The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
Lake Union Publishing, April 24, 2018
Born with ocular albinism, which causes the appearance of red eyes, Sam Hill's life is one of pain and triumph as the young boy navigates the challenges of school while being labeled "different." Robert Dugoni was inspired to write this novel after reading a news article in Australia about a student who was denied admission to the local parochial school because of this condition. Dugoni was able to pull references from his own experience at home, where he was witness to the incredible familial support given to his younger brother with Down Syndrome as the family navigated the US educational system. His story of the life of Sam Hill addresses all too common issues of bullying, racism, and classism, among other relevant topics. Also, through the challenging times it depicts, the story highlights the importance of community, strong friendships, familial support, and how life experiences can make a significant impact on one's character as an adult. Similar to how Wonder taught many young readers about compassion and openness, Dugoni's novel has the potential to connect with many through its relatable, personal narrative around difficult topics, personal striving, and community engagement.