With an impressive resume of well-written, best-selling, and award-winning books for tweens, Andrew Clements has established himself as a leading children’s book author. Everyone has a favorite Clements book; Frindle, The Landry News, and Lunch Money come to mind. We the Children, the first volume of the series Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School won’t disappoint tween readers. But the cost of completing the 5-book set presents a challenge to teachers and library media specialists.
Benjamin Pratt lives in the New England Town of Edgeport, and attends a 200-year old school built by the town’s founder, Captain Oakes. Unfortunately, the town council has sold the school and the surrounding property to make way for a theme park. Near the end of the school year, the elderly school janitor gives Benjamin a gold coin inscribed by Captain Oakes himself. The inscription reads, “First and always my school belongs to the children. DEFEND IT.” The janitor dies before he can provide a full explanation, but Benjamin’s mission is clear: his is now a Keeper of the School. Benjamin and his resourceful friend Jill have 28 days to uncover the mystery behind the coin and the historic school. In a month, demolition begins and the secret will be lost forever.
Unfortunately for readers (and those who purchase books) that’s about as far as We the Children takes us. Sure, there’s more to the story. Benjamin’s parents are divorcing, and Dad has moved onto the sailboat that once provided adventure and recreation for the family. Benjamin and Jill unravel a couple of clues in their quest to save the school. But just when the story gains traction – around page 115 – the plot shifts to Benjamin’s sailboat race. Twenty pages later, the book is over. We’ll need to read the next four books to learn the secret of the school. (All five books are currently available.)
The writing is unquestionably excellent. We can always count on Clements for well-developed characters, intriguing conflicts, and interesting plots, and We the Children continues that pattern. The problem here is the cost, and as an educator writing to fellow educators, I have to bring this up.
Cost is always a factor when educators buy books, and each of the five volumes in this series sells for $14.99. The complete series in hardback would cost about $75, and books like this need to be read in order. So, if you’ve got five students who are excited to read this series, they’ll need to get in line. If you want your students to read Andrew Clements books (and yes, you do) then there are more economical options. If you have money to burn, or you’re a Clements completist, then bite the budget bullet and order this set. If the remaining four books are like the first one, you’ll be buying delicious, yet small bites of a satisfying meal.
Note: Book Outlet currently has all five Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School books (hardbacks and paperbacks) in the $5 price range. Of course, quantities are limited, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Hop on it!