Extra CreditTitle: Extra Credit
Author: Andrew Clements
ISBN: 9781416949299
Pages: 183 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2009.

Mrs. Beckland gave the box a few good shakes and said, “Here’s the way this works. I’ve got ten different assignments in this box, each one written on a folded piece of paper. You reach in and pull one out, and that’s the project you have to do–no second choices, no backsies.” She held the box in front of Abby. “So, pick one.” (35-36)

Sixth grader Abby Carson is in DEEP trouble. After spending over half the year not doing any school work, she’s in danger of being held back and not advancing to seventh grade. After talking with her teachers, she convinces them that she can make up the work, score a B or higher on every remaining test in every remaining subject, and write letters to a foreign pen pal. The letter lands in the hands of Sadeed and his sister Amira, who live in a village in Afghanistan. While Sadeed is the best writer, his sister drafts and signs the letters because it’s inappropriate for a boy and a girl to write eachother. But not everyone approves of the arrangement, and trouble begins brewing in Sadeed’s village.
While I have enjoyed several other Andrew Clements novels, this was a little lacking in my book. Yes, you still have the typical Clements format, with a main boy and girl character handling school issues in unique and unexpected ways. However, Clements seems to dwell too much on the cultural divide that Sadeed and Abby have, as opposed to the opportunity that pen pals provide. Abby’s report in the end was informative, and might spark interest in the culture more than the letters from Sadeed did. It’s almost like the book was written for a teacher who wanted to do this project, because assigning the same project as Abby would be a great tie-in for teachers who might read this book aloud to their class. Andrew Clements fans though will still clamor and probably enjoy this newest book by him. I just think he’s done better.