The School Story


Andrew Clements

Number of Pages: 


Minimum grade level: 


Who knows more about school than someone who's right there, five days a week, nine months a year? Do you think you know what school is like more than anyone else? Well, Natalie, an aspiring writer, thinks so. She hears that her mom's publishing company is looking to find and publish stories set in schools. Natalie is inspired to write a novel set in school to practice writing, but when her best friend Zoe reads it, Zoe decides to scheme a plan to get it published. But how can Natalie have her mom read it fairly, without thinking "just a kid" wrote it?

Read pages 26-27: a phony name! Then read on page 28 from "Zoe reached for the chair" to page 29 "'s a great name!"

So Natalie changes her name on her manuscript and Zoe takes on a new identity to become Natalie's - I mean Cassandra Day's - agent. A book agent helps shop around an unpublished book to publishing houses to try to find one that will publish the book. So, does Natalie's mom even read the manuscript? Does it get published? You'll want to read The School Story to discover all the crazy ways Zoe and Natalie work to get the manuscript into the right hands --and hopefully to get it published.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. On page 6, Natalie's mother lists the kinds of books the publishing company thinks people want to buy: series books, adventure books and school stories. Do you agree that those are the kinds of books you want to read? If you could sit down with the editors of a publishing company, what would you tell them you'd like to see published?
  2. Natalie's mother and Zoe really notice the character of the father in Natalie's story. Zoe thinks of the story as a goodbye poem from Natalie to her father. Why do you think she describes it that way?
  3. Zoe did a lot of research, planning, and convincing to get Natalie's book published. Did it seem realistic for two 12-year-olds to accomplish what they did on their own? Why or why not?
  4. On page 28, Zoe says, "Remember Natalie, she's not just your mom. She's your editor." After turning in her manuscript, Natalie understands what Zoe means. How will Natalie see her mother differently now?
  5. With the help of her editor, Natalie rewrites parts of her book so it will be even better. Have you ever had to rewrite a paper for your teacher? How do you think rewriting for an editor and rewriting for a teacher are the same? How might they be different?
  6. "The School Story" describes a lot about the process of how a book is published. What interesting things did you find out about book publishing?


Zoe and Natalie are familiar with Publishers Weekly, a newsmagazine about the book-publishing industry. Ask your librarian for a copy and look for news about children's books, the bestseller lists, and the "Hot Deals" column.

If you liked this book, try

  • Frindle by Andrew Clements
  • How I Became a Writer and Oggie Learned to Drive by Janet Taylor Lisle
  • Jack's Black Book by Jack Gantos
  • No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.