Monday, January 13, 2014

MMGM: Andrew Clements

I am highlighting three books by Andrew Clements today. I read Frindle last year and really enjoyed it and then breezed through two more this past week: The School Story and About Average. I just watched a video on Andrew Clements' website where he describes his books as being about "kids, and teachers and school and family." And that is exactly what these three are about, all done in clean and respectful way.

Frindle description (from Amazon): Is Nick Allen a troublemaker? He really just likes to liven things up at school -- and he's always had plenty of great ideas. When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he's got the inspiration for his best plan ever...the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn't belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there's nothing Nick can do to stop it.

Why it is Marvelous: This is just a fun concept and a fun book. I think kids will enjoy rooting for Nick as he challenges his teacher with the use of his new word. I also like how the author uses the main part of the book to bring the action to a climax, and then wraps the story up with a shorter ending summarizing what has happened since the climax. The ending was really cool and showed that maybe we should have been rooting for the teacher right along with Nick!

The School Story description (from Amazon): Natalie's best friend, Zoe, is sure that the novel Natalie's written is good enough to be published. But how can a twelve-year-old girl publish a book? Natalie's mother is an editor for a big children's publisher, but Natalie doesn't want to ask for any favors. 
Then Zoe has a brilliant idea: Natalie can submit her manuscript under a pen name, with Zoe acting as her literary agent. But it's not easy for two sixth graders to put themselves over as grown-ups, even with some help from a couple of real grown-ups who are supportive but skeptical. The next best-selling school story may be in their hands -- but can Natalie and Zoe pull off their masquerade?

Why it is Marvelous: Forget about two sixth graders... what adult wouldn't want her "next best-selling school story" to get published! For this alone, the book is a fun read for any aspiring author out there. And for those who are not aspiring authors it is fun to see how Natalie and Zoe "work the system" with their well-thought-out, if not slightly sneaky, plans. Again the author builds to the climax and then gives a shorter summary of what happens next. I like this because it gives more room for detail where it matters while keeping the book fairly short for his intended audience. 

About Average description (from Amazon): Can average be amazing? The bestselling author of Frindle shows that with a little kindness, it can. Jordan Johnston is average. Not short, not tall. Not plump, not slim. Not gifted, not flunking out. Even her shoe size is average. She’s ordinary for her school, for her town, for even the whole wide world, it seems. Then Marlea Harkins, one of the most popular girls in school—and most definitely the meanest—does something unthinkable, and suddenly nice, average Jordan isn’t thinking average thoughts anymore. She wants to get Marlea back! But what’s the best way to beat a bully? Could it be with kindness?

Why it is marvelous: This is a great read for young girls struggling with self-acceptance. I didn't completely connect with the main character though as there was a lot of negative self-talk, but enjoyed how she chose to deal with the bullying and  how the character arc finished up. I think the book also shows that while not everyone will be a friend, having a few good friends is important and will keep you grounded. 

About Average was my least favorite of the three books. We are inside Jordan's head for pretty much the entire book (which takes place over only one school day) and there is very little dialog, most of which happens in flashbacks worked into her thoughts. This is a short book, at under 19,000 words, and I thought it might have been stronger with a little more showing/action over a longer period of time.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.


  1. The only one of these I've read is Frindle! Thanks for highlighting the other two.

  2. The only one of these I heard of is Frindle. It sounds good. Thanks for sharing about the other two as well.

  3. Weirdly, I don't think I've read any of Andrew's books even though my son devoured them when he was younger.

  4. Frindle is one of my favorite MG books. I haven't read the other two you're featuring here, but I've read The Janitor's Boy, The Report Card, Lunch Money, and Room One (all of which I'd recommend). Andrew Clements definitely found his niche with school stories.

  5. I've enjoyed many of Andrew Clements books in the past, but sometimes forget to recommend them to others. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. These sound terrific and I have a granddaughter who will love them. Thanks for the reviews.

  7. I haven't read anything from this author. I'm headed to Goodreads to add to my wish list.