Cover image for The janitor's boy
Title:
The janitor's boy
Author:
Clements, Andrew, 1949-
Personal Author:
Edition:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, ME : Thorndike Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
152 pages ; 23 cm
Summary:
Fifth-grader Jack finds himself the target of ridicule at school when it becomes known that his father is one of the janitors, and he turns his anger onto his father.
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 4.0 41791.
ISBN:
9780786229031
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

When Jack Rankin learns that he will be attending the high school where his father works as a janitor, he hopes to get through the year without any of the other students finding out. But then, the inevitable happens. A classmate loses his lunch all over the classroom, and Jack's father is sent in to clean up the mess. And to Jack's horror, his father looks at him with a big smile, and says, Hi, son. Jack is so embarrassed, he seeks revenge against his father, and gets himself into a sticky situation. His punishment: he must assist the janitor after school for three weeks. The work is tedious, not to mention humiliating. But there is one perk -- janitors have access to keys, keys to secret places. . . .


Author Notes

Andrew Clements was born in Camden, New Jersey on May 7, 1949. He received a bachelor's degree in literature from Northwestern University and master's degree in teaching from National Louis University. Before becoming a full-time author, he taught in the public schools north of Chicago for seven years, was a singer-songwriter, and worked in publishing.

He is well known for his picture book texts, but it was his middle school novel, Frindle, that was a breakthrough for his writing career. Frindle won numerous awards including the Georgia Children's Book Award, the Sasquatch Children's Book Award, the Massachusetts Children's Book Award, the Rhode Island Children's Book Award, and the Year 2000 Young Hoosier Book Award. His other works include The Landry News, The Janitor's Boy, No Talking, Things Not Seen, Things Hoped For, and Things That Are.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-7. The author of Frindle (1996) and The Landry News [BKL Je 1 & 15 99] offers another lighthearted school story with much middle-grade appeal. Jack Rankin begins fifth grade in the same building where his father works as head custodian. Jack is embarrassed by his father's job and hopes that no one will make the connection, but when the other kids discover this secret, the teasing begins. Jack retaliates, earning a three-week detention helping his dad after school. Although at first this seems like a life sentence--scraping gum off the bottoms of desks and chairs--it turns out to be the beginning of real understanding between father and son. Clements' strength is his realistic depiction of public schools, both from the child and the adult point of view. Jack's antics and those of his classmates ring true, as do the behaviors of the teachers and administrators. Less believable are the coincidental secrets that link Jack and his father with his grandfather, though Clements' legion of fans aren't likely to mind. --Kay Weisman


