The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez
For seventh-grader Benny Alvarez, life is never dull. At school, where he hangs out with best friends Jocko and Beanie, he has a special teacher the boys call Ms. D (for Demigoddess). Benny is always, it seems, in conflict with pretty Claudine and her girlfriends. His family is very interesting. He has a younger brother, Crash, an older sister, Irene, and her odd boyfriend, Aldo. Benny’s father is retired, his mother is an executive, and his grandfather has suffered a couple of strokes which affects his speech and thinking. Ms. D has decided to have the students work on poetry, not a subject the boys are too crazy about, and she brings in a visiting poet. The girls believe poetry must have rhyme and line breaks, but the boys think poetry in sentences and paragraphs is just fine. The competition heats up and forces Benny and Claudine into head-to-head conflict.
Peter Johnson has created an engaging cast of characters, all very realistic and believable, and placed them in a likewise believable setting and situation. The writing is funny and smart, and the story is told in a pitch-perfect voice of a very likable and shrewd Benny.
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