The Landry News by Andrew Clements begins as the story of a fifth-grade girl’s conflict with her teacher, but it grows into an insightful commentary on education, family, and the freedom of speech. The main character and her teacher both begin the story full of flaws, but they manage to challenge each other to achieve more and become better people.
Cara Landry has attended Denton Elementary School for four months, and nobody has noticed her. Today she gets attention—not all of it positive—when she pins the first edition of her newspaper, The Landry News, to the wall. The paper is well written, but it contains an editorial that says her teacher, Mr. Larson, is lazy. In his classroom,
There has been learning, but there has been no teaching. There is a teacher in the classroom, but he does not teach.
In front of the kids, Mr. Larson tears the paper to shreds. He drives home fuming about Cara’s accusations. He has been a teacher for years, and students like Cara know little about him. He used to be great at his job and was often voted Teacher of the Year by his students. Now he is burned out, and all he does is sit around reading the newspaper while his students goof off. At home, Mr. Larson tells his wife about the editorial. She takes Cara’s side as kindly as she can: “Sounds like this little girl is looking for a teacher, Karl—that’s all.” Mr. Larson faces the fact that he is letting his students down, and he resolves to do something about it.
The same evening, Cara brings her shredded newspaper home and tapes it together. Her mother sees the editorial and gets upset. Last year, at her old school, Cara started a similar newspaper just after her parents got divorced. She poured all her anger into her articles, trying to make others feel as hurt as she felt. Cara explains to her mother that she is not so angry anymore and that she wants to make a newspaper because she is good at it. When she promises to use her articles to tell the truth, her mother says:
But when you are publishing all that truth, just be sure there’s some mercy, too.
Cara takes this advice to heart and creates a new motto for her newspaper: “Truth and Mercy.”
On Monday, Cara brings a note of apology for Mr. Larson, but she is too scared to give it to him. It turns out she does not have to. To...
(The entire section is 1694 words.)
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