March 25, 2007

Room One - by Andrew Clements

Ted is just a normal fifth-grader in his small town, except for one little catch - he's the only fifth-grader! His town's population has been shrinking, and now the school is down to one small group of kids, and nobody knows what will happen if even more people leave the town. Will the school just close?

Ted, who considers himself a junior detective, sets off to solve this problem and save the school. Along the way he discovers a mystery in an abandoned house on the edge of town, where he has his paper route. Soon he's wrapped up in far more than he had ever bargained for, and he's trying to save much more than his school. He's a bright, brave kid, but can he do it all on his own? I'm afraid you'll just have to read the book to find out.

This is one of Andrew Clements's best books, in my mind. Although it involves a school, it's not as school-centered as many of his other stories, and he explores concepts that are new to him: small-town living, families of soldiers who are away at war, and some familiar concepts, such as what young people are capable of accomplishing on their own, and at what point they need to inform and involve adults about their plans. For some reason the book is not illustrated by my favorite, Brian Selznick, but Chris Blair does a passable job with the pictures.

Read this book if you like mysteries, school stories, brave child characters, and long bike rides while trying to carry groceries. Read the book, and you'll understand.