cover image The Handbook

The Handbook

Jim Benton. Scholastic Press, $12.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-545-94240-9

In this kooky neighborhood caper from Benton (the Franny K. Stein series), three friends discover the manual parents use to maintain control of their kids. Twelve-year-old Jack is tired of his parents bossing him around, and his friend Mike and neighbor/crush Maggie feel the same about their elders. Then Jack, who enjoys scouring his neighbors’ trash for treasure, accidentally discovers an item that wasn’t meant to be discarded, the Secret Parent’s Handbook, which offers a master class in manipulation: “If the child has asked for something expensive, reply, ‘Do you think money grows on trees?’ That way you will have saved yourself from the unpleasantness of saying no and will have inflicted on the child a confusing question that will temporarily distract it from thinking about the object it has requested.” After reading the handbook, Jack and his friends turn the tables on their parents, but they’re soon caught between adult agents seeking the book and a kid-driven Resistance doing the same. It’s slapstick comedy meets conspiracy thriller, and it makes a good case for better, more open parent-child communication. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)