After the death of his beloved father, a contest-loving seventh-grade boy and his hardworking waitress mother fight to stay financially afloat.
Benjamin Epstein is still reeling from his father’s death as his mother struggles to achieve her deceased husband’s “Grand Plan”—becoming a licensed CPA. The finish line is in sight, but tips have been terrible, and the landlord is about to evict. Benjamin, who has grit to spare and a gift for wordplay, works diligently on what he hopes will be the winning entry in a contest sponsored by a toilet-paper company, which would give them more than enough money to tide them over. Things become complicated when his increasingly addled grandfather unexpectedly moves in, and Benjamin tangles with a bully who is after his hard-earned candy money. Although Benjamin is almost too good to be true—kindhearted, determined, smart, helpful and full of heart—it’s impossible not to like him and, as the financial noose tightens, root for him like crazy. The subject matter is serious, as this family lives right on the financial edge, and the impending eviction adds suspense. Gephart’s generous view of humanity’s basic goodness shines through, and she leavens her characters’ difficult situation with plenty of humor. Boys in particular will enjoy the toilet-paper facts that begin each chapter.
Readers can’t help but enjoy this heartening book about hanging in there. (Fiction. 9-12)