We the Children (Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School #1)
Then you flip through the book and notice the thick paper, the gorgeous font, the charming blue, white and black illustrations. The frontispiece is a double-page spread of a school on a hillside overlooking the sea. Perhaps now, between the name Andrew Clements (which to me almost guarantees readability) and the simple beauty of the physical book, you've decided to dip into the first few pages. Well, don't start until you get comfortable because you're not likely to move again until you're done. It's that good.
On the one hand, that's not surprising. Andrew Clements is a wonderful writer and I'm not sure there's anyone currently writing who crafts a better middle-grade school story.
This book, though, is more than just a school story. Sure, it has issues of friendship, incipient adolescence and parents, but it puts all that against a story of corrupt big business, history, mystery and -- perhaps most of all -- the sea and those who sail upon it. It also puts the children, their courage, strength and ingenuity, at the very center of the story. There is no risk of any parent or teacher ex machina showing up to co-opt the glory. It's right there in the title: We The Children.
My only gripe is that I did not wait until I owned the next book in the series to read the first as right now, I'm ready to hunt down Mr. Clements and demand the sequel. Luckily, the only thing that stands between me and Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: Fear Itself is a trip to the bookstore as it was released on 4 January. Whew.
See you at the bookstore.
This was a fun read that I think the younger set will really like. There is plenty of mystery and action. I particulary liked the clues that Benjamin and Jill had to figure out in order to begin to save their school. Unraveling the clues really pulls the reader into the story, as they try to solve them right along with the characters. The story actually kind of reminded me of Chasing Vermer because of the clues. But it's more that that! At the end some tense action was brought in - keeping the reading hooked. And of course, it ends with plenty of mystery yet to solve. I'm curious how it will all play out!
As a 7th grader teacher, I don't see this being a great book/series for my students. It's marketed to a younger group (7-10), but I do have a few struggling readers that I think this book would be perfect for. The high action would get them and keep them reading. Plus it being part of a series will get them reading even more! Gotta love that.
I also want to comment quick on the illustrations in the book. This being an ARC, not all the illustrations were there and complete, but I could tell that they will add immensely to the story. I'm sure readers will be searching them for clues.
Final thought: Great high interest book for even reluctant readers.
Best stick with you image: The description of the their school. I want to go to school there!
Best for ages: 7-11