The Secret Life of Sam (Hardcover)

The Secret Life of Sam By Kim Ventrella Cover Image
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The timelessness of Bridge to Terabithia meets the wonder of Big Fish in this bittersweet, magical story, perfect for fans of Barbara O’Connor, Lisa Graff, and Dan Gemeinhart.

When Sam’s dad dies in a car accident, Sam is shuttled off to the dusty town of Holler, Oklahoma, to live with a long-lost aunt. There he encounters a mysterious mangy cat who leads him to an unassuming tree that turns out to be a portal—a passage through which Sam can revisit his old life for a few minutes at a time.

Sam’s visits to the bayou become stranger and stranger. Pa’s old stories unfold around him in beautiful but sinister detail, and Pa is not quite himself. Still, Sam is desperate to find a way for them to stay together—no matter what it takes.

About the Author

Kim Ventrella is the author of the middle grade novels The Secret Life of SamHello, Future Me; Bone Hollow; and Skeleton Tree, and she is a contributor to the anthology Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy, and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, and French instructor, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and cowriter, Hera. Find out more at

Praise For…

"Ventrella brilliantly renders Sam’s gentle nature, defensiveness, and deep sadness; her evocative prose and the small but resonant cast shine, and Sam’s voice effectively relays his path toward the other side of grief."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The heartrending story and vividly described settings will captivate readers." — Horn Book Magazine

Praise for Kim Ventrella: “Set in the rural South, the syrup-soaked, rich imagery is a sensory delight. Gabe’s voice is distinct, and the evolution of his conflict reinforces the humanity amid the magic. A heck of a good read about the bright side of some durn bad luck.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Skeleton Tree is a powerful and tender story. Kim Ventrella knows when to be playful and when to break your heart.” — Cassie Beasley, New York Times bestselling author of Circus Mirandus

“Ventrella’s comforting storytelling reveals a magical world where a skeleton can grow and where a family’s love for each other can provide healing.” — School Library Journal

“Ventrella fearlessly tackles the sensitive subject of death for a middle grade audience.” — Booklist

“[An] emotional roller coaster tempered by a touch of magic and a resilient, likable protagonist.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Quietly powerful; dark yet whimsical.” — Booklist

"The magic is rooted in evocative descriptions and strong emotions. Magically mesmerizing and moving." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062941183
ISBN-10: 0062941186
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 29th, 2020
Pages: 272
Language: English