Twelve-year-old Natalie Nelson has written a powerful school story. It's a short novel called "The Cheater," and her best friend Zoe is certain it should be published. All Natalie has to do is give the manuscript to her mom, an editor at a big publishing house. However Natalie doesn't want any favors from her mom. Still, Zoe won't drop the idea.
Spurred into action, Natalie invents a pen name for herself and Zoe becomes a self-styled literary agent. But if the girls are to succeed, they'll need support from their wary English teacher, legal advice from Zoe's tough-talking father, and some clever maneuvering to outwit the overbearing editor in chief of Shipley Junior Books.
Andrew Clements, the best-selling author of Frindle, The Landry News, and The Janitor's Boy, delights his audience with this story of two irrepressible girls who use their talent, ingenuity, and a little cunning to try to make a young writer's dream come true.
Clements's (Frindle) absorbing novel centers on Natalie, a 12-year-old aspiring author who, since her father died in an automobile accident, lives alone with her mother, Hannah, a children's book editor for a New York City publisher. As the book opens, Natalie's best friend, Zoe, is reading the novel that Natalie is writing. The impulsive, take-charge Zoe decides it is good enough to be published and hatches a scheme to ensure that it is. The path from manuscript to bound book takes some funny turns, as the girls elicit the aid of their English teacher, who rents office space that serves as the faux headquarters of Natalie's self-appointed agent: Zoe. Clements strikes a poignant note with his plot within a plot, since the youngster's novel tells of a girl whose father stands up for her always even when she is caught cheating in school. Through the use of alternating perspectives, he characterizes the two seventh graders as very different but equally likable parties in a "push-and-pull friendship." Though Natalie's is, indeed, a "school story," it is at heart a tale about the love between a father and daughter. In Zoe's eyes, "the book was like a good-bye poem from Natalie to her father," whom she misses enormously. Hannah, explaining to Natalie how she can recognize the rare gem of a manuscript among the many submissions she receives, says, "The good ones stand out like roses in a snowbank." This is one such standout. Ages 8-12.