Frindle and The Landry News show remarkable insight into daily school life, humanizing the most unlikeable teaches and exploring the myriad relationships that occur in a school. All this, while writing at a low enough level that all students can enjoy his books.
The Landry News tells the story of Cara Landry, a born reporter who observes everything, including the worst in everyone. Her 5th grade teacher is Mr. Larson, a once-great teacher teacher who has slipped into lazily reading the paper while his students teach themselves. I found the description of Mr. Larson's classroom fascinating, "Each square inch of wall space and a good portion of the ceiling were covered with maps, old report covers, newspaper clippings, diagrammed sentences, cartoons, Halloween decorations, a cursive handwriting chart, quotations from the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence, and the complete Bill of Rights--a dizzying assortment of historical, grammatical, and literary information" (5). I would have loved to learn in that classroom! Cara creates her own newspaper, complaining about Mr. Larson's lack of teaching, which spurs a journalism unit that teaches the students about bureaucracy and threatens Mr. Larson's career.
My favorite aspect of The Landry News is the respect with which Clements treats his audience. He knows that developing readers deserve (and need) plots that make them think. My mind is filled with ways to incorporate his novels into the classroom: as summer reading for students entering the sixth grade, as an author study, or with other books to discuss the portrayal of adults and teachers in literature. As his novels are such quick reads, I will be checking out the rest of his oeuvre in one large chunk. Read this now!