Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Talk Tuesday: Troublemaker by Andrew Clements

Troublemaker
by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2011.
Grades 2-6
Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher.

Andrew Clements has long been known for his prowess in writing school stories.  I've read many of the books that he has written for the elementary crowd and liked all of them.  I liked some more than others of course, but still he is remarkably consistent.  Here's the blurb for his newest:
There’s a folder in Principal Kelling’s office that’s as thick as a phonebook and it’s growing daily. It’s filled with the incident reports of every time Clayton Hensley broke the rules. There’s the minor stuff like running in the hallways and not being where he was suppose to be when he was supposed to be there. But then there are also reports that show Clay’s own brand of troublemaking, like the most recent addition: the art teacher has said that the class should spend the period drawing anything they want and Clay decides to be extra “creative” and draw a spot-on portrait of Principal Kellings…as a donkey.  It’s a pretty funny joke, but really, Clay is coming to realize that the biggest joke of all may be on him. When his big brother, Mitchell, gets in some serious trouble, Clay decides to change his own mischief making ways…but he can’t seem to shake his reputation as a troublemaker.(Goodreads.com)
One of the things that I especially love about working at an elementary school is the variety of children I get to meet.  This can be both enjoyable and incredibly frustrating, but never boring, and I learn as much from them as they do from me (hopefully).  Clay is one of those students who is more than capable of doing well in school, but chooses not to.  In Clay's case, his admiration for his older brother, leads him into mischief, including the donkey drawing of his principal.  When Mitchell returns home changed, Clay is naturally confused and angry, he doesn't see any need to change.  But as Clay struggles to change and slowly realizes that one's reputation is not easily repaired, he starts to realize that his choices have consequences, sometimes serious ones.

Now, I admit, the story does seem a bit oversimplified.  In real life, changing one's behavior can be and often is very challenging and doesn't happen over night.  But I think Clements makes his point, that the choices we make follow us as we travel down life's road.  I can think of more than a few students whose behavior could lead them down some very painful roads and it makes me sad.  The writing is good, typical Clements, and the illustrations provide a nice compliment.  Recommended for readers who like a good school story.

Book Talk Tuesday is hosted by Lemme Library, head on over for some great book talks.

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