The King of School Stories: Andrew Clements
For children, the back-to-school season can be a time of real stress and anxiety. Picture books and beginning readers tend to ease the anxiety that many children face and focus on the positive elements of school including meeting new friends, learning new things, friendly teachers and lots of play.
For older readers, the back-to-school routine every September is just a normal part of being a kid. Some kids can’t wait to get back to the classroom, some are indifferent and some do not look forward to the end of their free summer days and dread the thought of teachers and homework. For the last two groups, I recommend a hearty dose of fun reading in a school setting and there’s no author best suited to these kinds of stories than Andrew Clements.
Once a teacher himself, Clements draws upon both his own childhood experiences in school as well as his time teaching in his stories. What sets Clements’ novels apart from other school stories is off-the-wall humour, authentic characters and narratives that touch on current and sometimes unexpected topics.
Clements’ characters are smart, independent and often flawed but it’s
the flaw that leads them to developing a sense of empowerment in each of their own individual situations.
These are kids who speak their mind, rebel against systems and learn something about themselves and the world around them in the process. Whether it’s a boy who convinces the entire school to call a pen, a 'frindle' in Frindle, a girl who criticizes a lousy teacher in her self-published newspaper in The Landry News, or a pair of kids who come up against the school after they start selling their own mini-comics in Lunch Money, Clements’ novels always spark interesting discussion about right and wrong, self-expression and kid power.
Andrew Clements’ newest series called Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School also features a school and kids trying to make a difference but also incorporates elements of mystery and suspense. Benjamin discovers that his school that has been around for over 200 years will be demolished in order to make room for an amusement park. Unwilling to accept this fate for his beloved school Ben and his friends start a campaign to stop the developers.
Frindle is my personal favourite of his works and is a good place to start but all of Andrew Clements’ novels rarely disappoint.