The Report Card

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Report Card Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Nora uses her genius to protest testing, grades.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 35 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The author is straightforwardly raising an issue of great importance to children: the use and misuse of grades and testing in school.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nora systematically misleads and manipulates her parents and teachers. She hides her intelligence, in part, so that her friend, a boy, won't feel stupid.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the author is straightforwardly raising an issue of great importance to children: the use and misuse of grades and testing in school. But the way the main character goes about it is questionable at best, raising even more issues -- giftedness, protest, rebellion, and achievement.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydadert October 28, 2011


I have not read a better book in years.
The thinking that went into the book was marvelous.
BEST BOOK( next to harry potter)
Parent of a 14, 15, and 17-year-old Written byNickibeth17 August 30, 2010
i thought it was a good book
Kid, 11 years old December 1, 2014


Nora is a flat main character. And I think that the portrayal of gifted kids is really inaccurate. This book makes it seem like they're bullies. Also, it m... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMrWaterBalloons June 28, 2013

Driven by a protagonist who is simply too righteous to enjoy

This book features an irritating protagonist who is simply too smart to be identifiable. She has an undercurrent of self righteousness throughout her entire na... Continue reading

What's the story?

Nora is a genius, but since early childhood she has hidden that fact from both teachers and family. She doesn't like to be different, to perform, to have people stare at her, to be expected to achieve according to someone else's rules. So she goes underground, keeps her giftedness to herself, and tries to fit in. But in fifth grade everything changes.

When she sees her best friend feel stupid because he did poorly on the standardized achievement tests, she decides to protest grades by getting low ones. But the attention this draws from her parents and the school leads to her secret being revealed, and her worst fears being realized: her school wants her in the gifted program, her parents want her in an exclusive academy, and everyone starts treating her differently. Perhaps a school-wide testing protest is the answer.

Is it any good?

No one does school stories better than former teacher Andrew Clements. He knows the inner workings of schools, he writes for middle schoolers better than almost anyone, and his stories are usually effervescent delights that flow seamlessly along from start to perfect finish: not the way things do work, but the way they should. Here he has decided to go for more realism -- Nora's protest doesn't sweep the school, make the national news, or start a revolution. Rather than an unabashed triumph over the system of testing and grades, Nora accomplishes little besides being allowed to have some say in the direction of her life.

Since Clements has so clearly stated the problems with this system, some readers may find the ending disappointing, a rarity in his novels. But it may get both kids and adults thinking about the subject and, since he has provided no template for real change, wondering for themselves how things could be made different.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about grades and testing. Do you think grading and testing are good ways to assess achievement?

  • Is one a better tool than the other? Why or why not?

  • How could teachers and students measure progress if testing was abandoned?

  • Families can also talk about protest. Do you think Nora's approach was justified?

  • Would you have done things differently?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate