Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Frindle / Andrew Clements

I'll admit it, I came to Frindle late. This book has been out since 1996, racking up accolade after accolade, but I'd never heard about it until recently. This is apparently what happens when you grow up; you fall out of the loop and don't hear about great stories for younger readers like this one.

Well, better late than never.

In doing some research on author Andrew Clements, I learned of Frindle (J FIC CLEMENTS), probably his best-known story, although he's written loads of books. I went in with low expectations and came out amused, entertained and — I'm not gonna lie — a little choked up. You don't expect a story about a kid who good-naturedly clashes with his teacher to pack such a wallop, but it does, and that's what makes Frindle such a winner.

Nick Allen is your typical class mischief-maker. Up until now, he's largely gotten away with his high jinks, too — until he enters fifth grade and finds himself saddled with the prim and proper, dictionary-loving Mrs. Granger, who manages her classroom with an iron hand. To Nick , of course, this is a setting ripe for tomfoolery. But Mrs. Granger's on to him. When Nick attempts to waste time in class by asking where all the words in the dictionary come from, Mrs. Granger immediately turns the tables on Nick by asking him to do the research himself and present it to the class. She might as well have waved a red flag in front of him.

What transpires is a classroom prank of epic proportions.

Inspired by the concept that people create and mold language, Nick sets out to prove a point to Mrs. Granger. He cleverly sets in motion a series of events to change the word pen to frindle. However, before he knows it, the word goes viral, leading to a much more far-reaching effect than Nicholas ever could have anticipated. And in the end, although it was Nick who wanted to prove a point to Mrs. Granger, he ultimately realizes that it was he who learned the lesson. That Mrs. Granger's no slouch in the teaching department, and it shows.

As is often the case in Clements’ stories, there are no villains. The characters are well-rounded and complex, the story marked by humor, imagination and unexpected poignancy. This is a family-friendly story that will get its readers thinking about the nature of language and the benefits of having amazing teachers who push us to learn without us even realizing it. Here's a preview of the book:

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