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About Average

About Average

4.1 31
by Andrew Clements, Mark Elliott

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Can average be amazing? The bestselling author of Frindle shows that with a little kindness, it can.

Jordan Johnston is average. Not short, not tall. Not plump, not slim. Not gifted, not flunking out. Even her shoe size is average. She’s ordinary for her school, for her town, for even the whole wide world, it seems.

Then Marlea Harkins, one


Can average be amazing? The bestselling author of Frindle shows that with a little kindness, it can.

Jordan Johnston is average. Not short, not tall. Not plump, not slim. Not gifted, not flunking out. Even her shoe size is average. She’s ordinary for her school, for her town, for even the whole wide world, it seems.

Then Marlea Harkins, one of the most popular girls in school—and most definitely the meanest—does something unthinkable, and suddenly nice, average Jordan isn’t thinking average thoughts anymore. She wants to get Marlea back! But what’s the best way to beat a bully? Could it be with kindness?

Called “a genius of gentle, high concept tales set in suburban middle school” by The New York Times, bestselling author Andrew Clements presents a compelling story of the greatest achievement possible—self-acceptance.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Nancy Garhan Attebury
Jordan Johnston methodically runs her bow back and forth over her violin strings but fails to create lovely music. Her approach spews out squeaks and worse, but so does the playing of her band mates as they practice for the upcoming elementary school graduation. Jordan is a member of the sixth grade band but she never feels her playing is good. She also thinks she is plain, average, and someone not very special in other areas. Mostly her teachers find her to be a dependable student who works hard and finishes her assignments. She is kind to others and behaves well until a snooty classmate, Marlea Harkins, starts teasing Jordan. The taunting causes Jordan to seethe. Jordan has to dig deep inside of herself to remain nice because she knows she is good at things, like babysitting. Tension feeds the storyline and helps move the reader along. In addition, a crisis in the form of a storm brings out some of Jordan’s strong qualities when she takes charge and organizes students to keep them safe. In the end, she becomes a hero and is rewarded at the school graduation. Jordan learns much about herself and about others. Characters in this book are true-to-life for upper elementary students. They show how this is a difficult time and also how friendships are important. The characters, plot, and pace create a readable, interesting tale that will fit well into upper elementary libraries. While the main character is a girl, boys will like the story as well. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Jordan Johnston wants to find a way to be extraordinary instead of average by the end of sixth grade. She's a C student even though she tries hard, she's not short or tall, and she feels just plain ordinary. Her list of things she is "okay at" (singing, running, telling jokes, and soccer) and "stinks at" (softball, bowling, crossword puzzles, and tennis) is longer than the things she is "great at" (babysitting and gardening). Her list gets into the wrong hands, and Marlea uses it as fodder to make fun of her. Jordan attempts to stop the bullying by responding with kindness. The third-person narrative about Jordan is interspersed with chapters featuring Joe the Weather Guy worrying about a possible late-spring storm. Tensions rise as a tornado hits the area, allowing Jordan to display her extraordinary talent. Clements offers a cast of believable characters as well as solutions for dealing with bullies. Pencil illustrations sprinkled throughout each chapter add to the story. While the natural disaster seems a bit forced, Clements's fans will be hooked.—Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH
Publishers Weekly
Clements adds to his canon of school stories with this thoughtful novel about an earnest and introspective girl who longs to wrap up her sixth-grade year “in a blaze of glory, a flash of triumph, a burst of superstardom.” That’s not likely, given that, although Jordan is a hard worker, she’s a C student and, according to a list she draws up, the number of things she “stinks” or is “okay” at (violin, chess, a lineup of sports) far outstrips what she considers herself “great at” (only babysitting and gardening). Her self-esteem is further eroded by mean girl Marlea, who gets hold of Jordan’s list and uses it to humiliate her. The narration largely consists of Jordan’s internal monologue, as she obsesses over her insecurities and her annoyance with Marlea. Clements (Troublemaker) works in some constructive observations about counteracting bullying (Jordan combats Marlea’s nastiness with “industrial-strength niceness”). There’s no neat reconciliation (a natural disaster takes precedence and gives Jordan a chance to shine); rather, Jordan learns not to let herself be bothered by Marlea, robbing the bully of her power. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (July)
From the Publisher
"Clements' fans will be hooked."

"What is extraordinary is how Clements can continue to produce realistic examples of kid power year after year. More than a feel-good story with a message, this is another good read."

"Clements adds to his canon of school stories with this thoughtful novel about an earnest and introspective girl who longs to wrap up her sixth-grade year 'in a blaze of glory, a flash of triumph, a burst of superstardom.'"

