Title: We The Children
Series: Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School
Author: Andrew Clements
Illustrator: Adam Stower
ISBN: 9781416938866
Pages: 143 pages
Publisher/Date: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, c2010.

“I need everyone’s attention for an important announcement.”
It was the principal, Mr. Telmer, and the cafeteria quieted down a notch or two.
“For many years Mr. Roger Keane has been head custodian here at Captain Oakes School. His wife just caled me to say that he was taken to the hospital this morning with what seemed like a simple problem, but it became more serious. And I’m sad to tell you that about an hour ago, Mr. Keane passed away. He was a good man and a hard worker, and I know all of us will miss him. So let’s please take a few moments of silence together now while we remember Mr. Keane.”
The lunchroom went completely still except for the humming of the milk cooler.
Ben felt like the cafeteria was spinning. He could barely breathe. Dead? He was dead? They had talked–just a few hours ago. And now . . . he was dead. (12)

Benjamin Pratt is given an old coin by an old school janitor, who later that day passes away. Benjamin is told that if the school is attacked, he should “look nor’-nor’east from amidships on the upper deck.” This saying would make sense on a boat, but even though the school is close to the water, it is not a boat. Besides, the school is slated for demolition to make room for an amusement park. That’s a kid’s dream right? The new janitor causes Ben to ask questions, and with classmate Jill they begin to investigate.

I’m normally an Andrew Clements fan. I’ve reviewed several of his works here before (No Talking, Lost and Found, and Extra Credit). This book however was just… all over the place. First, we have the impending “attack” against the school. Next is the mysterious new janitor who seems to know more than everyone else. Third is Ben’s parents seperation, which is quickly leading to divorce. There’s also in this book a group project, a boat race, and a long-standing rivalry between Ben and another boy. It’s basically impossible to cover all of these things in any depth in less than 150 pages, some of which are pictures. So the book reads more like a very long introduction then an actual stand-alone title. The pictures are decently drawn, although the coloring is a little odd, with blue being the only color in the pictures.

I’m not saying it isn’t good. Kids will be pulled in with the intrigue of the janitor’s role in the demolition of the school. There’s seems to be a lot of clue based books out there right now, possibly because of the success of the 39 Clues series. We the Children has that same feel but for a younger audience. It’s more … I hesitate to say realistic, but there is no globe trotting, the books are shorter, and the clues are less involved, dealing with boating instead of obscure historical figures and events. Clements strikes a good balance in portraying Ben as both a sure-footed sailor and a questioning sixth-grader dealing with girls and family matters.

I might give the series a second look when the second book is out, but right now you can hold off, because there’s quite obviously going to be more in the series (the last page stresses not to miss book two).

Advertisements