Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

Extra CreditIt is hard to imagine a world where something as simple and as innocent as having a pen pal in another country would be the reason to threaten violence, but this is the case in Extra Credit. The setting in present day Afghanistan, and is the story of Abby, a girl who lives in Illinois who has been assigned an extra credit project to write to a student in Afghanistan. If she does not complete this project, she will not pass 6th grade. On the other side of the world is Sadeed, who has been chosen by the elders of the town to act as Abby’s pen pal since he is their best student, knows English well, and would be the best representative for their country. This is where things get complicated, since according to their beliefs, it is not proper that a boy and girl have this type of contact. Sadeed is asked to supervise his younger sister Amira’s letter writing, while keeping the arrangement completely secret. Well, Sadeed’s pride and curiosity get in the way, and he finds a way to let Abby know that it is him actually writing the letters. When Afghan radicals happen to see the U.S. stamps on the envelope, Sadeed is threatened and safety becomes an issue for all those involved. The letter writing must stop, but in the process the kids on both sides learn much about the other’s culture and the ways they are really very much alike. This would be a wonderful book to read in school in conjunction with current events, learning about other cultures, or even learning about the freedoms that we enjoy. I just thought it was an intriguing look at current day life in another part of the world and how perceptions can be changed.

Posted by: Mary


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