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What's the story?
Cara seems headed for trouble with her teacher, Mr. Larson, when she prints an editorial criticizing his teaching. But instead Cara and Mr. Larson find themselves joined in the fight of their lives against the principal and the school board. Once Mr. Larson was a great teacher. Now he is burned out, and spends his class periods hiding behind a newspaper while his students do as they please.
Cara Landry is new in school. She expresses her anger over her parents' divorce by creating a viciously accurate little newspaper, and includes an editorial on Mr. Larson's nonexistent teaching. This forces Mr. Larson to face what he has become, and Cara's mother, in despair, tells her, "When you are publishing all that truth, just be sure there's some mercy too."
Mr. Larson encourages Cara to lead the class in creating a school newspaper, whose motto is "Truth and Mercy." But while Mr. Larson begins to reconnect with his students--and Cara connects with her peers and channels her formidable talents into something positive--the principal sees the newspaper as the weapon he has been waiting for to force Mr. Larson out.
Is it any good?
Andrew Clements has created another winning novel, rich with understanding of that peculiar institution -- school. Like the author's earlier novel, Frindle, this is about a gifted student and a gifted teacher in conflict. But if Frindle was about a student and a teacher -- each in top form -- engaged in an intellectual war, Mr. Larson and Cara Landry are near the bottom -- and each may be the other's hope for redemption.
This book deals with big, complex issues, including First Amendment rights in light of the Hazelwood decision, the spirit of a teacher ground down by the realities of his life, and the place where "mercy and truth are met together." Clement's strengths include respect for the intelligence of his readers. This book is inspiring because Clements, a former teacher, knows education is an ultimately ennobling activity that is concerned as much with the heart as with the head.