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Mark, the 11-year-old at the center of Clements's (Frindle; The Jacket) brooding and uneven novel, initially has no interest in making friends at his new school in Whitson, N.H., where his constantly traveling parents have just renovated and enlarged a 1798 farmhouse. Knowing that he's headed off to a prestigious boarding school next year, the boy has no incentive for pleasing his teachers and spends much of the day gazing out the classroom window. His science teacher, Mr. Maxwell, passes judgment on Mark before the boy finally decides to give the school a chance ("The only kind of people Mr. Maxwell disliked more than slackers were... buy-the-whole-world rich folks"). A showdown between boy and teacher occurs at the start of the annual environmental program organized by Mr. Maxwell for the fifth graders, who spend a week in a wooded state park. The teacher's discovery of Mark with a tool containing a knife (which actually belongs to another boy) climaxes with a pursuit through the woods. Unfortunately, the suspenseful sequence that follows and the engaging denouement account for only a fraction of the novel. Laborious passages about Mark's family's home and barn and the boy's preparations for the school trip, plus perhaps a bit too much description of Mr. Maxwell's background, bog down the story line and may derail readers drawn to the book's enticing title. Ages 9-13. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal This one will be a popular choice, particularly with fans of Gary Paulsen and Jean Craighead George.
Gr 4-6-Angered by his family's move from Scarsdale, NY, to rural New Hampshire, Mark refuses to make friends or please his teachers. Because of his indifference, one teacher decides that he's dealing with a "slacker" and a "spoiled rich kid." To make matters worse, the fifth grader acts unimpressed with Mr. Maxwell's annual outing to the state park for a week of nature studies. However, the boy becomes increasingly interested in the outdoors and camping and signs up for the trip. On the first day there, the teacher discovers Mark with a camping tool that contains a knife, an item that students were asked not to bring. He decides that someone needs to teach the boy a lesson and decides to send him home. Mark runs away, gets lost, and must use his newly acquired skills to survive a night in the woods. The story explores both Mark's and Mr. Maxwell's point of view, and the final resolution of their conflict is effective. The boy's relationships with his ever-absent parents and his caregivers are interestingly developed. The novel includes a helpful map of the state park. Like many of Clements's titles, this one will be a popular choice, particularly with fans of Gary Paulsen and Jean Craighead George.-Jean Gaffney, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, Miamisburg, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.