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We the Children Book Cover

Title:  Benjamin Pratt and The Keepers of the School: We the Children

Author:  Andrew Clements

No. of Pages:  160

First Released:  April 6, 2010

Synopsis (Courtesy of Joseph-Beth Booksellers):  “Sixth-grader Ben Pratt is thrust into a mystery-adventure when his school’s janitor shoves a gold coin in his hand, passing on the responsibility to save Oakes School from developers. Captain Oakes gave the school to the community back in 1783; its original building overlooks the Massachusetts town’s harbor. But the land has been sold, and buildings will be razed to make way for a theme park. With his parents recently separated and new living arrangements-one week at home with mom, the next on dad’s sailboat-Ben has had enough change. He and Jill Acton, a friend with brainpower and potential, embark on a campaign to stop the attack.”

Comments and Critique:  As I requested this advanced reading copy for my son, who at age nine fits the key age group for the book, I thought it would be fun to review the book together.  He is as voracious a reader as I am and just loves the fact that I blog, and he has been eyeballing the book from the moment it entered my library.  He jumped at the chance to read it and review it for me.  Having read it first, I know I had my own opinions of the book, so I was curious to see what he had to say.  His thoughts:

M:  What did you think?

C: Do I have to finish it?  It’s boring.

M: What do you mean boring?  Just finish it for me, okay?

C: I’m finished.  It was still boring.

M: What do you mean?  Are you going to recommend it to your friends?

C: At this point, I am not going to recommend it because there is not much conflict going on in the story. 

M: Not much conflict?  You do realize that this is going to be a series of six books.

C:  Yes, and I want to continue with the rest of the series.

M: Wait.  You are not going to recommend it to your friends, but you want to finish the series?  Isn’t that a bit contradictory?

C: Yes, but I want to see what happens.  Will Benjamin fail or succeed?  Will Robert befriend Ben?  What will they learn about the school’s past?

M: So, it couldn’t have been THAT bad if you want to continue reading.

C: I guess so.

M: So, what else did you like or dislike?  What about the boat race?

C: Aren’t we done yet?  This review thing is hard! 

M: Honey, you promised.  Just humor me with this one.

C: Okay.  I thought the race part went off-topic but it is still a good part of the story.

M: Well, you were complaining about the lack of action.  That scene should have satisfied you.

C: It did, but it still had nothing to do with the mystery.

M: I thought the same thing.  Anything else?

C: Yes.  I think there should be some close calls, so to speak. 

M: What do you mean?

C: Ben could almost get caught in the girls’ bathroom.

M: Like Harry Potter?

C: Sure.

M: So you are saying it needs some sort of suspense. 

C: Yes.  Also, I saw a lot of the term, “by a long shot”.  Personally, I think the author should use something else.

M: You are criticizing the author’s repetitive phrasing?

C:  I said it was boring!

M: But you still want to read the rest of the series.

C: Mo-om!

In the end, without any prompting by me, my son came to the same conclusions I did.  We the Children is a cute story, and I am slightly curious to see how the series continues, but I thought this would have been better served as a prologue (with some major editing) to the rest of the series than as a stand-alone book.  There was little in the way of suspense and action, as my son kept reminding me while I was helping entice him to finish the book.  I kept thinking of Harry Potter – the smart female friend/helper, the kid who doesn’t ask to be part of the action but finds himself involved.  Unfortunately, it pales in comparison to that series, but I do think it has potential.  Apparently, even with all of its faults, my son is still interested, which is always a good sign. 

Thank you to Lucille Rettino and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  It fulfills the 100+ Reading Challenge and the Read ‘n Review Challenge.

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