Thursday, August 6, 2009
EXTRA CREDIT- ANDREW CLEMENTS
Abby is a sixth grade girl who lives on a farm in the heartland of Illinois. She likes a few things about school- the climbing wall in gym, the grilled cheese sandwiches, and hanging out with her friends. She does not, however, like much about the school part of school, so much so that midway through sixth grade, her counselor tells her she probably will not be able to go on to seventh grade with her class.
Abby makes a deal with her teachers. She will complete all homework for the rest of the year, get a B average on tests, and do a penpal project for extra credit project in social studies. Abby selects Afghanistan (because of the mountains) for her penpal project and begins writing to Sadad, a sixth grade boy in a mountain village on the other side of the world. Actually, she writes to Sadad's fourth grade sister, Amira, because cultural norms in Afghanistan prevent a young man from corresponding with a girl. Amira is not yet totally fluent in English, so Sadad's teacher asks him to help Amira with writing to Abby. Sadad helps Amira, but also adds his own "two cents worth" to the letters. Because of the male/female restrictions, Abby can't respond directly to Sadad's questions and comments, but figures out a way to weave her responses into her letters to Amira.
There's a lot to like about this book. Clements does a really clever job weaving geographical and historical information about Afghanistan throughout the book, and he does it without being preachy or teacher-ish, it's just there, as part of the story, and readers (me included) learn a lot about a very different part of the world (I could see pairing it with THREE CUPS OF TEA). I love how Abby and Sadad use letters to correspond- a great example of a real world use of writing. I love the friendship that evolves between Abby and Sadad. From a teacher standpoint, I could use this book to teach kids how readers think when an author alternates characters in different chapters. The book also lends itself to some great conversations about inferring.
I'm looking forward to sharing EXTRA CREDIT with DiAnthony, and other kids in the Andrew Clements' fan club, when we return to school on August 19th.