The Janitor's Boy

The Janitor's Boy

Illustrated by: Brian Selznick
For Ages: 8 - 12
  • 1
Unfortunately, it also led to the perfect punishment. When Jack Rankin gets busted for defacing a school desk with a huge wad of disgusting, watermelon bubble gum, the principal sentences him to three weeks of after-school gum cleanup for the chief custodian. The problem is, Jack's anger at the chief custodian was the reason for his gum project in the first place. The chief custodian happens to be Jack's dad.
But doing time in the school basement after hours reveals some pretty surprising things: about the school, about Jack's father, and about Jack himself.
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 160 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780689835858 | 
  • September 2001 | 
  • Grades 3 - 7 | 
  • Lexile ® 770L
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Topics
Jack makes a careful plan to deface a music room desk. Explain Jack's plan. Do you think most kids put gum under desks or do other damage to school property in similar ways, or for similar reasons? What does Jack hope to achieve with his gum plan?
In chapter two, Andrew Clements writes: "...laughter from kids is more powerful than words from teachers." What does this mean? In what ways is this statement correct? In what ways is this statement incorrect?
What do Luke and Kirk do to Jack after his dad cleans up their classroom in chapter three? What other encounters does Jack have with Luke and Kirk? How does he handle them? Do you think Jack uses a good strategy to handle these boys? Explain your answer. Have you ever teased another kid about something he or she could not change? Why did you do this? How did you feel about it afterwards?
Chapter six begins with a discussion of ways in which Jack is like his dad. Are you ever told you are like your father, mother, or another family member? How does this comparison make you feel? How does the comparison make Jack feel? What is the real reason he feels this way?
Describe Jack's mother and sister. Do you think Jack has a good home life? How might this story have been different had Jack explained his feelings to one of his parents? Do you think he understood his feelings well enough to explain them?
How does Jack's father react to Jack's bad behavior and punishment? see more

More Books from this Author

Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School Collection
The Jake Drake Collection
The Map Trap
We Hold These Truths
Our Story Begins
The Houdini Box

About the Author

Andrew Clements
Photo Credit:

Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements is the author of the enormously popular Frindle. More than 10 million copies of his books have been sold, and he has been nominated for a multitude of state awards, including two Christopher Awards and an Edgar Award. His popular works include About Average, Troublemaker, Extra Credit, Lost and Found, No Talking, Room One, Lunch Money, and more. He is also the author of the Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School series. He lives with his wife in Maine and has four grown children. Visit him at