Monday, February 27, 2012

A book review: We the Children

Title: We the Children
Author: Andrew Clements
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (April 19, 2011)

Synopsis: Benjamin Pratt’s school is about to become the site of a new amusement park. It sounds like a dream come true! But lately, Ben has been wonder if he’s going to like an amusement park in the middle of his town—with all the buses and traffic and eight dollar slices of pizza. It’s going to change everything. And, Ben is not so big on all the new changes in his life, like how his dad has moved out and started living in the marina on what used to be the "family” sailboat. Maybe it would be nice if the school just stayed as it is. He likes the school. Loves it, actually. It’s over 200 years old and sits right on the harbor. The playground has ocean breezes and the classrooms have million dollar views…MILLION DOLLAR views. And after a chance—and final—run-in with the school janitor, Ben starts to discover that these MILLION DOLLAR views have a lot to do with the deal to sell the school property. But, as much as the town wants to believe it, the school does not belong to the local government. It belongs to the CHILDREN and these children have the right to defend it!
From Andrew Clements website

Star parts: I really liked Frindle, so I'll just start by saying if you haven't read it do. This book was purchased with the possibility of being a Grade 3 book club book. As a result of this I was reading it with a doubly critical head on; my writer head and my teacher head. As a writer this book is a great example of 'show not tell'. There seems to be just the right balance of action, in the characters head. The chapters are about the right length for a book club. The main character is very much Ben, but Jill is definitely the brains of the outfit. I like the fact that his best friend is a girl and the difficulties Ben is having with that now that he's a 6th grader. The other issue with Ben is that his parents have split up, but his adolescent take on it seems authentic to me and adds humour to the book. 


The premise of the story is really exciting, this ancient pirate like character who has left the school to the kids. There are hidden clues and riddles that need to be solved. I loved it. I like the way the kids come to the realisation that amusement park is going to be a problem in many different ways, but without being too preachy. I like the way that the obstacles really seem insurmountable, because it kept me reading. How can they possibly beat the big corporation?


Then the tension that is built up around the baddies, both Lyman the evil replacement Janitor and Robert the annoying bragging kid is good. We're not quite sure what role both will have, but we know that somehow they will be involved in the bigger picture. 


And if I haven't made this clear, I couldn't put the book down. Which leads nicely to...

Black clouds: This is going to be a six book series. Which is fine. Harry Potter was seven books, so were the Keys to the Kingdom and then there are trilogies and quadrolgies (is that what you call them?) and sequels, but each book finishes. As I raced towards the last part of book one, I kept skipping ahead to the last page (not reading it mind) and scratching my head. My big problem with this book is that it doesn't finish. Yes, yes, I know it wasn't supposed to finish, it's a six book series, but there's no finish to this book. Everything is set up, but there is no satisfying finish to this book. Everything is still left hanging. OK there is this exciting boat race, but frankly I read the whole build up to that as sub plot. I finished this book feeling somewhat cheated because I'd been left in the middle of a very exciting story arc. Going with my writer head now, I've got nothing against series. I may even have mentioned that I've read one or two and each and every one had the overarching series, but each book had a satisfying beginning, middle and end. 

  Do I recommend it: Despite the major beef I have just mentioned, I did enjoy the book. I don't know whether I'll get round to reading the other five books, but I'd like to know how it ends and as it's a Clements story it's bound to be a hell of a ride. As a teacher, I gave up the idea of using it as a book club book because they the children would just kill me. I'd build up this great writer and book and then, OK I've already mentioned the lack of end. So, with that it's back to the drawing board with book club books. 

2 comments:

LJCohen said...

I have fond memories of reading Frindle with my kids, along with other Clement books. This one seems like a wonderful story, but gah! my kids would have *hated* a cliffhanger ending!

Michele Helene said...

I'm looking forward to reading some with my own LO in the years to come. The kids in my class have always liked his books too, which is why it seemed obvious to pick one of his book. I don't know why there was such an odd break in the book though. Maybe the publishers thought the whole story would be too big a book for younger readers. Who knows?

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