Fourth grade is proving to be harder than Benny Barrows expected. But Benny is stronger than he realized.
Benny has a lot to deal with. Over the summer, his dad suffered from an aneurism that’s left him an invalid at home. Dad’s behavior is now unpredictable and at times embarrassing, somewhat similar to that of Benny’s older brother George, who is autistic. At school, Benny has difficulty with math and spelling, and he does not excel at sports. His best friend moved away the previous school year, and now Benny finds himself trying to make new friends. Mr. Norris, his teacher, has troubles of his own and doesn’t seem to notice Benny. Martin, his other older brother, is busy figuring out his own life. As the family faces financial trouble, with medical bills mounting and Dad not able to work, the boys come up with an idea to raise money. It is then Benny movingly if predictably realizes how lucky he is when everyone—family, friends, neighbors, and schoolteachers—comes together to help. In narrator Benny, readers find a resilient and very observant 9-year-old who accepts those around him with their strengths and shortcomings alike. Recent books have featured an autistic or otherwise disabled character as the narrator. Here, McGovern offers the perspective of someone who loves that character.
Though a little heavy-handed, Benny’s story is insightful and inspirational. (Fiction. 8-12)