The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez

Peter Johnson. Harper, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-221596-3
Seventh-grader Benny Alvarez is known for a few things: a negative attitude that his mother keeps trying to change; the Word Warriors, a group he started with his two best friends to use and decipher obscure and unfamiliar words; and a rivalry with his smart and bossy classmate Claudine. But lately whenever Benny looks at Claudine, he can’t help but notice how her eyes sparkle. Just as confusing as these contradictory emotions is the way Benny’s grandfather’s health has deteriorated after his stroke, not to mention the poetry unit in his English class, which turns into a battle of poems between Benny and Claudine. This slice-of-life novel portrays Benny and his entertaining family and friends with just the right balance of angst and humor; Benny’s narration is a spot-on mix of the sharp wisdom and utter befuddlement that can result when hormones come into play. Johnson (The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini) gives a strong sense of the fears and joys that come with being a 13-year-old-boy working to make sense of the way his life, friends, and family are changing. Ages 8–12. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/05/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
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Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-06-221598-7
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