Clements (Frindle) successfully bridges two cultures in this timely and insightful dual-perspective story. When Abby learns that her teachers want her to repeat sixth grade, the Illinois girl pledges to improve her grades and complete an extra-credit pen pal project. Since her favorite pastime is scaling a climbing wall, she's fascinated by Afghanistan's mountainous terrain and sends a letter to a one-room school there requesting a pen pal. So it will reflect well on his village, the teacher decides that his best student, Sadeed, should reply, but with a letter supposedly written by his sister, since it's deemed improper for a boy to correspond with a girl. In chapters devoted to Sadeed and in his missives to Abby (which he eventually admits he's composing), the sensitive boy shares illuminating information about Afghan beliefs and traditions, as well as his own aspirations. Abby responds with similar candor and the two gain much from their correspondence-as will readers. Clements effectively broadens his canvas in this worthy addition to his oeuvre of school-themed novels. Ages 8-12. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Extra Creditby Andrew Clements, Mark Elliott
It isn’t that Abby Carson can’t do her schoolwork. She just doesn’t like doing it. And in February a warning letter arrives at her home. Abby will have to repeat sixth grade—unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra-credit project to find a pen pal in a distant country. Seems simple enough. But when Abby’s… See more details below
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It isn’t that Abby Carson can’t do her schoolwork. She just doesn’t like doing it. And in February a warning letter arrives at her home. Abby will have to repeat sixth grade—unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra-credit project to find a pen pal in a distant country. Seems simple enough. But when Abby’s first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, the village elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well. In English. And the only qualified student is a boy, Sadeed Bayat. Except in this village, it is not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So Sadeed’s younger sister will write the letters. Except she knows hardly any English. So Sadeed must write the letters. For his sister to sign. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is . . . unhealthy? Not so simple. But as letters flow back and forth—between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions—a small group of children begin to speak and listen to one another. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.
Read an Excerpt
IN THE HILLS ABOVE KABUL
Sadeed knew he wasn’t supposed to be listening to the men talking in the next room. He also knew he wasn’t supposed to be peeking through the crack near the bottom of the old wooden door. But they had to be talking about him in there—why else would his teacher have invited him to the home of the headman of the village?
His teacher, Mahmood Jafari, had not told him much. “Please come to Akbar Khan’s house this afternoon at four. He and his councillors meet today, and I have to speak with them. And I may need you to be there.”
Sadeed thought perhaps his teacher was going to recommend him for a special honor. That wasn’t hard to imagine, not at all. Perhaps the village elders would award him a scholarship to one of the finest new schools in Kabul. He would wear blue trousers and a clean white shirt to classes every day, and he would have his own computer, and he would take his place as one of the future leaders of Afghanistan. His father and mother would be very proud of him. It would be a great opportunity. And Sadeed was certain he richly deserved it.
Through the crack in the door, Sadeed could see all seven men, sitting on cushions around a low table, sipping tea. An electric bulb hung overhead, and two wires ran across the ceiling to the gasoline generator outside. Mahmood was talking to Akbar Khan, but the teacher’s back was toward the door, and Sadeed couldn’t hear what he was saying.
When the teacher finished, someone Sadeed knew—Hassan Jaji—began to speak. Hassan stopped by his father’s shop in the village bazaar at least once a week, and he sometimes stayed awhile, telling stories about his time as a freedom fighter during the war with the Soviet Union. One day he had shown Sadeed where a Russian grenade had blown two fingers off his right hand.
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