Fear Itself (Keepers of the School #2)

Fear Itself (Keepers of the School #2)
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Release Date
January 04, 2011
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Time is ticking as the countdown to Ben Pratt’s school’s total demolition continues. Ben has been given a handful of clues that could help them save the school, but they are all written in maritime riddles. “After five bells sound, time to sit down.” What the heck does that mean? It’s hard to know where to begin when Ben and Jill don’t even know what they are looking for. All Lyman, the snake posing as the school janitor, needs to know, though, is that they are looking, and that could mean the end of the 30-million-dollar development deal that pays his salary. (Which, by the way, is MUCH larger than what a typical janitor makes.) As Lyman lurks in the shadows—and sometimes not in the shadows—Ben and Jill have to add another to-do to their list of things to accomplish in the next twenty-one days: (1) Figure out the clues left by past Keepers of the School groups, (2) figure out how these clues will help them save the school, and (3) stay one step ahead of Lyman. That’s the mission…which seems, at times, impossible.

The second book in this riveting and mysterious six-book series is as action-packed as the first one, culminating in a faceoff between Ben, Jill, and Lyman. “After five bells sound, time to sit down” makes for a good riddle, but Ben and Jill also knows when it’s time to stand up…for Oakes School and for themselves.

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The first book in this series, We the Children, set the stage for an exciting adventure. This book takes it further.

Every so often, maybe walking home from school, you imagine someone's following you, maybe a spy, maybe a murderer. Your heart beats faster and you steal glances back. He's still there! You pretend to be in a hurry and walk faster. He's gaining on you! Then your shadow turns the corner, or gets into a car or stops to chat to someone and you realize that he wasn't following you at all. He was just a guy in the street. And you're relieved, but also a little disappointed. Nothing exciting ever really happens.

Except for Benjamin Pratt, it really does. And the bad guy? He's really bad. He's not some figment of a kid's imagination, but a real threat. An enemy to be thwarted. And Benjamin manages to, but reading this book, you're never absolutely sure that he will pull it off.

That's the genius of it. It's a book aimed at a young readership: 6 to 10 maybe, a little younger than the audience for Frindle, say. So you know things are going to work out in the end. That's never really in doubt. Somehow, Benjamin Pratt will triumph in the end.

And yet you sweat. It feels possible that he won't. It feels... real, as if this adventure could in fact happen. The authenticity of Andrew Clements' characters is astounding, as well as engaging. His characters are real children, behaving as real children would -- not superchildren, not magic children, not braniacs or gymnasts or anything. Just the kid you sit next to in Spanish class.

The book doesn't leave the reader any more satisfied than the first did, which is perhaps my one gripe. I think I would have preferred these to come out as one longer middle-grade novel, rather than as a series of short books, because each one leaves you hanging, still in the middle of the story, wanting to know how it will end.

Of course, that means I'm always ready for the next one. You will be too.
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