There is always a wonderful sense of anticipation when a new Andrew Clements title arrives in our library. If you have been following my blog then you might have read my review of Extra Credit for example.
Trouble-maker is not quite at the level of Frindle, Extra Credit or The Landry News but it is nevertheless a good read. If you have read The Janitors boy then you have met a character like Clay who is the central character in this newest book. Clay cannot help creating mischief. He rumbles with his friends, sabotages his classmates, starts food fights in the cafeteria and regularly challenges authority figures especially the school Principal Mr Kelling. Here is a good example of Clay’s strategies when the class have a substitute teacher.
“The woman looked like she as about seventeen. She was all nervous and chatty, trying to be way too friendly with the kids. It would have been so much fun to mess with her head – maybe act like he only spoke Russian … or maybe he could start crying and tell her how his pet skunk died yesterday … or maybe pretend he was allergic to her makeup, see if he could get her to scrub all of it off her face. He could riff and goof and tumble her head around until she ran screaming out of the room … like some other subs had.”
The turning point for Clay comes when his brother Mitch arrives home after a short stint in jail. For Clay, Mitch is his hero. Clay thinks Mitch will be impressed and proud of his school mischief but the reverse is true. Mitchell’s experience in jail has been profound. He is determined his younger brother will never go to jail. Mitch makes Clay promise to reform. He organizes a new tidy hair cut and new school clothes for Clay and makes sure Clay is not out late with his friends.
This is all fine until Halloween. The home of the school Principal is vandalized and everything points to Clay.
This is a very short book but it shows the power of our thoughts and the power of an individual to change his or her outlook on life and relationships with others. I think middle Primary boys in particular would enjoy Trouble-Maker by Andrew Clements. You might also enjoy Adam Canfield of the Slash by Michael Winerip, The Janitors Boy or Small steps by Louis Sachar (read Holes first). Slightly older students might also take a look at Wringer by Louis Sacher.
One final thing I loved the character of the school secretary Mrs Ormin – she is perfect!
Here are some discussion questions, an audio file and a good review if you need to read more about this book!