|Life and times of Benny Alvarez|
Author: Johnson, Peter
As his English teacher focuses on poetry during the month of October, Benny faces down the smartest girl at school while also navigating his friendships and a difficult family life after his grandfather's multiple strokes.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.20
Points: 6.0 Quiz: 167557
Common Core Standards
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Kirkus Reviews (05/15/14)
School Library Journal (05/01/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (09/14)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 05/01/2014 Gr 6–8—In seventh grade, Benny is a contrarian, someone who consistently sees "the glass half empty." His younger brother Crash is as quirky and hyperactive as they come, while Benny's dad, a retired teacher, is known to be a bit unusual. Grandpa Alvarez has suffered several strokes and his health continues to decline. Benny, along with best friends, Jocko and Beanie, is deeply interested in words—their definitions and synonyms. When their teacher announces a new poetry unit, the girls in the class claim verse and rhyming, while the boys sit on the prose side. Benny's crush, the redhead Claudine, is a lover of poetry, which Benny hopes to use to his advantage. Family relationships and dynamics are entertaining at times—particularly Crash's ability to get his way—while Benny's negative outlook and the serious health problems suffered by Grandpa cast a gloomy seriousness to parts of the story. What remains is a solid foray into middle school with a kid whose first-person narrative reveals a potential leader and a surprisingly sensitive point of view.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 07/01/2014 Benny Alvarez can’t help being contrary. He thinks asking questions and expressing his opinions are important to his learning process, and he comes from a long line of arguers: his grandfather, his father, and even his wild little brother, Crash. His ability to debate someone to death even makes him an occasional classroom hero, like when he became the first boy to stand up to know-it-all Claudine in fifth grade. Now in seventh, Benny counts Claudine as his archenemy, though he has confusingly started blushing around her. Their rivalry reaches a new level during a boys-against-girls poetry competition, where Benny doesn’t feel his usual confidence. With his friends pointing out his tendency toward emotional tone deafness, he is able to see a different side to Claudine, especially when he discovers her beloved dog is sick. Johnson relates Benny’s age-appropriate struggles with humor and understanding. Benny is an appealing narrator: smart, spirited, and caring, but often bewildered by strong emotions. Gentle realism perfect for middle schoolers. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2014 Seventh grader Benny Alvarez is reasonably good in school, and he has good friends, supportive parents, siblings he likes, teachers he appreciates, a grandfather he cherishes, and a comfortable home in an unassuming neighborhood. So how does this fictional kid rate a novel? Where’s the drama, the angst? As plenty of very ordinary kid readers know, even the most ordinary of lives is pitted with ordinary challenges you simply can’t dodge, and adolescence is fraught less often with crises than with potholes of a more quotidian nature. So here’s Benny’s list. The English teacher he and his buddies worship from afar has lost her demigoddess status by announcing her engagement. There’s a boy/girl party in the offing, and Benny doesn’t know how to dance. A poetry assignment has spun out of control, and now he’s the spokesperson for the guys in class who insist that poetry should be rhyme free. His longtime nemesis, Claudine, is starting to look good. Claudine’s dog is dying, and Benny doesn’t know how to approach her in sympathy. Benny’s grandfather has suffered from strokes that, although not life-threatening, have made him frail and reminded the whole family about age and mortality. Benny copes with these issues the same way most readers will cope with their own-by keeping one eye on his many assets while juggling everything at once. Mom teasingly calls him Mr. Negativity, but readers who are privy to Benny’s inner workings will recognize that there’s less pessimism than smart snarkiness at work, and that Benny’s penchant for argument is his way of working through problems out loud. Johnson handles this with humor, respect, and restraint, allowing his protagonist to engage readers rather than dazzling them with authorial swagger. If Hilary McKay wrote guy books, this is what we’d get-and that is praise indeed. EB - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.