been a minute since a book made me cry. This one did. It was beautiful, and so special to me. I will always remember reading this with Makena.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kidsbooks
I love this book and wish I could be more of a Miss Pointy type of teacher. It will be interesting to hear my students' reactions when we discuss it at book club in a couple of weeks. Will they get hung up on the language (as one did already) or will they read the whole story? ...more
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Ruth Ann
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. What ...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. ...more
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Lilian Sarlos
I love this book as a read-a-loud for my 4th and 5th graders along with Vive Paris.
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! ...more
Richie Partington
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
15 November 2002 SAHARA SPECIAL by Esmé Raji Codell, Hyperion, July 2003

"Someday, people will be glad I kept track. Someday, people will see I am a writer. And because I am writing a true story of my life I have to talk about school, since I am still a kid and it is a very big part of my Heart-Wrenching Life Story and Amazing Adventures. I am sorry to report that school is heavy on the Heart-Wrenching but so far has been running low-to-empty on Amazing Adventures."

Several of my favorite YA's f
At first I wasn't sure about this book. Miss Pointy (Madame Poitier), the new teacher, perplexed me as much as she did the children. She was too perplexing in her mannerisms, teaching style, and choice of subjects to teach. For a moment, I wanted to stop reading but I kept going. But there had to be more to her than what I was seeing. Also, Sahara was such an interesting character that I had to know what the book had in store for her.

Sahara Jones is potential waiting to burst. She speaks and thi
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
As a Special Education teacher, I cannot recommend this book for middle grade readers (4-6 grades) partly because of some of the language and certain references:

"The only reason a girl your age should wear makeup is if she's a rock star or a hooker, and the minute you start showing promise in either of those areas we'll hop on down to Target and stock you up with everything you need.."

But, partly because the sassy, "spirited" teacher in this book is a fantasy that not all kids would benefit from
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grades
Sahara Special is another book I read for Battle of the Books. This is what I like about the Battle of the Books challenge, there are so many books on the list I have never heard of and they are fantastic.

Sahara is in fifth grade, AGAIN, and her mother insists that Sahara does not need special ed. Sahara’s new teacher, Miss Pointy has an unusual teaching style. She tells lots of stories and gives her students a lot of encouragement and support. With Miss Pointy’s help and time Sahara is able to
Anthony Minieri
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Realistic Fiction
Awards: IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award for Intermediate–Fiction
Appropriate Grade Level: 3-5
Summary: Sahara Special tells the story of a young girl named Sahara who has to repeat the fifth grade. Previously in a special ed. program, Sahara has a chance at a fresh start in a general ed. classroom. Sahara has virtually no work to show for herself on her file, and she has no intention to add to it in the upcoming school year. When Sahara meets her new fifth grade teac
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
All kids who don't like school should read this. Great story about an unconventional teacher but it seems that boards and superintendents should read it more because teachers will just be frustrated and if they copy these methods would get fired.

Structurally as a novel it works when you know the end but I could see some kids getting confused or frustrated and giving up because things get skipped, there are unanswered questions, there are assumptions made, etc that open up questions with either n
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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,
Veronica Garcia
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: emma-s-books
What a great read! I read this book to my daughter, who’s going to be a 5th grader, and she enjoyed it so much. The conversations between the kids was so well done and had me and my daughter laughing out loud as well as tearing up at times. My favorite parts were when Sahara spoke about her name and when Miss Pointy lied about Darrell.

One thing I did find a little offensive was the “speaking ” style of some of the kids. It’s understandable that they are African American, Latinos and ghetto but
Elizabeth R
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
These are a little hard to rate accurately - I suspect I would’ve liked this a lot better as an elementary school child. The reading level seemed lower than fifth grade, which I’m sure was done deliberately as a reflection of the main character and as an access choice, and I applaud that. Loved the kids and the setting, and frank but not too detailed discussions of difficult things.
Miss Pointy was a little too cutesy perfect for me, very Mary Poppins.
And writer people...must EVERY child dream
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am (very obviously, as a 16 year old girl) not the target audience for this book. However, I read it anyway. It was the first book I’ve read in maybe months. And I liked it.

I probably stole this book from an elementary school teacher of mine when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, probably, because I was a kleptomaniac and liked how it looked. However, I never read it.

Reading it now, it was fun, and it weirdly resonated with me. I am not the target age, perhaps, but I might be the target type of perso
Andrew Wright
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
We enjoyed the audio version of this unique book together as a family. My 9 and 11 year old daughters loved it, but I think my wife and I enjoyed it more. Codell is a powerful writer, and the story manages to be both intricate and complex and exceedingly simple, all at the same time. I can't relate to Sahara on any level when it comes to shared life experiences, but I could relate to her as a richly developed and complicated protagonist.

Worth a read or a listen!
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Being a retired teacher I can relate to this book on many levels, though outwardly I was the polar opposite of Miss Pointy. But I do know how difficult it is for kids who do not “fit in” to succeed in a typical educational environment. I do appreciate how the author allowed the teacher to see her students through different eyes and the results she was able to achieve by doing so. The characters were engaging and the dialogue was both humorous and blunt.
Abbie Newman
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adorable read. We are using this as a tool in my education class and it's a great tool for future teachers. Even though I am being required to read this I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were vibrant and relatable, especially Sahara, our narrator. The story is fairly simplistic but has a lot of heart and at times did have me emotional. I would highly recommend this book. You can probably read it within a day. If you're looking for a heartwarming story you've come to the right place. ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a very realistic, honest depiction of being in upper elementary school and feeling like the only kid that doesn't fit in. There are times I don't like the teacher and times I do (also very realistic I think). It will tug at the heart strings. It has the ability to inspire readers to let their "secret selves" out while simultaneously inspiring readers to grow into who they can become. I highly recommend the audiobook because Rashad does a great job narrating. ...more
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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

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264 likes · 26 comments
“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?” 1 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.” 1 likes
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