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Spotlight on: Adam Canfield of the Slash by Michael Winerip

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Adam Canfield of the Slash by Michael Winerip Michael Winerip, Adam Canfield of the Slash

It is Adam Canfield’s last year at Harris Elementary/Middle School. Ever since he was in the third grade, he has been a reporter for the school newspaper, The Slash (named after the punctuation mark in the school’s name), and this year he has been appointed coeditor, along with another eighth grader, Jennifer.

This year is going to be different for The Slash. Adam and Jennifer are looking for some real news, not just the usual test-prep schedules and Halloween safety recommendations. The new third-grade cub reporter (and general annoyance, Adam thinks), Phoebe, has some good ideas -- like doing a profile on the school janitor, Eddie -- but Adam isn’t too keen on following up on them.

Eventually, he gives in, though, and things really start to take off with the next issue, which is full of exposés on a misguided contest, county bureaucracy, and .... Also high on their list is a story on Miss Minnie Bloch, who left $75,000 to the school. But neither Adam nor Jennifer can seem to get a clear answer from Principal Marris for where the money is being used. (“General improvements,” is all she will say.)

In researching this question further, the duo discover a lot about their principal, and a lot more surprising information about their mysterious benefactor. But what are the chances that Principal Marris will let them put it into the paper?

Author Michael Winerip shared a Pulitzer Prize (for National Reporting) in 2001 with the New York Times staff. He wanted Adam Canfield of the Slash to be a novel about “kids with superpowers,” so he “gave Adam notebooks and a pen and a newspaper that would print his stories.” (This should give you some idea of how highly he thinks of his own job.) The result is a marvelous look behind the operations of a school newspaper.

It doesn’t exactly present the most plausible of storylines, but it is the most enjoyable novel for young readers that I’ve read yet. (A story does not have to be plausible to be a lot of fun, as anyone who has seen the recent Ocean's Eleven remake can confirm.) Winerip’s characters are compelling and he doesn’t talk down to his readers. In fact, the only difference between this book and a novel written for adults is the age of the protagonists.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form in The Gardner News. Copyright 2006.

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