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Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School: We the Children (series #1) PDF Print E-mail

What You Need to Know:
• A quaint harbor-side school with a history that dates back to the 1700's, is in danger of being destroyed unless a
  couple of sixth graders can save it from the wrecking ball.
• The main character, Ben, is an 11 year-old boy whose parents have recently separated.
• Ben is a sailor so the story includes a bit of sailing lingo.
• This book is the first in the series, and it ends with a major cliff-hanger. The fourth title, In Harm's Way, is expected
  in April 2013.
• Click through to find a reading guide for We The Children.
• Andrew Clements is the author of many books including the award-winning Frindle.
Sweet Book Summary:
This exciting mystery is a quick and entertaining read, but don't expect any satisfaction at the end. We the Children is book one of the series, and its job is to establish the foundation of the story. It introduces readers to the main characters, explains the history behind the mystery, and reveals a few answers, but mostly, it sets readers up for the action to come in the next few books. Any frustration at the unresolved ending is tempered by the engaging nature of the text and the appeal of the characters.

The story begins as Ben crosses paths with Mr. Keane, the somewhat grouchy school custodian who is suffering from what appears to be a broken ankle. When he stops to offer help, Ben gets more than he bargained for from the janitor. Apparently, Mr. Keane is suspicious of the Assistant Custodian so he decides to entrust Ben with a gold coin and a big responsibility. The school has been sold to a major company that wants to build a theme park on the waterfront property where the school currently resides. It would be Ben's mission to somehow stop that from happening. The words on the coin show just how serious this fight will be - "If attacked...DEFEND IT!".

Clearly shaken up from this incident, Ben becomes even more alarmed when he learns that Mr. Keane has in fact passed away! He may not be sure what the gold coin or the message means, but he understands that it is an important responsibility. Knowing he can't do it alone, Ben decides to enlist the help of his smart and trustworthy friend, Jill. They figure out that back in the 1700's, an elaborate plan was established to protect the school, and now it is up to them to carry it out. In addition to the open-ended conclusion, readers may be left wondering about things like why Mr. Keane died or why he didn't put his plan into effect sooner, but by then, they will be hooked on the story and begging for book two!

Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School is surprisingly sophisticated for a series at this reading level. It raises questions about the pros and cons of progress and change, the importance of each special moment in our lives and the effects of divorce on a family. Readers are exposed to Ben's feelings about his parents' separation and his thoughts on the class bully, Robert, and they witness how he copes with these very typical middle school problems. The characters are thoughtful, and the plot is compelling. The friendship between Ben and Jill is sweet and innocent. It's also a nice change of pace to find a male main character who isn't obsessed with sports. Ben is actually involved in competitive sailing, and readers will therefore find plenty of relevant terminology. The pen and ink illustrations really stand out due to the unique use of the color blue against the starkness of the black and white drawings. More than a fun read, this story gives readers something to think about and it presents good topics for conversation.
Author: Andrew Clements Illustrator: Adam Stower Published: 2010, 176 pages
Themes: Books for Boys, Character/Values, Divorce, Friendship, Mystery, School
Sweet Discussion Questions:
• Is it worth it to try to stop something bad from happening when you think it's inevitable?
• Why does Ben trust Jill?
• Do you think change is good or bad? Why?
• How is Ben affected by his parents' separation?
• If you were in Ben's shoes, would you save the school or would you let it become an amusement park?
• Why does Ben rescue Robert? What would you have done in that situation?
• What did you think of the ending? What do you think will happen next?
If You Liked This Book, Try:
The Sixty-Eight Rooms, Marianne Malone
Touch Blue, Cynthia Lord
Missing on Superstition Mountain, Elise Broach
This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.
Support Independent Book Shops: Click Here to Buy this Book on IndieBound

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