Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements's books touch readers of so many ages. Mostly what I have read of his books is his novels. All of them are high interest stories. All ages enjoy them. His novels all have some type of school-related conflict in which the student/students are allowed to take control of the situation. Most of them show the teacher employing a more casual and personal method of teaching in which both the teacher and students learn through the process. The books also show the teachers as regular people both with problems and as people to whom the students can talk. They are thin and have the vocabulary of middle grade books, but they also are loaded with passion, creativity, social relations, and moral lessons. Some of the stories have several stories or themes interlaced giving a complexity hard to believe with such short and simple language. Besides all that is packed into the stories, they are highly enjoyable. I am surprised that he has not yet been given a Newbery Award.

I wanted to point out which books I liked the best, but honestly that would be more than half of the novels. I do think that Things hoped for is the best yet. Other favorites are marked with an asterisk.

Because of the high interest level of the books and their simple language, I believe Clements's novels would be great choices of books to use for children moving into chapter books or older children and adults with difficulty reading to help them strengthen their reading.

*Frindle 1996
The Jacket 2002
The Janitor's Boy 2000
*The Landry News 1998
*The Last Holiday Concert 2004
*Lunch Money 2005
*The Report Card 2004
Room One: a Mystery or Two 2006
*The School Story 2001
*Things hoped for 2006
*Things not seen 2002
*A Week in the Woods 2002

Note: The rest of the books are listed after the reviews since I have not read most of them.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 1996.

This is a humorous example of the spread of words from creation to popularity. A language lesson that Nick finds boring inspires him to create a new word in order to challenge his teacher. He carries the joke too far (partly because of her response), and the situation goes beyond his control.
related-words and language, schools, teacher/student relationships, creativity, thinking and learning, high interest

The Jacket
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2002.

The Jacket is the most serious book I have read by Clements. It is an honest and gentle exploration of an explosive topic which is difficult to understand and deal with-prejudice. The language is simple enough for 3rd to 4th graders.

In the book, Phil is startled by the realization that he has prejudices he had no idea he held when he accuses a boy of stealing his brother's jacket. He examines life a little closer as a result of the incident, and both boys grow from the experience.
related-racial prejudice, gifts, hand-me-downs, fighting at school, cleaning lady

NO REVIEW YET for The Janitor's Boy although I did read it and remember enjoying it.

The Landry News
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 1999.

The new student, Cara Landry, thinks Mr. Larson is the worst of teachers. She posts her editorial opinion on the bulletin board and prods Mr. Larson into challenging his students to write a real newspaper. The whole class gets involved and really learns as the principal uses the newspaper as an excuse to fire Mr. Larson.
related-newspapers, teachers, schools, divorce, First Amendment, high interest

The Last Holiday Concert
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2004.

Hart Evans shoots the chorus teacher, Mr. Meinert, in the neck with a rubberband, and the teacher goes ballistic. What Hart doesn't know is that Mr. Meinert is being fired due to lack of funds.

The next day as the class prepares for the Holiday Concert, the teacher is set off again. This time he decides the students can come up with their own concert. One of the students decides they should vote to see who is in charge, and Hart is elected the director without asking for the responsibility. Mr. Meinert gloats, as he believes it is the perfect retribution. Neither foresee the events that will lead to the best concert ever.
related-holiday concerts, schools, student-teacher relationships, music, leadership, cooperation, choir, peace, creativity, high interest

Lunch Money
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2005.

For both Lunch Money and The Last Holiday Concert I made the bad mistake of judging the book by its cover, so I did not read them until recently. They didn't seem like anything special to me; I should have known better. It is amazing to me that Clements can use so few and simple words to convey all that he does in his stories.

In Lunch Money, a business-minded boy (Greg) implements his best project yet: mini-comics. His neighbor, classmate, and nemesis (Maura) appreciates his idea and makes her own books. They feud, are separated, and then become business partners. They share their creative endeavors, and they band together to save their business with the help of their math teacher.
related-interpersonal relations, moneymaking projects, business, comics, authorship, schools, selling and marketing at schools, student/teacher relationships, high interest

The Report Card
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2004.

Nora learns at an exceptionally young age that she thinks differently. At the same time, she realizes she doesn't like the attention that is the result of her differences, so she spends her elementary school life making sure others don't see she has rare abilities. Until fifth grade when test grades are dividing students into smart and dumb categories. She brings home a poor report card on purpose. Her parents then want to know how this can happen without any warning from the teachers. Under pressure from her parents, the school administers an I.Q. test, and the problem snowballs. She pushes ahead with her plan to prove grades are not important with the help of her best friend and a librarian she trusts with her thoughts and feelings.

There are a few funny moments, but mostly it is a serious story about a subject that affects many people-students, teachers, parents and administrators. Though it is easy enough for 4th to 5th graders to read, it is interesting enough for anyone above that reading level.
related-grades, exams, achievement tests, schools, genius, friendship, I.Q., memorization vs. learning and interaction, high interest
RL=4th and up

Room One: A Mystery or Two
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2006.

Room One is one of the most serious of Clements's books. It is suspenseful with an unusual topic. The setting is a small Nebraska town with a one-room school in danger of being closed. Ted is a 6th grade boy who can't resist a mystery. After completing his paper-route before school, he thinks he sees a girl through the window of the abandoned Anderson farmhouse. He investigates the farm and starts to help the girl and her family. In his mind he solves the whole situation, with his teacher as an adviser, only to find that they have their own solution.
related-school closings, multi-grade classroom, family farms, homeless, war casualty assistance

The School Story
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2001.