Kirkus Reviews
How can a plain girl with few talents possibly achieve the triumphal moment of a sixth-grader's dreams? Organized, orderly and all-around average, Jordan Johnston has a more pressing problem than fame in her last few weeks at Baird Elementary School. Classmate Marlea Harkins' bullying seems as unwarranted as it is emotionally painful. Jordan's solution is surprising: She fights back with niceness; at least it distracts. The tension rises as the warm, late-spring weather becomes more threatening and the heat frays tempers. The tornado that finally comes offers relief as well as an occasion for Jordan to demonstrate her strengths. As he has done so often before, Clements (Troublemaker, 2011, etc.) offers a comfortable third-person narrative, a convincing school story full of familiar sights and sounds, as well as a believable cast of characters. Unusually, Clements also models grown-ups with fulfilling, if ordinary lives--a radio-station meteorologist who weekends with the National Guard, an English teacher who provides books from his childhood collection for his students. Even the setting in central Illinois seems ordinary. What is extraordinary is how Clements can continue to produce realistic examples of kid power year after year. More than a feel-good story with a message, this is another good read. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt



It was a sunny spring morning, but there was murder in the air. Jordan Johnston was killing Pomp and Circumstance. Actually, the whole elementary school orchestra was involved. It was a musical massacre.

But Jordan’s violin was especially deadly. It screeched like a frightened owl. Mr. Graisha glared at her, snapping his baton up and down, side to side, fighting to keep all twenty-three students playing in unison. It was a losing battle. He glanced up at the clock and then waved both arms as if he needed to stop a freight train.

“All right, all right, stop playing—everyone, stop. Stop!” He mopped his forehead with a handkerchief and smiled as best he could. “I think that’s enough for this morning. Don’t forget that this is Thursday, and we have a special rehearsal right here after school—don’t be late. And if you have any free time at all during the day, please practice. We are not going to play well together if you can’t play well by yourself, right? Practice!”

Jordan put away her violin carefully. She loved the instrument, and she was very good at putting it away. She was also good at polishing the rich brown wood and keeping the strings in tune, and keeping the bow in tip-top condition. It was playing the thing that gave her trouble.

But she was not going to give up on it.

She had given up on so many things during the past eight months. The violin was her last stand, her line in the sand. She was bound and determined to become a gifted violinist—instead of a scary one.

She was still a member of the sixth-grade chorus, but she didn’t feel that was much of an accomplishment. Every other sixth grader was in it too.

Jordan wasn’t shy about singing. She sang right out. She sang so loudly that Mr. Graisha had taken her aside one day. He was in charge of all things musical at Baird Elementary School—band, orchestra, chorus, everything.

“Jordan, you have great . . . enthusiasm. But it would be good if you didn’t sing louder than all the other kids around you. The audience needs to hear them too, don’t you think?”

Jordan got the message: Your voice isn’t so good.

She almost always sang the correct notes, she was sure of that. She wasn’t a terrible singer—just not good enough to be the loudest one. Her voice was about average.

Her friend Kylie had a gorgeous voice, high and sweet and clear—but she was so timid. Kylie barely made a squeak during chorus practice, and she hardly whispered at concerts. It drove Jordan crazy.

She wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and shout, “Kylie, if I had a voice like yours, I would already live in Hollywood—no kidding, I would be a star by now! What is wrong with you?”

Jordan was a careful observer of all the talented kids at her school—the ones who got the trophies and awards, the ones who were written up in the local newspaper, the ones who were obviously going to go on and do amazing and wonderful things all the rest of their lives. They were the gifted ones, the talented ones, the special ones.

And she was not one of them.

After her violin was tucked safely into its bulletproof case, Jordan began putting away the music stands. She carried them one by one and stacked them over in the dark corner of the stage next to the heavy folds of the red velvet curtain. When all twenty-three stands were arranged neatly, she folded the metal chairs and then stacked each one onto a rolling cart. She also tipped Mr. Graisha’s heavy podium up onto its rollers and wheeled it over to its place next to the grand piano.

It was already warm in the auditorium, and she leaned against the piano a moment. Moving that wooden podium always made her feel like a weight lifter, and she didn’t want to start sweating so early in the day. It had been hotter than normal all week long.

Jordan had volunteered at the start of the school year to be the orchestra stage manager. She arrived early for each rehearsal and set up the chairs and the music stands. Then, after rehearsal, she stayed to put them all away again.

