Extra Credit by Andrew Clements
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Abby Carson is failing the sixth grade because she hates doing homework. Faced with the threat of being held back, she decides to not only starting doing ALL of her homework but also take on a big extra credit project: write letters to a pen pal halfway around the world, post them on a bulletin board, and do a class presentation at the end of the year.
Sadeed Bayat is the best student in his village in Afghanistan, but it's not proper for a boy to write to a girl, so his little sister is chosen to be Abby's pen pal...with Sadeed's help. She dictates letters in Dari; he translates them into English. But he's dissatisfied with what his sister writes and composes a letter of his own, which he mails in secret. And pretty soon, Sadeed realizes that he knows Abby better than he knows anyone else, and Abby realizes that kids are pretty much the same no matter where they live. But not everyone is happy with this culture-bridging assignment.
Andrew Clements does a fantastic job of bringing these characters and cultures to life. I wanted to climb into Abby's tree fort and thank Sadeed's teacher for his dedication. Excellent book.
For readers' advisors: character and story doorways, with setting as a secondary doorway
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