Monday, August 15, 2011

Troublemaker, by Andrew Clements

Title: Troublemaker

Author: Andrew Clements

Publisher: Atheneum

Year: 2011

Pages: 160

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: school, identity

Age Range: Third through Fifth Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):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.

Review: Let me begin by saying that I wanted to love this book. I truly did. I have been a fan of Andrew Clements for ages, and count many of his books amongst my favorites - Frindle, The Landry News, The Report Card, No Talking...I even loved Room One. I was hoping that after reading Troublemaker, I'd have another Clements classic to add to my list of faves. Sadly, that is not the case.

Though I believe that there are plenty of kids who can relate to Clayton Hensley (and I have certainly known a few Clays in my day), his transformation from gleeful mischief maker to considerate rule follower felt altogether too simple to me. It seemed that, within a short period of time, Clay had managed to change his behavior, learn the error of his ways, rebuild a relationship with his beleaguered principal, and discover new insights into the nature of his best friend. Quite a list of accomplishments for a kid who started behaving just because his brother told him to.

All my grouching aside, I do think that this book will speak to many students, especially those who are proud to call themselves troublemakers. It would also be a good choice for read aloud because it could spark some interesting discussion about rules and why we follow them, as well as the nature of friendship.

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