She didn’t do this to get on Mr. Graisha’s good side—the only sure way to do that was to be a super-talented musician. She just liked helping out. She also liked the stage to be orderly. She knew how to arrange the chairs and music stands correctly, and she understood how to put everything away again, just right.

Her best friend, Nikki Scanlon, had wanted to be the co-manager, but Jordan enjoyed doing the work herself. Also, by the time she finished putting things away three mornings a week, Jordan was sometimes by herself, alone on the big stage. She enjoyed that, too.

And today, like the other times she’d been alone in there, she went to the center of the stage and looked out over all the empty seats.

Baird Elementary School had once been the town’s high school, and the auditorium was in a separate building off to one side. It was a large room. Row after row of theater seats sloped up to the back wall.

Jordan smiled modestly and walked to the front edge of the stage. Looking out over the crowd, she lowered her eyes then took a long, graceful bow.

The people were standing up now, whistling and hooting and clapping like crazy. She smiled and bowed again, then gave a special nod to her mom and dad, there in the front row. She even smiled sweetly at her big sister, Allie, and her little brother, Tim. Of course, Tim didn’t notice. He was only four, and he was staring at the blue-and-red stage lights with one finger stuck in his nose.

A young girl in a blue dress ran down the center aisle from the back of the hall, stretched up on tiptoes, and handed Jordan two dozen yellow roses—her favorite flower. With the bouquet cradled in one arm, Jordan took a final bow and backed away. The red velvet curtain parted for just a moment, and she slipped backstage.

There were people asking for autographs, plus some journalists with their cameras flashing, and a crush of happy friends, eager to congratulate her and wish her well. It was wonderful, and Jordan savored each second, as she had so many times before.


The first bell—six seconds of harsh, brain-rattling noise. It echoed in the empty auditorium. Outside behind the main building, kids whooped and yelled as they ran from the playground and lined up at the doors.

The intruding sounds did not touch Jordan’s joy and certainty. She felt absolutely sure that one day her moment of triumph would be real, a part of her life.

But why would all those people be applauding her?

She had no idea.

Meet the Author

Andrew Clements is the author of the enormously popular Frindle. More than 10 million copies of his books have been sold, and he has been nominated for a multitude of state awards, including two Christopher Awards and an Edgar Award. His popular works include About Average, Troublemaker, Extra Credit, Lost and Found, No Talking, Room One, Lunch Money, and more. He is also the author of the Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School series. He lives with his wife in Maine and has four grown children. Visit him at AndrewClements.com.
Mark Elliott has a BFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts. He has illustrated a number of book covers, and his work has been exhibited at the Society of Illustrators and the Art Directors Guild. Mark lives on a sheep farm in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

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About Average 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book could be one of my fav books i have ever read and im considered a book worm! Even though im 10 i still love reading books that r a little older for me soo this was kind of a mix. I think this is a must READ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was very good it was all about this girl that is named jordan who is average everyrhing then comes a girl named marlea who isnt very nice to jordon and did a very mean thing to her which was how jordan made a list if things shes good at and things that shes bad at and the bad part of the list took up most of the page jordan then recycled the lists and marlea grabs it and she reads it out loud. Their teacher schedualed an extra band class so that they could practice for the concert and a tornado hits and jordan does something amazing but you will have to read the book to find out what jordan did this is a must read for ages 10 and on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is GREAT!!! It's a must-get! I was pretty stuck to it. Don't listen to the people who say it's "bad." 5 STARS NO JOKE! Just get it, you'll love it! For a book, it's not even that much ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It Is a great book for kids so get it. Yourkids will love it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It could like, describe more about the tornado, plus its only 83 pages. Usually my books that I read are like, way way longer. About 800 pages. So like, in all, it was like, a pretty good read but like, way better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All of you who posted 5 stars have the right ideas
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very awsome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sample doesn't tell you anything but that she's bad at the violin in the elementary school band.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want to read this book again and again
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish i could give it zero stars yo
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this book is a really good for kids who like stories with social issues
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book! Better than what I expected. Really good book for a pre-teen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good but it is really short and i finished it in about a day or two but other than that it is really good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i saw the title and saw the front cover i thought it would be a really good book but it confusled me i really did not get it the book jumped all around from diffent places in a heart beat i was just thinking to myself that i must of skiped a chapter or something.this was the first book of andrew clemets really did not like atleast of the ones i read witch are..... Frindle , the last holiday cocert, the landry news, things hoped for and i probly read more but thats all i can remember right now so if there is some more andrew clemets books that arent really good please post and keep me updated so i dont waste all my money on not good books. THANKS bye. Haylee =)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book rater
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago