cover image THE SCHOOL STORY


Andrew Clements, , illus. by Brian Selznick. . S&S, $16 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82594-1

Clements's (Frindle) absorbing novel centers on Natalie, a 12-year-old aspiring author who, since her father died in an automobile accident, lives alone with her mother, Hannah, a children's book editor for a New York City publisher. As the book opens, Natalie's best friend, Zoe, is reading the novel that Natalie is writing. The impulsive, take-charge Zoe decides it is good enough to be published and hatches a scheme to ensure that it is. The path from manuscript to bound book takes some funny turns, as the girls elicit the aid of their English teacher, who rents office space that serves as the faux headquarters of Natalie's self-appointed agent: Zoe. Clements strikes a poignant note with his plot within a plot, since the youngster's novel tells of a girl whose father stands up for her always—even when she is caught cheating in school. Through the use of alternating perspectives, he characterizes the two seventh graders as very different but equally likable parties in a "push-and-pull friendship." Though Natalie's is, indeed, a "school story," it is at heart a tale about the love between a father and daughter. In Zoe's eyes, "the book was like a good-bye poem from Natalie to her father," whom she misses enormously. Hannah, explaining to Natalie how she can recognize the rare gem of a manuscript among the many submissions she receives, says, "The good ones stand out like roses in a snowbank." This is one such standout. Ages 8-12. (June)