Monday 19 December 2022

The Last Holiday Concert - Andrew Clements

The Last Holiday Concert 
Andrew Clements
ISBN 9780689845253
eISBN 9781442462274

Six years ago, I discovered the works of Andrew Clements. I was instantly hooked and have now read over 20 books by him. Many consider him the ‘master of school stories’, and I would agree. I have a dual form of dyslexia and did not learn to read until after grade 7. So I never read ‘school stories’ when I was young. That combined with having my own school aged children has instilled a great appreciation for the genre and specifically for the works of Andrew Clements. Clements passed away in 2019 his last novel was The Friendship War, which is an excellent volume. I set the goal of reading all of Clements’s works, but as my own children have grown these books had slid by the way side. I have now returned to them yet again. The stories I have read recently have inspired me to recommit to that goal.

This is another excellent read from Clements. The description of the book states:

“For Hart Evans, being the most popular kid in sixth grade has its advantages. Kids look up to him, and all the teachers let him get away with anything -- all the teachers except the chorus director, Mr. Meinert. When Hart's errant rubber band hits Mr. Meinert on the neck during chorus practice, it's the last straw for the chorus director, who's just learned he's about to lose his job due to budget cuts. So he tells the class they can produce the big holiday concert on their own. Or not. It's all up to them. And who gets elected to run the show? The popular Mr. Hart Evans.

Hart soon discovers there's a big difference between popularity and leadership, and to his surprise, discovers something else as well -- it's really important to him that this be the best holiday concert ever, and even more important, that it not be the last.”

This is a quintessential ‘school story’ but it deals with a very unusual school. A school dedicated to only the 6th Grade. Hart saw this in a flash:

“Then, as the last group of kids sat down, Hart saw something he had never noticed before. What Hart saw was the complete sixth grade, almost four hundred students. The thought that came to him was like a vision, a burst of understanding.

And Hart said to himself, We’re the Palmer kids now!

In the town of Brentbury, kids went to kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades at Collins Elementary School or at Newman Elementary School. Like two streams tumbling down different sides of the same hill, the Collins kids and the Newman kids bubbled along separately for six years. Those two streams of children flowed together for the first time at Palmer Intermediate, where they became a swirling pool of sixth graders. Palmer Intermediate School contained the sixth grade, the whole sixth grade, and nothing but the sixth grade.

Every fall it took a couple months for the new sixth graders to stop thinking of themselves as Newman kids or Collins kids. By October or November it began to sink in: We’re the Palmer kids now.”

And further on:

“Palmer kids. Looking around at all the sixth graders, Hart wrestled with the idea. He couldn’t put it into words, but he got a strange feeling—like he was looking at himself in the rearview mirror of a time machine. He saw that these four hundred kids were going to travel into the future with him. These were the kids he’d be on teams with in junior high and high school. They’d go to football games and dances together. They would get their driver’s licenses and go hang out at Peak’s Diner. These were the kids he would graduate from high school with, these Palmer kids. He was looking at his class, really looking at it for the first time.

Then Hart Evans, the visionary seer of the future, remembered the tangled wad of rubber bands in his pocket, and in a split second he was a sixth grade kid again.”

Hart has to step up once duly elected to run the Christmas Concert. He has a limited number of days, and a limited number of class hours to pull it all together. He soon realized he cannot be every’ones buddy and get the job done. But how to make it work, and get as many of his fellow chorus members on board is a life lesson. 

“A few short weeks ago he had hoped Hart Evans would fall flat on his face. He had wanted the kid to hand the concert back, sit down, and shut up. Earlier today as he had talked with the principal, and then with the gym teachers and the custodians, Mr. Meinert had realized how important this concert had become to him. He wanted it to be a success.

None of this was about him—Mr. Meinert could see that now. In two weeks, this wouldn’t even be his school anymore. But after those two weeks, the kids—including Hart Evans—they would still be his students.

And this concert was their concert.”

This is a very moving story, following both Mr. Meinert and Hart Evans as they navigate the 6th grade world. One looking to establish his place as king of the class. The other trying to do a good job one last time on his last school concert, even though he is being made redundant by school board budget cuts. He cares for his kids and he cares for the school. This is another moving story that is a great look into growing, growing up and grown-ups. And how youth and adults interact and see the world differently.

This is another wonderful read from the pen of Andrew Clements, it is a great Middle Grade novel. A fantastic book for young readers, for the young at heart, and for those of us who just love a great story!

Books by Andrew Clements:
Bird Adalbert
Noah and the Ark and the Animals
Santa's Secret Helper
Temple Cat
Mother Earth's Counting Book
Billy and the Bad Teacher
Who Owns the Cow
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
(Adapter)Philipp's Birthday Book
Riff's BeBop Book
Real Monsters Go for the Mold
Things That Go EEK on Halloween
Real Monsters Stage Fright
Music Time, Any Time
Double Trouble in Walla Walla
Gromble's Haunted Halloween
Hey Dad, Could I Borrow Your Hammer
The Landry News
Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play
The Mouse Family
The Janitor's Boy
Circus Family Dog
The Christmas Kitten
The School Story
Things Not Seen 
The Jacket 
A Week in the Woods
Slippers at Home
Naptime for Slippers
The Report Card
The Last Holiday Concert
Slippers at School
Slippers Loves to Run
A Million Is a Lot of Dots
Lunch Money
Things Hoped For
Room One: A Mystery or Two
No Talking
Things That Are
Lost and Found
Extra Credit
About Average
The Map Trap
The Friendship War
The Losers Club

Pets to the Rescue Series
Ringo Saves the Day!
Brave Norman
Tara and Tiree, Fearless Friends
Delores and the Big Fire

Jake Drake Series
Jake Drake Know-It-All
Jake Drake, Bully Buster
Jake Drake, Teacher's Pet
Jake Drake, Class Clown

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School Series
We the Children
Fear Itself
The Whites of Their Eyes
In Harm's Way
We Hold These Truths

Reading Program Books
Karen's Island
Three Wishes for Buster
Bill Picket: An American Original, Texas Style
Hurricane Andrew
Ham and Eggs for Jack
Life in the Desert
Desert Treasure
Inventors: Making Things Better, Steck-Vaughn
Milo's Great Invention

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