Book: The Losers Club
Author: Andrew Clements
Age Range: 8-12
The Losers Club by Andrew Clements is a delight from start to finish. It's about a sixth grade boy named Alec who gets into trouble at school because he loves to read so much. He's constantly reading in class, instead of paying attention, and getting sent to the Principal's Office. Already on thin ice on the first day of school, Alec learns that he has to start going to after school care this year. He is pressured to join a sort or other club, when again all he wants to do is read. In a flash of inspiration, Alec starts a reading club. He calls it The Losers Club because he doesn't want to be distracted, and he wants to disincentivize other kids from joining. The idea is that he and his sole fellow club member, Nina, will just sit at the same table and read quietly for three hours every day. Of course, a bit more than that ends up happening.
The Losers Club is a love letter to kids who like to read, and to the many books that they love. Classics old and new are mentioned on practically every page, with a full list provided at the end of the book. But The Losers Club isn't one of those books that librarians and teachers will love, and kids will find heavy-handed. Alec is a real, three-dimensional character, with strengths and weaknesses. He has a bit of a crush on Nina (completely middle grade-appropriate), enjoys water-skiing, and is mildly bullied by former friend Kent. Kent and Nina, as well as Alec's family members, also feel realistic. There's a nice mix of action (Kent kicking balls into the wall behind the Losers Club table, and Alec challenging him) and introspection (and kid who reads as much as Alec does is going to be somewhat introspective).
One thing that I especially enjoyed about The Losers Club was that Alec's parents, well, parent him. When his performance slips at school, they take action. They give him advice. They notice when he's cranky and ask why. Kind of a refreshing change all around, compared to much of middle grade literature. Alec even exchanges advice here and there with his very different little brother. Oh, and as an added bonus, Alec's parents are huge Star Wars fans, and Yoda-speak is primary form of dialog in his home. Alec is actually named after Alec Guinness, and his brother is named for Luke Skywalker. Super fun! This would make a wonderful audiobook, I suspect.
Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for the book:
"But Alex was a special case. Every time he had landed in the Hot Seat, he had been caught doing something that teachers usually liked: reading. It wasn't about what he was reading or how he was reading--it was always because where and when he was reading.
Maybe his mom and dad were to blame for spending all those hours reading to him when he was little. Or maybe The Sailor Dog was to blame, or The Very Hungry Caterpiller, or possibly The Cat in the Hat. But there was no doubt that Alec had loved books from the get-go. Once he found a beginning, he had to get to the middle, because the middle always led to the end of the story. And no matter what, Alec had to know what happened next." (Page 2)
"Some people had comfort food, but Alec had comfort books--stories so familiar that they made reading feel like coasting downhill on a bike, or water-skiing on a smooth lake. And Charlotte's Web was one of his all-time favorites." (Page 33)
My daughter, who is almost eight, was curious about this book. When I told her about it, she asked if she could read it when I was finished. I'll be interested to see if she likes it, and whether it inspires her to want to read any other books (like Charlotte's Web).
Certainly, The Losers Club is a book that belongs in libraries serving middle grade readers everywhere. Andrew Clements is the master of school stories, and The Losers Club is no exception (and a complete bonus for anyone who loves books). Highly recommended!
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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