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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Tales of determination and perseverance strike a chord with young readers, and they will become instantly engaged with 12-year-old Natalie, an enthusiastic writer who has penned a novel. It's a school story entitled The Cheater, and if Natalie's best friend, Zoë, and her English teacher, Ms. Clayton, can be believed, it's an exceptional tale. So it's a good thing that Natalie's mother works as an editor at a major New York City publishing house. Except for one thing -- Natalie wants the book to succeed on its own merits and not just because she's the editor's daughter.
Together, Natalie and Zoë cook up a scheme that involves submitting Natalie's book under a pseudonym, while Zoë pretends to be an agent. It seems far-fetched at first, but with a little help from their teacher and some last-minute assistance from Zoë's father, they not only submit the book and get it accepted -- after its release, it becomes a bestseller. But all is not rosy. Some unanticipated events place Natalie's mother's job in jeopardy, putting Zoë and Natalie's talent for scheming to a true test.
Award-winning and bestselling children's author Andrew Clements not only provides a pretty thorough education about what goes on in the publishing industry; he also offers a tale-within-a-tale by providing snippets from Natalie's book. The story and its characters are further brought to life through the finely detailed drawings of Brian Selznick. The School Story emphasizes aspirations and possibilities, while also providing a great lesson on recognizing and celebrating the differences, strengths, and weaknesses in all of us. As such, this delightful tale should ignite a creative spark in young minds, making it an excellent platform for launching classroom discussions and projects. (Beth Amos)