cover image THE REPORT CARD


Andrew Clements, . . S&S, $15.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84515-4

With subtlety and authority, Clements (A Week in the Woods ) explores the plight of extraordinarily intelligent Nora, who, determined to avoid being singled out, has from an early age strategically hidden her genius from her parents, peers and teachers. But this young narrator attracts ample attention when she purposefully earns D's on her fifth-grade report card, the inaugural step in her plan to protest the school's focus on grades and testing. The catalyst for Nora's scheme is the dramatic change she observes in her best friend, Stephen, whose self-confidence plummets and anxiety soars after he scores poorly on his first standardized state test. After that test, Nora observes, "All the kids started keeping track of test scores and homework grades. School was suddenly all about the competition, and grades were how you could tell the winners from the losers." Appreciating the ramifications of test results on teachers, administrators, a school's reputation and even a town's real estate values, Nora perceptively remarks, "A bad grade for a kid is a bad grade for everybody." After strutting her intellectual stuff and wowing her teachers, the girl goes on to botch three consecutive tests and, with Stephen, convinces most of their classmates to likewise land intentional zeroes. Realistically, the two pals do not effect a revamping of the curriculum, but make their voices heard clearly. Solid characters, convincing dialogue and a topic certain to spark dialogue earn Clements high marks. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)