Thursday, December 22, 2011

TROUBLEMAKER by Andrew Clements

I'm always interested in the latest by Andrew Clements.  He's an easy sell to the fifth graders who come to my room looking for books.  TROUBLEMAKER is one of my favorites.

Clay Hensley prides himself on being a troublemaker extraordinaire.  According the principal's secretary, Clay does have quite an impressive file.  Most of his pranks are innocent fun, but he is about to have his eyes opened to another side of the situation.

Mitchell, Clay's older brother, has just returned home after a month in jail.  While Mitch was gone, Clay listened to his father berate the judge, his brother's lawyer, and the police about how unfair Mitch was treated, but when Mitch gets home, he takes another stand.  As Clay's older brother, he steps up to impress on Clay the fact that being a troublemaker will get him nowhere.  After he hears about the insulting picture Clay drew of the principal, Mitch makes Clay promise to turn over a new leaf and stay focused on not getting in trouble.

The change is not easy for Clay.  He gets a lot of ribbing from his friends, and he's surprised that the principal and teachers don't take his efforts seriously.  However, through the experience Clay comes to realize the effect his poor behavior has on his parents and the worry he and his brother have caused them through the years. 

Although, some may say Clements is a bit preachy, TROUBLEMAKER reflects the real life pressure many kids face.  Clay's grumbling father sends a confusing message that many adults often convey to kids who don't understand the sometimes subtle meaning behind adult behavior.  Clements acknowledges the influence of an older sibling, both positive and negative, and the incredible pressure kids feel from their peers.  Overall, TROUBLEMAKER offers a lesson wrapped in a fairly entertaining adventure.

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