Allison's Book Bag

School Story and Lunch Money by Andrew Clements

Posted on: October 22, 2015

I’m back for a second day of reviewing books by Andrew Clements, a new favorite author of mine, who is known for setting the standard for the school story. Incidentally, because I plan to review several books in a short amount of time, my critiques will be shorter than the norm.

Third in my round-up is School Story which I have now passed onto my husband to read. Why did I recommend it to him? Because I related to the ups and downs that the two main characters in School Story face in trying to publish a first book—and thought my husband might too. You see, soon after my husband and I married, I started writing on a part-time basis and he took on the role of being my editor. These roles have caused us both stress and happiness, just as working together as novelist and agent novel caused best friends, Natalie and Zoe.

What else do I like about School Story? Instead of being about boys, as my two previous reads by Andrew Clements were, it features a couple of girls as the leads. Natalie and Zoe both have their own individual strengths and connections, which are needed for them to reach their ultimate goal. Natalie prefers to write rather than talk and has a mother who knows all about publishing, while Zoe prefers to talk rather than write and has a father who knows all about the law and specifically about contracts. As such, Natalie is the one who writes the engaging novel but also experiences all the doubts about her creativity, while Zoe is the one who attempts to sell Natalie’s novel even when it involves making up an agent name and renting a fake office. I related to Natalie’s anxiety, but also appreciated being given a peek into the publishing industry from an agent’s perspective.

Is there anything I dislike about School Story? Well, while Clements tends to portray even the adults as complex characters, he has yet to paint a secretary in a positive fashion. Also, while most of us do desire a happy-ever-end, Clements tends to achieve them with larger-than-life events. As long as you are willing to believe everything is possible, Clements is a sure win.

Fourth in my round-up is Lunch Money, winner of ten awards. How does it relate to writing? The culmination of all Greg and Maura’s money-making schemes is a comic book, which they write, illustrate, design, and print.

What do I like about Lunch Money? The main character reminds me of Alex from Family Ties, with his love of money but also his growing awareness that there’s more to life than wealth. From the moment he was a preschooler and saw his mom insert a coin into a candy machine, Greg loved money. He did chores for his brothers, recycled the family trash, shined his parents’ shoes, and raked or shoveled yards for neighbors—all in the name of money. By third grade, he had even set as a goal to become rich. Yet despite his love of money, like Alex on Family Ties, Greg is at heart a nice guy. That’s what makes him such an intriguing character.

The plot thickens when Maura is introduced. Now what unfolds is twofold. First, after Greg ruins Maura’s picture book out of envy, he’s forced to reconsider what kind of person he wants to be. Does he want to be the type of person who helps or hurts others in the process of becoming rich? Second, in allowing himself to become a business partner with Maura, Greg comes to realize that there might just be more to life than money. For example, quality products. And friendship.

Is there anything I don’t like about Lunch Money? Not that I can recall. Four books into my Andrew Clements round-up, there’s a reason why I’m considering Clements a new favorite author. 🙂

My rating? Bag them: Carry them with you. Make them a top priority to read.

How would you rate these books?

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