Andrew Clements is one of the most exciting authors in this age range, and this is one of my favorites of his books. Passionate, realistic, and fun-the story touches on honesty, achievement, confidence, and loss.

Like most of his books, it is school-related. This one is about a budding young author, Natalie, who ought to be published but does not expect to be. Her best friend is determined that the story will be published. Zoe sets herself up as her friend's agent-even renting office services-and contacts the publishing agency where Natalie's mother works. The manuscript is enough to convince their English teacher to advise them, and Zoe's father (a lawyer) gives advice on negotiations.
related-authorship, publishing and publishers, friendship, loss of parent, honesty, achievement of dreams, student/teacher relationships, high interest

Things Hoped For
Philomel Books/Penguin Group: NY, 2006.
Sequel to Things Not Seen

Things Hoped For is tremendous. It is strongly realistic with just a touch of fantasy. There is passion, tension, and conflict from the beginning since the story revolves around a student musician preparing to perform her college auditions. Her grandfather with whom she is living disappears, and she has to ignore this in order to be capable of performing. She takes a short break at a cafe and meets Robert (from Things Not Seen), and her routine starts to unravel. He helps her to deal with her grandfather's disappearance, but other factors push things beyond their control.
related-music and musicians, identity, friendship, family, grandfathers, death, New York City life, high interest

Things Not Seen
Philomel Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers: NY, 2002.

Invisibility-the ultimate topic. What child wouldn't want to become invisible for a while? Not Bobby when he wakes up and discovers he cannot see himself and doesn't know why. His parents don't want him to leave the house for fear the authorities will find out and keep him in a laboratory to learn why he is invisible. He slips out to the library and starts to talk to a blind girl thinking she won't notice anything unusual. He has to talk to someone. His dad and her dad (being scientists) try to figure out what happened. Bobby's disappearance from school complicates things as the school authorities become involved. They now have a time limit to solve Bobby's problem, or else.

This is a funny and serious novel. You can't help but be interested in the exploration of Bobby's situation-just how invisible is he, what happens when he wears clothes, touches someting, etc. Then there is the reality of the school authorities threatening his parents (which would likely happen), and what if it can't be reversed? Or has it happened to anyone else? So, naturally this is another hit for Clements.
related-invisibility, physical handicap, blind, skipping school, disappearance, high interest

A Week in the Woods
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2002.
BookAdvice Book of the Month Oct 2006

Mark has just moved to rural New Hampshire from New York. He has half a year at the public school, and then he will be shipped off to a boarding school the next school year. He is angry about moving and about the business interests that keep his parents travelling instead of home with him. He is also terribly bored at school and doesn't see any point in participating.

After a couple of weeks he decides to try to fit in better. He makes progress with the other students, but the teachers are irritated with him and are not so willing to forgive.

The whole sixth grade is preparing for the traditional camping trip, and Mark is excited because he has been exploring on his own and wants to learn more. He wants to prove himself to his science teacher who is the director of the camping trip and resident expert. An unfortunate incident will make that impossible. Or will it? The event changes the whole atmosphere from a school conflict to survival and eventually cooperation.

This is one of my favorite Andrew Clements books because it has so much packed into it. One of the things I like about Clements's books is that they show teachers as people with their own problems. There is usually a gap in communication, misunderstandings, and a process working towards cooperation from which we can all learn.
related-schools, teacher-student relationships, survival, camping, adventure, exploring, communication, cooperation, high interest

Chapter Books
Jake Drake, Bully Buster 2001
Jake Drake, Know-it-all 2001
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet 2001
Jake Drake, Class Clown 2002

Beginning Readers
Watch Me Read, Houghton Mifflin
Ham and Eggs for Jack 1999
Hurricane Andrew 1999
Three Wishes for Buster 1996
Karen's Island 1996

Invitations to Literacy, Houghton Mifflin
Robocat 2004
Robocat Stops Crime 2004
The Big Gust
Ruthie's Perfect Poem

Paperback Plus Series, Houghton Mifflin
Bill Pickett, An American Original - Texas Style

Pair-It Books, Published by Steck Vaughn
Inventors, Making Things Better 1998
Milo's Great Invention 1995
Desert Treasure 1998
Life in the Desert 1998

Pets to the Rescue
Brave Norman 2001
Delores and the Big Fire 2001
Ringo Saves the Day 2001
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends 2002

Picture Books
Because Your Daddy Loves You 2005
Big Al 1989
Big Al and Shrimpy 2002
Billy & the Bad Teacher 1992
Bird Adalbert 1985
Bright Christmas - An Angel Remembers 1996
The Christmas Kitten 2000
Christmas Won't Wait 1996
Circus Family Dog 2000
Double Trouble in Walla Walla 1995
Go for the Mold 1997
Gromble's Haunted Halloween 1998
Krumm's Halloween Treat 1998
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play! 1999
A Million Dots 2006
Mother Earth's Counting Book 1992
The Mouse Family 2001
Music Time, Any Time! 1997
Naptime for Slippers 2005
Noah & the Ark & the Animals 1987
Santa's Secret Helper 1993
The Secret Father's Day Present 2000
Slippers at Home 2005
Slippers at School 2005
Slippers Loves to Run 2005
Sparkle?s Brightest Holiday 2000
Stage Fright! 1997
Temple Cat 1996
Things That Go Eek on Halloween 1997
Who Owns the Cow? 1995
Workshop 1999

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