Bravo Zulu Samantha

Bravo Zulu, Samantha!

Publisher: Peachtree Publishing, March 2007.

Age group: 8-13

Jacket illustration: Loraine Joyner.

Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN 10: 156145401X
ISBN 13: 978-1561454013

To buy this book

  • Description
  • Book Club Ideas
  • Discussions



Sam can’t believe she has to spend four weeks of her summer with her incredibly grumpy grandfather. The Colonel, as everyone calls him, is always quizzing her with military facts – facts that Samantha finds boring. And he won’t even acknowledge that Sam knows facts of her own – Guiness Book of World Record Facts! The Colonel considers these “facts” annoying.

When Samantha discovers that the Colonel is hiding a secret, the summer begins to hold a lot more promise than she had anticipated. So what should she do? Snitch on him or join him in his rather tempting “project”?

Samantha’s solution makes for an exciting and rewarding summer!

Society of School Librarians’ International Honor Book Award in
Language Arts K-6 Novels
Agatha Award Nominee
PSLA Top Forty For 2007
Maine Children’s Book Award Nominee
Massachusetts Book Award Honor Book
William Allen White Award Nominee
Mark Twain Award Nominee

“Affectionate stories about grumpy grandpas are in vogue. As in Pamela Ehrenberg’s Ethan, Suspended (2007), the 12-year-old kid in this novel is bitterly resentful when she’s forced to spend time with her mom’s parents, only to end up feeling respect and enduring connection. Samantha’s grandfather (the Colonel) has become angry and rude since the Air Force pushed him into retirement, and Samantha senses that he is up to something. Suspense builds as she follows him; then she must decide whether to snitch on his secret project or help him with it – if he will let her. The angry arguments make for great dialogue. Duble moves from the historical fiction of her previous novel (The Sacrifice, 2005) to a wry, contemporary story with lots of technology. Aviation fans will recognize the first two words of the title as part of the FAA’s list of code words, and readers will also enjoy Samantha’s obsession with bizarre facts from The Guinness Book of World Records.” – BOOKLIST.

Book Club ideas

Ideas for book clubs


VENUE: Do you live in Wisconsin? Lucky you! As a book group, you could attend EAA Venture and see all the newly designed planes competing. However if, like me, you live on the other side of the country, why not set up your home for a night of World Record contests? Here are a few for you to try along with the current world records. They aren’t as easy as they look:

1. Longest time for keeping a soccer ball controlled on your head while seated.
The Record? 8 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds
Arash Ahmadi Tifakani of Iran on January 27, 2017

2. Longest Time Breath has been voluntarily held.
The Record?  24 minutes 37.36 seconds
Budimir Šobat of Croatia on March 27, 2021

3. Fastest Game of Operation
The Record? 12.68 seconds
Luke Roberts, UK on October 20, 2019

4. Most Powdered Donuts Eaten in 3 minutes
The Record? 9
Kevin Strahle, USA, May 12, 2017

5. Most Clothes Pegs Clipped on One Hand in One Minute
The Record? 51
Zachery George, USA, March 20, 2011

6. The Tallest Cookie Tower Ever Built
The Record? 6 Feet 1/8 inches
The Girl Scouts of Nassau County, USA, January 9, 2010

Or why not try spelling your name out in the phonetic alphabet? You can even send each other secret messages that you will have to translate.

Here is an online resource to help:


FOOD: Grandma and Sam pick strawberries and then, make a strawberry pie. My grandmother was an amazing pie maker, and she gave me some great pie recipes. Here is her recipe for strawberry pie and another one for strawberry tarts with whipped cream. They are easy to make and fun to serve.


Strawberry Pie:
I frozen pie shell- or you can make your own
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
¼ c. lemon juice
1-quart fresh strawberries
Bake pie shell. Cool. Mix milk, lemon and cleaned strawberries. Pour into pie shell. Refrigerate for two hours before serving.


Strawberry Tarts:
1 Box Frozen Mini Phyllo Shells
1 cup whipping cream
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ c. sugar
1T. fresh lemon juice
1 pint strawberries, cleaned and cut into small pieces

Beat whipping cream to soft peaks. Using wooden spoon, stir cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice in large bowl until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Cover and chill until ready to use.

To prepare, fill each mini phyllo shell with whipped cream mixture. Top with strawberries and serve.


ONLINE RESOURCE: 22 female pilots


Why not ask your grandfathers to attend your book group? Have each child introduce their grandfather and explain what their grandfather did or still does for work. What did he find interesting about his career? Does he like being retired? What has he done to fill his time since leaving the work force?




The Social Studies Connection

The Colonel is incredibly grumpy about having to give up flying. He has always lived life on the edge and is not about to just “sit around” now that he has been forced to leave the Air Force. As baby boomers approach their retirement years, we, as a culture, are beginning to give retirement a second look. Here is a chance for students to explore how different cultures treat their elderly and how our own culture is beginning to redefine “retirement” as we have known it.

Hands-On Activity: First, have a classroom discussion of other cultures, and their attitudes toward growing old. Some books to aid in this endeavor are: Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng, My Great-grandmother’s Gourd by Cristina Kessler, Ghost Wings by Barbara Joosse and Gugu’s House by Catherine Stock. Then ask each child to “interview” their grandparents or other people who are now retired. Have the children write about out how these “elderly” friends envision their golden years, how they see their retirement years differing from those of their parents, and what they would like to accomplish during that time.

The History Connection

Sam is not only interested in fun facts but also in what women have accomplished over the years in the aviation field. The history of women pilots is a fascinating one. While most students have heard of Amelia Earhart, there are many other women aviators whose advances in the field are largely unknown.

Hands-On Activity: Divide the class for a group project to research women aviators. Have each group work in your library to find information on and present a report about the following women: Major Wendy Clay, Baroness Raymonde de Larouche of France, Harriet Quimby, Beryl Markham and Jackie Cochran.

The Science Connection

All kids are fascinated with the Guiness Book of World Records, and why shouldn’t they be? Some of the records are amazing! Here are a few you can discuss in relation to how the people, animal or plants scientifically accomplish them: The greatest distance skated in 24 hours is 339 miles, 1200 yards. How would you train for this? What might affect the outcome of your attempt? The tallest tree standing today is a Hyperion Tree, a redwood, standing 380.3 feet tall. What environmental effects may help this tree to keep its record? Which might prevent it from staying the tallest tree? The fastest land mammal is the cheetah with speeds as fast as 70 mph. Just how fast is that? What allows an animal to attain those speeds?

Hands-On Activity: As Sam did in the book, have the kids try setting a few records of their own. Here are some you can actually try in class: Like Sam, have them try to balance on one foot. See who can hold out the longest. The record is 76 hours, 40 minutes. Why is this so hard? Next have them try getting into a sitting position with their backs against the wall. Who can support this position for the longest time? The record is 11 hours, 51 minutes. Again, why is this difficult? Get a deck of playing cards. Have the kids line up. Have each kid throw a card. What was the distance of the card thrown the furtherest? The record is 216.4 feet. What affects how far the card can go? Take some dominoes and divide up into teams. How many dominoes can each team stack? The record is 1,120 on a single domino support! Again, what scientific properties can affect the outcome of this trial?

The Language Arts Connection

Sam’s grandfather loves using military terms. Many of these words have found their way into our everyday vocabulary. The term “Roger” is one. “Combat Zone” is another. Can you think of any others on your own?

Hands-On Activity: Have students identify and define these military terms, what their origin of use was and what they have now come to mean in our culture:

Cease fire
In the trenches