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"A smaller percentage of 17 year olds saw adults reading in their homes in 1999 than in 1984."
Publisher: Delacorte Press, an Imprint of Random House Children's Books, 2014
Material: hard cover
Summary: Ever since his father died, things have been getting tighter and tighter for Benjamin (12) and his mom. Mom just lost her job; Mr. Katz just glued an eviction notice to their door; food options are nil and none, and grandpa Zeyde Jake just landed on their doorstep. It's hard to decide what they need most - time or money. Mom has to pass her final CPA exam, but she may not get the results fast enough. Benjamin wants to help his family, too. He made a promise to his dad that he intends to keep! He sets his sights on winning the contest sponsored by the Royal-T Bathroom Tissue company (and any other contest that catches his eye). He's clever and great with words, but will he have a winning slogan? Ben narrates this middle grade novel about life, loss, and family.
Type of Reading: independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 to 14; read yourself: 9 to 13
Interest Level: 10 to 12
Reading Level: 4.7
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Ben narrates a nice story, but not a compelling one. The story has some humor, but for the most part is a downer. The facts about toilet paper at the beginning of each chapter are cute and interesting, but don't do much to change the sadness that permeates Ben's life. For kids who are dealing with loss (or the sudden intrusion of an aging grandparent with dementia) this could be a comforting story. For the most part, though, it isn't one I'd rush to recommend.
Pros: Readers who like first-person stories may enjoy being part of seventh grader Benjamin Epstein's world. Preteens and teens who are struggling with loss or change could find a friend in Ben.
Cons: The story is not a happy-go-lucky one. While it does have humor, it may not be as over-the-top as you might think based on the title.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a well written book, but not one you'd save for reading again.
Educational Themes: This is a book meant to be read for fun. There are poignant moments that could open conversations between parents and kids. One of my favorite parts is the glossary of Yiddish terms in the back.
Notes: This publisher sent a copy of this book as part of the 2014 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Award (Cybils) process. This review is not intended to represent the opinions of the Cybils. The book will be donated to a reader in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, death and loss, humor, middle grade, Judaism
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.