Friday, December 18, 2009

Reading About Writing and Publishing

A Review of The School Story by Andrew Clements
I just finished reading a fantastic children’s book with my kids (actually, with my whole family as my husband got sucked into it as well!) The School Story is about twelve year old Natalie Nelson, who is an amazing writer and has written a story called, “The Cheater.” Her best friend, Zoe Reisman, reads her manuscript decides that this book needs to get published. It just so happens that Natalie’s mother is an editor at Shipley Junior Books, one of the largest children’s book publishers in New York. Natalie is afraid that no one will take her seriously as a twelve year old, nor would her mother be able to be unbiased. She wants her book to be accepted on its own merit.

The two girls come up with a plan to take on the grown-up world of publishing. Before long, Natalie adopts a pseudonym and becomes Cassandra Day. Zoe becomes “Zee Zee,” Natalie’s fast-talking, loud-mouthed agent from the fictional Sherry Clutch Literary Agency. With the help of their English teacher, the girls set out to achieve their publishing dreams! What makes this story so special is the friendship and loyalty that the girls share. Zoe pushes Natalie when she is discouraged and ready to quit, because she truly believes in her friend. Zoe’s schemes, plotting and ultimately her brilliant publicity stunt at the end of the story are wonderfully entertaining.

This book was recommended to me by a friend because of my personal journey with my own book, however you don’t need to be a writer or to be involved in the publishing world to truly enjoy this book. Not only did my family and I like the wonderful characters, the sub-plots and the story in general, but we loved the way the author walked us through the complicated world of publishing. My kids now understand what a “slush pile” is as well as other real-world issues such as contracts, negotiations, marketing, advertising, etc. The School Story is geared toward middle grades (ages 8-12) but was enjoyed by all five Weinsteins in our household (ages 7-42!) We highly recommend it!