Reviews for Extra Credit

Booklist Reviews 2009 June #1
The personal pen-pal story blends with today's violent headlines in this moving novel of two young people across the world who write to each other and discover their connections, despite their countries' history of conflict. In central Illinois, Abby, 11, is smart but bored with school. To bolster grades so bad that she may be held back a year, she takes on a special-credit assignment and writes to a student in Afghanistan. Sadeed, a gifted student in his crowded one-room schoolhouse in Kabul, is chosen to write back to her, but the conservative elders insist that he use his sister's name when corresponding with a girl. Told from the alternating perspectives of the two young writers, the novel, illustrated with appealing black-and-white drawings, never spells out the messages too heavily as both kids move beyond the outspoken prejudices and hatred in their classrooms and communities. Separated by so much distance, they share a love of reading and more, and Clements realistically develops their heartbreaking, hopeful bond. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Fall
Reluctant student Abby chooses an Afghani pen pal, Sadeed. Because Sadeed's teacher disapproves of him corresponding with a girl, Sadeed writes to Abby in secret. A plot twist brings this story of international relations together; in the end, Abby becomes a more serious student while Sadeed questions gender roles. Clements's timely story should receive high marks from middle-grade and early-middle-school readers. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #4
Clements returns to the classroom (Frindle, rev 11/96; No Talking) with the story of star-crossed pen pals. Abby and Sadeed are continents apart, but they forge a friendship that leaves both of them changed. Reluctant student Abby is on the verge of having to repeat sixth grade when her teacher offers her an extra-credit project: writing letters to a student in another country. An enthusiastic rock climber living in the flatlands of Illinois, Abby chooses Afghanistan because of its mountains. Abby puts little effort into her first letter, but when she receives thoughtful and thought-provoking replies, Abby learns more than she expects to. On the other end, Sadeed has the best English skills in his village, but the teacher and town leaders don't approve of a boy writing to a girl; they concoct a plan in which Sadeed dictates the letters but his little sister signs them. Proud, studious Sadeed secretly writes to Abby on his own, explaining the ruse, and they correspond until circumstances in both countries make it impossible. A nice plot twist brings this story of international relations together. In the end, Abby bucks up and becomes a more serious student, while Sadeed begins to question the roles of men and women in his village. Although the ending is a little too neat, it's the kind of ending kids like, and Clements's timely story should receive high marks from middle-grade and early-middle-school readers. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 June #2

Clements (Frindle) successfully bridges two cultures in this timely and insightful dual-perspective story. When Abby learns that her teachers want her to repeat sixth grade, the Illinois girl pledges to improve her grades and complete an extra-credit pen pal project. Since her favorite pastime is scaling a climbing wall, she's fascinated by Afghanistan's mountainous terrain and sends a letter to a one-room school there requesting a pen pal. So it will reflect well on his village, the teacher decides that his best student, Sadeed, should reply, but with a letter supposedly written by his sister, since it's deemed improper for a boy to correspond with a girl. In chapters devoted to Sadeed and in his missives to Abby (which he eventually admits he's composing), the sensitive boy shares illuminating information about Afghan beliefs and traditions, as well as his own aspirations. Abby responds with similar candor and the two gain much from their correspondence--as will readers. Clements effectively broadens his canvas in this worthy addition to his oeuvre of school-themed novels. Ages 8-12. (June)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 August

Gr 4-7--A forced pen-pal exchange turns into an opportunity for real communication between Illinois sixth-grader Abby Carson and Sadeed Bayat, the best English-language student in his Afghan village. When Abby's first letter arrives in Bahar-Lan, 11-year-old Sadeed is asked by the elders to compose his sister Amira's reply; it isn't proper for a boy and girl to correspond with one another. But soon Sadeed can't resist telling Abby that it is he who has been writing to her. The third-person narrative alternates points of view, allowing for inclusion of intriguing details of both lives. Never a scholar, Abby prefers the woods behind her family's farm and the climbing wall in her school; in the afternoons, Sadeed works in his father's grain shop. In spite of their differences, Abby and Sadeed connect through their imaginations, and their earlier readings of Frog and Toad Are Friends. They learn, as Abby reports, that "people are simple, but the stuff going on around them can get complicated." Full-page pencil illustrations throughout add to the book's appeal. Clements offers readers an engaging and realistic school story and provides an evenhanded comparison between a Midwestern girl's lifestyle and a culture currently in the news.--Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

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