Extra Credit by Andrew Clements.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster: NY, 2009.

In February, Abby's notified that she is failing 6th grade. Her teachers expect she will be held back, but they are willing to give her one last chance to pass. This means all B's or better for the rest of the year and an extra credit project from her English language teacher. The project she blindly picks is a pen pal project. She must write to someone in Afghanistan, receive a few letters, post updates on a classroom bulletin board, and give a report to the class at the end.

The story takes place from two points-of-view, Abby's and the boy's in Afghanistan, who is chosen by his teacher to write as a representative of his community. Interestingly, the story starts in Afghanistan with the teacher conferring with the men of the community. With two different reasons for the correspondence, neither child is thrilled with the idea at first. After receiving personal information from the other, the writing becomes more interesting and a feeling of friendship begins. Both children keep secrets from their schools. Unfortunately, their communications are cut short by social concerns of the Afghanistan community.

Clements remains one of my favorite authors for young readers. His depth is amazing for the length of the story and reading level. I haven't read all of his books, but I have enjoyed each of the ones I've read. Even wished they were not so short. I enjoy a story that does not suffer from the attempt to ensure access to younger readers.

This particular story has some cool, unexpected ideas in it. The geographical and social connections are brief, not going into anything that would be too controversial or boring, but with a glimpse that may lead to curiosity or discussion.

related-letters, pen pals, family life, Afghanistan, Illinois, school stories, schools

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