by Andrew Clements (Author) Mark Elliott (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
Once a troublemaker, always a troublemaker?

There's a folder in Principal Kelling's office that's as thick as a phonebook and it's growing daily. It's filled with the incident reports of every time Clayton Hensley broke the rules. There's the minor stuff like running in the hallways and not being where he was suppose to be when he was supposed to be there. But then there are also reports that show Clay's own brand of troublemaking, like the most recent addition: the art teacher has said that the class should spend the period drawing anything they want and Clay decides to be extra "creative" and draw a spot-on portrait of Principal a donkey.

It's a pretty funny joke, but really, 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.

From the master of the school story comes a book about the fine line between good-humored mischief and dangerous behavior and how everyday choices can close or open doors.

Find books about:

Publishers Weekly

Clements (Extra Credit) delivers another rock-solid school story that will resonate with middle graders. Like his older brother, Mitch, sixth-grader Clay is habitually in trouble, and he can't wait to tell Mitch about his latest coup--a realistic portrait of Principal Kelling as a donkey. But his 19-year-old brother, who's just finished a 30-day jail sentence after losing his temper in court, is not amused, and he orders Clay to straighten out ("You're gonna do all the stuff that I never did--and do things right, the smart way"). Clay promises to do so, but learns that his well-established reputation is hard to shake, backsliding is easy, and taking his life in a new direction might mean leaving old friends behind--or being pranked himself. Though the story is largely Clay's, Clements offers the perspectives of other characters, demonstrating how Clay's tussles with his conscience have an impact on the environment around him. Clements's empathy for Clay is clear--he's not a bad kid, just someone whose mischievous tendencies have always been encouraged. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (July)

Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-6--Clayton Hensley wants to be exactly like his older brother, who just got out of jail for wielding his own brand of trouble. When he uses his free art period to draw the principal as a donkey, he makes sure he's the talk of the school, showing off on the way to the office. But, when Clay reveals the drawing to Mitch, he's in for a surprise. Not only is his brother not proud, but he's also disappointed. Mitch wants Clay to turn his life around. The problem is, Clay isn't sure he can do it, or if he even wants to. Being good isn't any fun at all. Or is it? Clements forms interesting parallels between choice, habit, and repute, asking the questions: Can people change their reputations? And, is having fun at the expense of someone else really fun? Occasional pencil drawings of Clay's antics highlight the best parts of the story. Clay will encourage kids who want to forge a new path, placing their own brand on doing the right thing. An inspiring and comical read.--Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix Public Library, AZ

Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Clements is a genius of gentle, high-concept tales set in suburban middle schools."—The New York Times
Andrew Clements
Andrew Clements (1949-2019) was the author of the enormously popular Frindle. More than 10 million copies of his books have been sold, and he was nominated for a multitude of state awards, including a Christopher Award and an Edgar Award. His popular works include About Average, Troublemaker, Extra Credit, Lost and Found, No Talking, Room One, Lunch Money, and more. He was also the author of the Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School series. Find out more at

Adam Stower has a rich imagination and loves fantasy and adventure stories. He studied illustration at the Norwich School of Art and Design and at the University of Brighton, and lives with his daughter in Brighton, England.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date
July 20, 2011
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award
Winner 2013 - 2014

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!