Imagine you’re an elementary student trying to make sense of a pandemic, America’s continued racial injustice and inequality, a tumultuous political climate, and not being able to attend school because of shutdowns. How would you have grappled with the past few years as a child?
For Sammy Wallace, a first grader at Sherman Oaks Elementary Charter, the answer was to write a book. Sammy recently released his debut rhyming children’s picture book, I Slept in My Bed Last Night. The book is a comical story about a boy who finally decides to sleep in his bed. While fast asleep, a mysterious monster wakes him up from his dream. Confused as to exactly what the monster is and what the monster wants, the brave boy contemplates a series of possibilities as he tries to unlock the mystery.
“Sammy is an enthusiastic first grader who loves to come to school every day,” said Sammy’s teacher Shirley Sofer. “He is quite the storyteller and has an expansive imagination. I am not surprised that he is a published author and what a wonderful first book he wrote! I look forward to reading the next of many more books he will write one day!”
With the help of his grandmother and educator of more than 50 years, Dr. Gwendolyn Mukes, Sammy developed the premise of the book at the onset of COVID-19 amidst lockdowns across California and Los Angeles. With schools closing because of the public health risk, Sammy stayed busy by exercising his imagination and composing stories with her.
Dr. Mukes, who also helped transcribe the book for Sammy, knew it was important for him to find his literary voice and cultivate an imagination and sense of wonder. “When we started on this project almost two years ago, our country was in a turbulent time. With the onset of COVID-19 and the spotlight on racial disparages, we really wanted Sammy to just create stories that were fun and lighthearted.”
“Kids make great authors because we know what other kids like,” said Sammy. “I think more kids should write books. They just need to be encouraged and told it’s possible.”