Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

finklemanIt all started with the special project in Mr. Melville’s class.  Everyone liked his special projects –they were always so totally random.  The latest special assignment is to find a mystery (any mystery) and solve it.  Bethesda Fielding knows right away that the mystery she wants to solve is Ms. Finkleman, the music teacher.  Well, not Ms. Finkleman exactly –the mystery of who Ms. Finkleman is outside of Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School.  When Bethesda starts asking questions, she finds out that mousy, non-descript Ms. Finkleman is more mysterious than ever.  No one knows anything about her.  That’s why Bethesda decides she has to snoop in Ms. Finkleman’s desk.  She doesn’t find anything helpful, but there is a scrap of paper with some sort of code on it, so Bethesda takes it home.  As she ponders the possible meaning, something about it seems familiar.  She figures out that the initials stand for titles of songs on an old record of her dad’s, a record of a punk band called Little Miss Mystery and the Red Herrings.  Ms. Finkleman must be Miss Mystery!  Poor Ms. Finkleman, who has always thought of herself as an agouti (a small shy nervous creature, living in habitats with larger creatures who are always trying to eat them), is about to be outed.  This is a hilarious book, with a lot of funny side stories, including the principal’s bets with a rival school’s principal, which always end up with her having to wear something ridiculous like a giant foam sombrero that reads, “Go Grover Cleveland.”  When the principal gets wind that her music teacher is really a rock star, she decides this is her one chance to win a competition against Grover Cleveland –the upcoming Choral Corral.  She blackmails Ms. Finkleman into putting on a rock concert instead of her planned program of traditional English folk ballads, and mayhem ensues.  This book is so well written that I couldn’t stop reading until I finished it!  Review by Stacy Church

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