Skip to main content

We the Children: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School, Book 1

Review

We the Children: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School, Book 1

by Andrew Clements; illustrated by Adam Stower

Sixth-grader Benjamin Pratt is a typical student at Captain Duncan Oakes School in the waterfront town of Edgeport, Massachusetts. This is to be the last year Ben and his fellow students will attend the historic school. Recently, the town council has sold the school and surrounding land to a private corporation, which plans to build an amusement park on the school grounds.

One spring day, while rushing to get to art class, Ben runs into the school’s white-haired janitor. Mr. Keane, who has been the school’s custodian for more than four decades, clutches a dust mop and grasps for breath; his face is “pale and twisted with pain.” While struggling to hang on, he thrusts a golden coin into Ben’s hand and makes him swear to keep it a secret. Shortly before help arrives, Mr. Keane warns Ben not to trust the new assistant janitor, Lyman.

By the time Ben gets to art class, he is tardy and given after-school detention. Later that day, he is shocked when the principal announces that Mr. Keane has passed away. While in detention, Ben is sent to fetch Lyman to unclog the art-room sink. Lyman recognizes Ben and interrogates him about what Mr. Keane told him earlier that day.

Ben trusts his instincts and evades the sneaky janitor's questions. Still wanting to keep his promise to Mr. Keane but unsure of what to do with the golden coin, he decides to share the secret with his friend, Jill Acton. Together they make some amazing discoveries about their school, the shifty janitor --- and themselves.

In this charming first installment of Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School, Andrew Clements skillfully weaves into the storyline nautical terms and historical references --- with one exception. One reference that U.S. middle-grade students might find confusing is the use of the British term War of Independence rather than the more familiar American term, the American Revolution. Other than that, WE THE CHILDREN is an engaging and informative mystery about change, trust, and respecting the past.

Another plus is Adam Stower’s subtle yet effective illustrations that enhance the reading experience without overpowering the story. Clues hidden in a centuries-old school, a sacred oath, an evil villain, and unlikely heroes combine to make an exciting book that will keep young readers turning the pages and wanting more.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on April 19, 2011

We the Children: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School, Book 1
by Andrew Clements; illustrated by Adam Stower

  • Publication Date: April 19, 2011
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416939075
  • ISBN-13: 9781416939078