Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

When Sadeed Bayat is invited to meet his teacher at the house of the extra headmaster of his village in Afghanistan, he is sure it is for a special honor.  He is the best student in his class, and he hopes they will offer him a scholarship to a fine school in Kabul, the capital.  As Sadeed moves closer to the door to hear what his teacher and the councilors are discussing, he looks through a crack in the door and sees his teacher holding up a bright green envelope with stamps of the flag of the US and some pink butterfly stickers on it.  His teacher has picked him to be the pen pal for a girl in America.  The council men are appalled!  It is not right in their culture for a boy to correspond with a girl.  The men finally come to an agreement: Sadeed’s younger sister, Amira, will write to Abby in America, with Sadeed helping her with her English.  Then we meet Abby, an American sixth grader who has been careless with her homework this year.  To keep from having to repeat sixth grade, Abby has agreed to do her homework, pass all of her tests, and do a special project for extra credit.  For the project she has to find a pen pal in a different part of the world, send letters to the pen pal and create a bulletin board about the pen pal’s culture.  Through their correspondence, Abby and Sadeed learn about their different life styles and traditions.  The pen-pal friendship also causes problems for both of them: Abby gets into trouble for displaying the Afghan flag on her bulletin board, and Sadeed is almost killed by a Taliban for carrying a letter with the American flag stamp on it.  This is a fast-paced, often humorous story about two sixth graders living worlds apart.  Review by Trudy Walsh

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