middle grade contemporary
Clayton Hensley is accustomed to trouble: There’s a folder of incident reports in Principal Kelling’s office that’s as thick as a phonebook and growing daily. Most recently, Clay’s art teacher told the class to spend the period drawing anything they wanted, and Clay decided to be extra “creative” by drawing a spot-on portrait of Principal Kelling…as a donkey.
It’s a pretty funny joke, but Clay is coming to realize that the biggest joke of all may be on him. When his big brother, Mitchell, gets in some serious trouble, Clay decides to change his own mischief-making ways…but he can’t seem to shake his reputation as a troublemaker.
In elementary school, I loved Andrew Clements. An advanced kid and reader, I often felt books meant for my age were stupid. So like all academically strong and frustrated kids, I started reading YA early. Clements was never like that- he doesn't write down to children, and he recognizes them for how smart they really are. His characters are always dynamic and interesting, talented and full of life. They are fully capable of manipulating the adults around them.
Troublemaker was satisfying in all those ways. Despite how smart and witty and independent Clay is, he openly worships his older brother and aims to be like him. I found that realistic and adorable. He makes you laugh and you can't help but love him.
I found his willingness to transform his ways entirely not exactly likely, and also the quickness in which he succeeds. In addition, the example the author used for his message was an exaggeration. Just because he was a troublemaker in 6th grade does NOT mean he's on the path to crime. However, I thought the ideas behind it -that there are consequences to your actions, and that you can have fun without hurting anybody or breaking the rules, and that if you don't take responsibility for your life you can end up in places you don't want to be - were brought forward well and in a way that was light and enjoyable for a middle grade reader.