Bound To Stay Bound

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School Library Journal - 12/01/2015 Gr 4–6—Fourth-grader Benny is not having any luck. His father had an accident for which Benny blames himself. His best friend moved to Florida. And his brother George, who is autistic, can do tricks on his bicycle, while Benny is still having trouble starting and stopping. In her debut novel for middle grade readers, McGovern presents a heart-filled story of a likable boy who doesn't realize that his natural gifts are recognizable and valued by a supportive family and his teacher Mr. Norris. At school, a new program called C.A.R.E. rewards students who "do things that show our empathy and compassion." While the other students count their C.A.R.E. scores, Benny feels like his good deeds are invisible. At home, Benny's mother encourages him to find his passion, but he's not sure what that is. There are many moments that will ring true to middle grade readers: feeling anxious about friendships, wanting to be noticed, and trying to do the right thing. When Benny's father has to go back to the hospital, all of Benny's fears return, but, gradually, he is able to navigate his new circumstances, especially when he realizes that he and Mr. Norris share something very important. VERDICT Recommend this sensitive novel to fans of Lisa Graff's Absolutely Almost (Philomel, 2014) and Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt (Delacorte, 2010).—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA - Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.

Booklist - 01/01/2016 Benny’s not loving fourth grade. First, Benny’s father is hospitalized for a brain aneurysm, and although it’s not Benny’s fault, he still feels responsible. Second, he got Mr. Norris, everybody’s favorite teacher, except that Mr. Norris isn’t much fun this year. Third, since Benny’s best friend moved away, he’s stuck with Jeremy, who is woefully inexperienced at friendship. Then there are constant annoyances, such as spelling, math, and the sometimes irksome behavior of Benny’s older brother, George, who is autistic. Despite his internal turmoil, however, Benny’s first-person narrative radiates with exactly the kind of compassion his mother recommends: to ease your own pain, try to help others. Like many nine-year-olds, Benny can be guileless in one moment and wise beyond his years in another, and his fascination with LEGO Minifigures will likely delight many young readers, who might share his hobby. In addition, Benny’s goodhearted family embraces a well-rounded life, supporting each other even when it’s tough. Highly recommended for fans of realistic fiction by writers such as Ann M. Martin or Lisa Graff. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.

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