Title: Room One
Author: Andrew Clements
Illustrator: Mark Elliott
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 0689866879 (pbk)
Audience: Ages 9-12
Summary: Ted Hanson loves mysteries, so when he catches sight of a face in the window of the abandoned Anderson farm he’s determined to return and investigate. But first he has to finish his paper route, do his morning farm chores, and go to school. Ted is the only 6th grader in Room One where Mrs. Mitchell also teaches four 4th graders and four 8th graders. The school has fewer students each year as families leave the area for better economic opportunities; without more children the school will close. Ted pursues the mystery of the face in the window like a well organized detective: observing, listing clues, making plans. He finds that the house is being used by a mother, the widow of an Iraqi war veteran, and a ten year old boy and a twelve year old girl. Circumstances compelled the family to leave their home quickly and fearfully and as Ted learns their story he helps to supply them food. When he realizes that the problem is too big for him he turns to his teacher and then to his parents. In the back of his mind is the thought: if they stay here that will mean we can keep Room One open. When the plight of the family on the run becomes known in town, a warm welcome is extended to them, but by then they have moved on. The publicity, however, makes Plattsford, NE, an appealing place for other military veterans. A few added families mean that Room One can stay open.
Literary elements at work in the story: Rural Nebraska is the setting for this readable, age appropriate book. The plot highlights the problems and joys of a rural area, the difficulties of small farmers, and the plight of military veterans as part of a seamlessly woven story. Room One won the 2006 Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best Juvenile Mystery but there’s a great deal more than a detective at work here.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? For city dwellers, this book is a window on life in a rural, farm based culture. The story reflects the population of the Midwest and portrays relationships between generations
Theological Conversation Partners: There are many positive Christian values reflected here: Ted’s discipline of work, his love of the land, the respect of children for adults and adults for children, the importance of promises, and the importance of paying attention to people. Most significant, however, is the idea of hospitality. (Romans 9:12). Platsford, NE gives a prodigal demonstration of what it means to open homes and hearts to a family in need. Both the needs of small farmers and of veterans returning from war and their families are current concerns that this age child can begin to recognize.
Faith Talk Questions
- Ted Hanson leads a solitary life by the standards of most 6th graders. Does he seem satisfied with it? What makes up for lack of peers?
- How would living and working on a farm contribute to Ted’s sense of responsibility?
- What characteristics of a detective does Ted copy?
- Is careful observation an important activity for knowing and understanding people?
- Do you think Ted is reckless, disregarding possible danger in helping this family on the run?
- How do the young people, April and Ted, act responsibly in this story? How do the adults act responsibly?
- Ted depended on adults to be hospitable. Whom did he call? How many people were finally involved in this? How did you like the name “Foster Town?”
- Paul reminds the church in Rome to be hospitable. People opened their homes so the church could meet there. Preachers who traveled to spread the Gospel stayed in hospitable homes. How can we be hospitable today? Who needs our hospitality?
Review prepared by regular contributor Virginia Thomas
Room One by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.