Extra Credit (Paperback)

By Andrew Clements, Mark Elliott (Illustrator)

Atheneum Books, 9781416949312, 189pp.

Publication Date: February 1, 2011

Autumn 2009 Kids' Indie Next List

“A sixth grader from Kansas is told that if her test scores don't improve, she'll be held back at year's end. Her mandatory extra credit assignment is to correspond with a pen pal from Afghanistan. Her letters are given, appropriately, to an Afghani girl, but, since her older brother is better at English, he secretly starts adding his opinions too. There will be complications for all of them, but the letters help them experience life outside of their own worlds, and allow them to look at their own cultures in a different way.”
— Dianne Patrick, Snowbound Books, Marquette, MI
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It isn't that Abby Carson can't do her schoolwork. She just doesn't like doing it. And consequently, Abby will have to repeat sixth grade--unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra credit project: find a pen pal in a distant country. But when Abby's first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, complications arise. The elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well, but the only qualified English-speaking student is a boy. And in this village, it's not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So, Sadeed's sister will dictate and sign the letters for him. 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?

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 each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.