The School Story

Common Sense Media says

Enchanting tale will leave readers grinning.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Zoe manipulates adults.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book will likely prompt fruitful family discussions and inspire young authors to reach for their dreams. True, the main characters engage in a bit of dishonesty, but it's all done in the name of good, clean fun. While the majority of the action is lighthearted, the story does touch upon the subject of death because one of the main characters lost her father when she was younger.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Natalie Nelson has just written a novel and wants to get it published. Her mother is a children's book editor and, while Natalie wants her mom to be her editor, she wants the book to be published on its merits, not because she happens to be an editor's daughter. Natalie's best friend Zoe comes up with the perfect solution--use a pseudonym.

But Natalie knows all about the slush pile in her mom's office, and is sure no one will read her manuscript. So Zoe decides to become her agent, and together they enlist the help of an idealistic young English teacher to set up a fake literary agency.

Zoe, daughter of a powerful attorney, is as talented at scheming and manipulation as Natalie is at writing, and part of the pleasure and hilarity of this story is watching her simple but elegant plans unfold. But the girls are messing with an adult world, and soon find themselves neck-deep in negotiations, contracts, and publishing world politics.

Is it any good?


Former teacher Andrew Clements had already rocketed to the upper reaches of the best middle-grade authors list on the strength of his first novel, Frindle, and two follow-ups, The Landry News and The Janitor's Boy. This story is longer and a bit more complex than the others (though still well within the reach of middle and upper elementary children), but it shares with them a deep understanding of the world of school (and now of publishing), exceptionally clever stories, wickedly sharp characterizations, and a perfection in plotting that makes them akin to caper novels. With never a misstep, Clements takes readers to a world where events unfold, not as they do in real life, but as they should. Readers will grin from beginning to end of this enchanting story, except when brushing away the occasional tear during the more poignant moments, such as when Zoe realizes that Natalie's story, ostensibly about a girl who is caught cheating at school, is really "like a good-bye poem from Natalie to her father," who died when she was young.

The author's prose, filled with witty tidbits such as pleasing mirror-image portraits of the two heroines, is so clear that illustrations aren't really necessary. But illustrator Brian Selznick has added his own clever touches. The ending, too, is pure magic, as Zoe manipulates events to a glorious conclusion that only she has envisioned. Andrew Clements has found a niche that he fills better than anyone, and any child can tell you that there is an infinite variety of school stories to be told. Let's hope he writes many more.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the realities of the publishing process and whether a pair of 12-year-olds could ever actually work together to get a book optioned by a major publisher. How do Natalie and Zoe's differences complement one another to make them best friends -- and the perfect team? Now that Natalie has worked with her mother as an editor, do you think it will affect the way she sees her as a person? Do you think that will help or hurt their relationship as mother and daughter?

Book details

Author:Andrew Clements
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:June 1, 2001
Number of pages:196
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of The School Story was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

I read till i dropped

School story is the best story for inspiring young authors. It teaches about publishing, and how hard it is to write a book. I read it in school and i will never forget it.
Teen, 14 years old Written byPumpItUp4TheTeam April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Cassandra Day

Great Book. I Told All of My Firends about it!!!
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

I laughed!

This book was my first by Andrew Clements. I think that he is a really good author, and this book inspired me to read more by him. This book is good for all kids basically, and it makes you think about wanting to write a story and get it published.


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