Monday, June 14, 2010

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

This is a multicultural novel, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Abby, a sixth-grader, discovers in February that she will not be passing to seventh grade with her classmates unless she makes some drastic changes to her study habits. She creates a contract with her teachers to complete all of her homework and earn grades of at least B on all of her remaining quizzes and tests. However, the big change is an extra-credit pen pal assignment. She writes to a girl named Amira, from Afghanistan, but Amira's brother, Sadeed, must translate the letters and write the replies. Sadeed secretly writes his own replies to Abby, since the village elders think it's inappropriate for a boy to write to a girl. Abby and Sadeed exchange a number of letters with interesting ideas about their cultures, but Sadeed encounters trouble when a member of an anti-American group, not the Taliban, stops him at gun-point on the way home from school.

This was an easy novel to read, and it had a great deal of interesting information about the contrasting cultures. One of the first differences shared was in regards to the viewpoints of the characters about their landscapes. Abby, from the flat state of Iowa, loved the idea of being around mountains, but Sadeed explained how his mountains were dangerous due to the cold, rock slides, and storms. The Taliban lurked in them too, although Sadeed said that it had been six months since there had been any shooting or bombs in his village. He told Abby about a time when the house across the street from his own home was blown up, and this made quite an impression on Abby and her classmates.

Readers who are reluctant learners can probably identify with Abby's character, since she doesn't like to do any work. She could be a good student; she just want to put the required effort into learning. Readers who enjoy learning about other cultures will also appreciate this book.

Lexile level from 830

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