Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman

Winters, Ben. The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman.
For her special project in Mr. Melville's class, Bethesda needs to unravel a mystery that is present in something in her everyday life. She decides to investigate Ms. Finkleman, the mousy music teacher about whom no one seems to know anything except for the fact that she has a tattoo. Based on this information, she has a conversation with her father about music and old bands and comes to the conclusion that the music teacher was once Miss Mystery and led a punk rock band. Ms. Finkleman is not happy to have this information known about her, but when the principal makes a bet that their middle school can beat another at a choral competition, the group dumps their production of Greensleeves in favor of an ambitious rock endeavor. This is not the only challenge hanging over the students' heads-- they need to pass their exams as well. Can the group win, or will the principal have to dress up as a hot dog? Who exactly is Ms. Finkleman?
Strengths: A solid, amusing school story, this will go down well with students who like Beverly Cleary's Ramona books or Andrew Clements.
Weaknesses: Are covers getting worse? This looks vaguely like Edison's Gold, with the creepy, dated illustration. Why not the back of Ms. Finkleman's mousy self, but showing her tattoo, perhaps holding a Miss Mystery album cover behind her back? This reminds me slightly of Because of Mr. Terupt, with the emphasis on the teacher, and that has been a really hard sell. This might go down better with elementary age students who want to read about middle school.

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