Thursday, December 2, 2010

review: the secret life of ms. finkleman by ben winters

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The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman is a fantastic middle grade novel, but man, did it make me feel old! These kids have parents and teachers who came up during the 1990s punk scene. Good ol' rock'n'roll is at the center of this mystery, which made me love it all the more.

It all gets started when the social studies teacher assigns another of his famous Special Projects--the one thing the 7th graders actually look forward to in a notoriously tough class. Bethesda decides to investigate the music teacher, a seemingly ordinary woman who has revealed nothing of her personal life.

These kids are perfectly characterized; even the few scenes with the various parents showed how the children's personalities were shaped. The pacing is also excellent. For example, as snotty Pamela tries to bluff her way through a blackmail attempt, it seemed just the right time to discover the next layer of Ms. Finkleman's secret. And then it comes, simply stated and concluding the chapter. Winters wrote this one for kids, but there's enough to keep adults interested too.
Review copy provided by the publisher, HarperCollins.

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