So, a new series by Andrew Clements. Focused on the beginning chapter book audience, with fun sketches by Adam Stower, a mystery, clues, and likable characters.
There's just one problem.
It's boooooring. Sorry, but it is. I've read and enjoyed many Andrew Clements books and they're big favorites at my library, but this book doesn't seem like a beginning chapter book or the beginning of a series. It's like an excessively long prologue with a bunch of sailing information thrown in.
A beginning chapter book, even if it's one of a series, maybe especially if it's one of a series, should have a complete plot and a strong mix of action and character with smoothly blended illustrations to hold and encourage young readers.
Well, the illustrations look good.
The story see-saws back and forth between Benjamin Pratt's feelings and thoughts - about his parents' separation, his quasi-friendship with Jill, his love of sailing, and his conflicted reaction to Mr. Keane's death - and the "mystery" of saving the school from the Evil Corporate Developers Who Have Lots of Money. It being Clements, things are, of course, not so black and white. There's more nuances to the characters and the forces involved.
Even with Clements' trademark character development and open-minded perspective, the plot drags and extensive paragraphs on the art of sailing don't help. The story doesn't so much end on a cliff-hanger as on a "oh it's a cliff, blah blah blah I'll be back later said the plot".
Serious Clements fans will want to read this, but will probably be disappointed. I'm going to wait until more titles in the series have come out and see if it improves - if the plot tightens in further volumes, it might be worth buying for kids who can wade through the first story.