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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Andrew Clements Rocks

My sons and I have read and listened to many books by Andrew Clements.  Most of his books are, what I would call, school room stories, meaning somewhat realistic stories about kids and their experiences in school. 

Initially, I had stayed away from his books because I thought my homeschooled kids, would not really enjoy reading about kids in a world they really didn't have much experience with.  I tried reading fantasy books with them.  My oldest just does not like fantasy books.  I tried Andrew Clements, and my boys LOVED his books.   A little later I thought, "What reference point do they have with any of these fantasy worlds I've been reading to them about.  A school room drama or adventure is maybe a bit like a fantasy novel to them, but doesn't require so much abstract thinking [which is difficult for them]."  And, I think they like the idea of imagining, what if that really did happen because it could happen, everything in that story is found in real life--that can make the what ifs even more fun to think about.

There are so many reasons Andrew Clements' books are excellent.
1. The kids involved are good kids.  They may make mistakes, but they learn from them.  They aren't snobby or mean or rude.
2. It's good writing, good literature.  These books can capture kids' imagination without being dopey like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants or even some chapters that are just dumbed down.  Andrew Clements writing gives students a good model for word use, structure, and voice.
3. The teachers/principals model healthy relationships with their students.  The teachers and students often don't agree, causing tension in the story; however, they still act respectfully to each other.  And, when one party has erred, they admit it.  The teachers model the ability to take in other evidence and change their minds, agreeing with the students and sometimes the students change because they look at things from the teacher's perspective.  There are many school books I don't read to my kids because the students and teachers are too disrespectful to each other.  I really appreciate the respect teachers and elders are given in Clements' books.
4. Both girls and boys are included in his stories.  Boy and girl characters both have strengths and faults, sometimes they argue and sometimes they work together, and sometimes they do both, yet they are each strong characters.
5. The stories are creative, suspenseful, funny, warm-hearted.  Just so enjoyable to read.

Some of our favorite Clements books that we've read so far are:
Frindle  (great for kids who may be hesitant to start a longer chapter book)
No Talking (my kids have listened to this book in the car 5 times now)
Lunch Money (inspired my son to try to make his own comic)
Keepers of the School (mystery series!)

I have not read Things Not Seen and the books after, but I really want to.  They seem to be more like science fiction than his more common school room stories, but I bet we will still get to read about a character who world view and self-insight development and grow.

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