Sam and Jump


  • Sam and Jump
  • written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
  • published by Candlewick (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

When you find a book with a character who shares a name with one of your children, it’s kind of mandatory to have in the house. And as common a name as Sam is, it’s kind of surprising that there aren’t more books about Sams.

But Sam and Jump is here to fill that void. The book is a simple story about a young boy (Sam) with a favorite stuffed animal (Jump). They go everywhere together. They do everything together. They’re best friends. Sound familiar?


One day, Sam and Jump go to the beach. They play. They make a new friend. They have a great time. But one of them doesn’t make it home. If you’ve ever had a child who forgot or lost a favorite stuffed animal somewhere, you know exactly how this turns out.

The story here hit very close to home. Ironically, though, it happened with my daughter – not with Sam. She left her absolutely favorite thing in the world (a stuffed polar bear) at a mini golf course at the beach. We didn’t realize it was missing until we were a couple hours away.

I called the golf place, and they found it, but they refused to mail it to us – despite my pleas that it was a 3-year-old’s favorite thing in the entire world. So I did what any good dad would do. I drove a couple hours back to retrieve it.

Thankfully, Sam’s parents (in this book) don’t need to go to all that much trouble, but the lesson is the same. Sometimes the toys that provide the most comfort and companionship when we’re young are just as meaningful as “real” friends.

Sam and Jump also, not surprisingly, was inspired by author/illustrator Jennifer Mann’s real life. Both she and her daughter lost (and recovered) beloved stuffed animals when they were young. There is perhaps no more relatable story for young children.

Mann’s art is charming and sweet. Her character designs for Sam and the boy he meets at the beach are simple yet incredibly evocative. She manages to get a lot of emotion in just a few lines.

For anyone who has, had, or knows someone with a special stuffed animal, this is a perfect picture book. And yes, my daughter still has that polar bear. And it still goes everywhere with her.


(Disclosure: Candlewick provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.