Publisher's Weekly Review

As he did in Frindle and The Landry News, Clements here puts an intelligent and credible fifth-grader at the center of a memorable novel. As the book opens, Jack, after much careful planning, is executing the "perfect crime": he assembles the biggest, stickiest wad of gum imaginable and affixes it to the desk in the back row of the music room. Why? The novel then flashes back to the moment when Jack's father, John, the head janitor, comes into his classroom to clean up vomit and calls Jack "son." At that point, "Jack felt like a giant letter had been branded on his forehead--L, for Loser." When Jack gets caught and the vice principal assigns him to three weeks' duty of scraping gum from school property after school, Jack decides, "There was only one person to blame for the whole mess.... Thanks again, Dad." Clements slowly builds an even, affecting narrative to reveal how Jack comes to better know and appreciate John, effectively drawing a parallel between this father-son relationship and John's relationship with his own father. The author adds a mystery to the mix when the boy discovers keys in the janitor's closet, which unlock literal doors to his understanding of his father. The author's uncanny ability to capture the fragile transformation from child to adolescent and its impact on family relationships informs every aspect of the novel. Ages 8-12. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Ever since second grade when he announced to his class that he wanted to grow up and become a janitor like his father, Jack Rankin has been the target of relentless teasing about his dad's work. Now a fifth grader, he learns that the town's century-old high school, where his father is head custodian, will serve as his temporary school while a new elementary building is under construction. Horrified at the prospect of being identified as the janitor's son, he becomes so full of anger that he can barely acknowledge his father at school, and vandalizes a desk. When he is caught, however, the principal assigns a most ironic punishment: Jack must spend three weeks cleaning gum off of school furniture, supervised by his own father. In effect, Jack becomes the building's newest janitor, inviting a fresh onslaught of torment from classmates and escalating his anger. Only when the boy finds a set of master keys that allow access to the building's bell tower and underground tunnels does he make a discovery that dramatically changes his opinion about his father. This novel frequently stalls amid weakly drawn characters, contrived dialogue, and a predictable plot. Even Jack's spiritual epiphany is so quick and tidy that it seems implausible. In spite of its shortcomings, the book will appeal to readers who will identify with the beleaguered Jack and his struggle to make peace with his father and with himself.-William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1: The Perfect Crime Jack Rankin had a particularly sensitive nose. As he walked into school in the morning, sometimes he would pause in the entryway and pull in a snootload of air from the flow rushing out the door. Instantly he could tell what the cafeteria lunch would be, right down to whether the Jell-O was strawberry or orange. He could tell if the school secretary was wearing perfume, and whether there was an open box of doughnuts on the table in the teachers room on the second floor. On this particular Monday morning Jack's nose was on high alert. He was working on a special project -- a bubble gum project. Today's activity was the result of about a week's worth of research and planning. Days ago, Jack had begun the project by secretly examining the bottoms of desks and tables all over the school, trying to decide exactly which kind of discarded gum was the most unpleasant. After he conducted his first few sniff tests, he didn't even have to look underneath a table or a chair to tell if there was gum. The scent of the stuff followed him from class to class. He had gum on the brain. He smelled gum everywhere -- on the bus, in the halls, passing a locker, walking into a classroom. Jack finally chose watermelon Bubblicious. It had to be the smelliest gum in the universe. Even weeks after being stuck under a chair or table, that sickly sweet smell and distinctive crimson color were unmistakable. And Bubblicious, any flavor of it, was definitely the stickiest gum available. By Jack's calculations, it was more than three times stickier than Bazooka. The final stage of Jack's gum caper began in today's third-period gym class. Mr. Sargent had them outside in the cool October air, running wind sprints to prepare for a timed mile next week. By the end of the period Jack had four pieces of gum in his mouth, chewed to maximum stickiness. The smell of it almost overpowered him. Carefully steering a wide path around Mr. Sargent, he went to his locker before the next class. He spat the chewed gum into a sandwich bag he had brought from home. The bag had two or three tablespoons of water in it to keep the gum from sticking to the plastic. Jack sealed the bag, stuffed it into his pocket, and immediately jammed another two pieces of gum into his mouth and started to chew. He processed those two pieces plus two more during science, managed to chew up another four pieces during lunch period, and even finished one piece during math -- quite an accomplishment in Mrs. Lambert's classroom. By the time he got to music, he had thirteen chewed pieces of gum in a plastic bag in the pocket of his jeans -- all warm and soft and sticky. Monday-afternoon music class was the ideal crime scene. The room had four levels, stair-stepping down toward the front. The seats were never assigned, and Mr. Pike always made kids fill the class from the front of the room backward. By walking in the door just as the echo of the bell was fading, Jack was guaranteed a seat in the back row. He sat directly behind Jed Ellis, also known as Giant Jed. With no effort at all he was completely hidden from Mr. Pike. The only other person in the back row was Kerry Loomis, sitting six seats away. She was hiding too, hunched over a notebook, trying to finish some homework. Jack had half a crush on Kerry. On a normal day he would have tried to get her attention, make her laugh, show off a little. But today was anything but normal. Mr. Pike was at the front of the room. Standing behind the upright piano, he pounded out a melody with one hand and flailed the air with his other one, trying to get fidgety fifth graders to sing their hearts out. Jack Rankin was supposed to be singing along with the rest of the chorus. He was supposed to be learning a new song for the fall concert. The song was something about eagles soaring and being free and happy -- not how Jack was feeling at this moment. Bending down, Jack brought the baggie up to his mouth and stuffed in all thirteen pieces of gum for a last softening chew. The lump was bigger than a golf ball, and he nearly gagged as he worked it into final readiness, keeping one eye on the clock. With one minute of class left, Mr. Pike was singing along now, his head bobbing like a madman, urging the kids to open their mouths wider. As the class hit a high note singing the word "sky," Jack leaned over and let the huge wad of gum drop from his mouth into his moistened hand. Then he began applying the gum to the underside of the folding desktop, just as he'd planned. He stuck it first to the front outside edge and then pulled a heavy smear toward the opposite corner. Then he stretched the mass to the other corner and repeated the action, making a big, sticky X. Round and round Jack dragged the gum, working inward toward the center like a spider spinning a gooey, scented web. As the bell rang Jack stood up and pulled the last gob of gum downward, pasting it onto the middle of the metal seat. A strand of sagging goo led upward, still attached to the underside of the desk. It was the perfect crime. The whole back of the music room reeked of artificial watermelon. And that gob on the seat? Sheer genius. Jack allowed himself a grim little smile as he shouldered his way into the hall. There were two more class periods, so a kid would have to notice the mess today -- this very afternoon. Mr. Pike would have to pull the desk aside so no one would get tangled in the gunk. Mr. Pike would need to get someone to clean it up before tomorrow. So after someone had swept the rooms and emptied the trash cans and washed the chalkboards and dusted the stairs and mopped the halls and cleaned the entryway rugs, someone would also have to find a putty knife and a can of solvent and try to get a very sticky, very smelly desk ready for Tuesday morning. It would be a messy job, but someone would have to do it. And Jack knew exactly who that someone would be. It would be the man almost everyone called John -- John the janitor. Of all the kids in the school, Jack was the only one who didn't call him John. Jack called him a different name. Jack called him Dad. Copyright © 2000 by Andrew Clements Excerpted from The Janitor's Boy by Andrew Clements All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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