Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children by Andrew Clements

We the Children (Keepers of the School, #1)
Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children by Andrew Clements

The blurb:
Benjamin Pratt's harbor-side school is going to the bulldozed to make room fo an amusement park.  It sounds lik a dream come true. . . or isit more like a nightmare?  Something about the plan seems fishy, and Lyman, the new assistant janitor, seems even fishier.  When Ben and his friend, Jill, start digging for answers, they find things that the people with money and power don't want them to see.  Could the history hidden deep witin an old school building actually overthrow a thirty-million-dollar real estate deal.   And how far will the developers go to keep that from happening?  Ben and Jill are about to discover just how dangerous a little knowledge can be.

The first book in the Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series, We the Children, introduces us to a pair of amateur middle school sleuths.   When Roger Keane, the custodian of their middle school, needs help, Benjamin Pratt (Ben) steps in.  His reward of sorts is a mysterious gold coin which is given after Ben promises to keep a secret and defend the school.  The coin and the promise open Ben's eyes to mysterious and curious things at the Captain Duncan Oakes School.

The building had been a school since 1783, a gift from the eccentric and wealthy shipping Captain Duncan Oakes who has helped defend the coast from the British during the Revolutionary War.  Captain Oakes, like many eccentric millionaries, had an unusual stipulation in his donation and thousands of children have benefited from his foresight and generosity.  But the current town council and a real estate conglomerate have a deal that would transfer school from its current the grounds and relocate the school inland. Instead, on the current grounds would be a large amusement center, a profit center that would bring in tourism to the sleepy New England town.

While Ben hadn't cared about the chnge, his new awareness of the sale and Captain Oakes has changed all that.  Ben and his friend Jill have taken it upon themselves to stop the sale, if they can.  The mysterious gold coin and Ben's love for sailing have led them to find nautical clues hidden in the school grounds.  Clues to the help that Captain Oakes set aside for just such future threats to the school.

Ben and Jill are quick and funny on their own but the warmth of their friendship and their sleuthing skills make this an unusually fun adventure.  The only drawback to We the Children is that the book ends with much of the mystery unresolved -- and we must rely on the next book to find out how the adventure progresses.

Ages 9 to 12.
ISBN-10: 1416939075 - Hardcover $14.99
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (April 19, 2011), 176 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Andrew Clements is the author of more than 60 books for children, including the enormously popular Frindle and the New York Times bestsellers No Talking and Lunch Money.  He lives with his wife in central Massachusetts and has four grown children.  To learn more about Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School series, head to www.keepersoftheschool.com

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