Extra Credit

by Andrew Clements (Author) Mark Elliott (Illustrator)

Extra Credit

It isn't that Abby Carson can't do her schoolwork. She just doesn't like doing it. And in February a warning letter arrives at her home. Abby will have to repeat sixth grade--unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra-credit project to find a pen pal in a distant country. Seems simple enough.

But when Abby's first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, the village elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well. In English. And the only qualified student is a boy, Sadeed Bayat.

Except in this village, it is not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So Sadeed's younger sister will write the letters. Except she knows hardly any English. So Sadeed must write the letters. For his sister to sign. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is . . . unhealthy? Not so simple.

But as letters flow back and forth--between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions--a small group of children begin to speak and listen to one another. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.

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Publishers Weekly

Clements ("Frindle") successfully bridges two cultures in this timely and insightful dual-perspective story. When Abby learns that her teachers want her to repeat sixth grade, the Illinois girl pledges to improve her grades and complete an extra-credit pen pal project. Since her favorite pastime is scaling a climbing wall, she's fascinated by Afghanistan's mountainous terrain and sends a letter to a one-room school there requesting a pen pal. So it will reflect well on his village, the teacher decides that his best student, Sadeed, should reply, but with a letter supposedly written by his sister, since it's deemed improper for a boy to correspond with a girl. In chapters devoted to Sadeed and in his missives to Abby (which he eventually admits he's composing), the sensitive boy shares illuminating information about Afghan beliefs and traditions, as well as his own aspirations. Abby responds with similar candor and the two gain much from their correspondenceas will readers. Clements effectively broadens his canvas in this worthy addition to his oeuvre of school-themed novels. Ages 812. "(June)" Copyright 2009 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 47A forced pen-pal exchange turns into an opportunity for real communication between Illinois sixth-grader Abby Carson and Sadeed Bayat, the best English-language student in his Afghan village. When Abby's first letter arrives in Bahar-Lan, 11-year-old Sadeed is asked by the elders to compose his sister Amira's reply; it isn't proper for a boy and girl to correspond with one another. But soon Sadeed can't resist telling Abby that it is he who has been writing to her. The third-person narrative alternates points of view, allowing for inclusion of intriguing details of both lives. Never a scholar, Abby prefers the woods behind her family's farm and the climbing wall in her school; in the afternoons, Sadeed works in his father's grain shop. In spite of their differences, Abby and Sadeed connect through their imaginations, and their earlier readings of "Frog and Toad Are Friends". They learn, as Abby reports, that "people are simple, but the stuff going on around them can get complicated." Full-page pencil illustrations throughout add to the book's appeal. Clements offers readers an engaging and realistic school story and provides an evenhanded comparison between a Midwestern girl's lifestyle and a culture currently in the news."Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD" Copyright 2009 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
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 AndrewClements.com.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date
June 20, 2009
Junior Library Guild Selection
BISAC categories
JUV035000 - Juvenile Fiction | School & Education
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
JUV030110 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Middle East
Library of Congress categories
Family life
Pen pals
Delaware Diamonds Award
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Recommended 2009 - 2009
Christopher Awards
Winner 2010 - 2010
Beehive Awards
Nominee 2011 - 2011
West Virginia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nominee 2010 - 2011
Nutmeg Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Georgia Children's Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Charlie May Simon Children's Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2012
Grand Canyon Reader Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Land of Enchantment Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2012
Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
William Allen White Childens Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2011 - 2012
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2011 - 2012
Iowa Children's Choice (ICCA) Award
Nominee 2011 - 2012
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Sequoyah Book Awards
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Golden Sower Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award
Nominee 2012 - 2012
Middle East Book Awards
Honorable Mention 2009 - 2009

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