Room One: a mystery or two by Andrew Clements, 2006
Ted Hammond is one of only nine students in his one room school and the only 6th grader in Plattsford, Nebraska. The farming community is shrinking and the school is going to close because of the small enrollment. The loss of the school will be the final blow to the town.
Ted loves to read mysteries and the town librarian Mrs. Coughlin has introduced him to interlibrary loan. He reads 2-3 mysteries a week and excels at solving them before the last chapter.
One morning while delivering newspapers he think he sees a face in the window of an abandoned farmhouse on his route. Using the detective skills he has learned, Ted sets out to solve the mystery. While assembling clues, he discovers a family camping in the old house. Alexa a girl about his age asks him to keep her family's presence in the house a secret. He reluctantly agrees then devotes himself to their welfare by bringing them food.
Clements always writes with amazing candor and feeling about the adults in children's lives. He is clear eyed about the sometimes edgy relationship between teachers and their students. Ted confides in his teacher, Mrs. Mitchell about the family forcing her into an ethical dilemma. She does not want to break a promise to a student but she knows she must report the family.
This low key162 page story is rounded out by an epilogue that tells "the rest of the story" in a conclusion that is very satisfying for the family and Ted's town.
There is much about Andrew Clements that impresses me. His website quotes him, "It is a privilege to write for children." His website (which needs updating) has a letter that he sends home to parents following school visits. I thought this paragraph was lovely.
We’re In Charge
When we read, we decide when, where, how long, and about what. One of the few places on earth that it is still possible to experience an instant sense of freedom and privacy is anywhere you open up a good book and begin to read. When we read silently, we are alone with our own thoughts and one other voice. We can take our time, consider, evaluate, and digest what we read—with no commercial interruptions, no emotional music or special effects manipulation. And in spite of the advances in electronic information exchange, the book is still the most important medium for presenting ideas of substance and value, still the only real home of literature.