Monday, October 7, 2013

The secret life of Ms Finkleman by Ben H Winters

"Mr Melville was a large man of late middle age, with a wild mane of thick white hair, a thick white beard, and thick white eyebrows that were forever arching upward to express sarcasm, mock bewilderment, or scorn.  The Eyebrows of Cruelty, as there were know to all at Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School, weren't the only remarkable things about Mr Melville."

Mr Melville is famous for his eyebrows, for never speaking to other teachers, for giving a huge test once each semester which is only announced the night before and most importantly for his Special Project.

"Special Projects were totally random assignments that had nothing whatsoever to do with the approved Social Studies syllabus.  They were invented by Mr Melville personally ... Special Projects were weird, cool, and interesting."

This year the Special Project is to find a mystery and solve it.  It takes only a few seconds for Bethesda to decide on the perfect mystery.  She is going to investigate the school music teacher Ms. Finkleman.  As with all good detectives, Bethesda hunts out primary sources, conducts various interviews and she follows up all leads but the mystery that she uncovers will impact on every student in seventh-grade music fundamentals in ways no one could ever predict.

This book is filled with terrific characters - Principal Isabella Van Vreeland who seems like a maniac, her Assistant Jasper Ferras who knows how to jump when the Principal says jump!, Kevin McKelvey the piano kid, Ms Finkleman who thinks of herself as an agouti - a shy nervous rodent from the jungles of South America.  "The agouti's only hope of survival ... was to be at all times as small and still and plain and dull as possible." and perfect Pamela Preston who needs to maintain her position at the centre of the universe.

If you are a fan of Andrew Clements then you will love this book.  I highly recommend The secret Life of Ms Finkelman, I read it all in one sitting. Go to your library and grab this book.  When you have read it you should look for Adam Canfield of the Slash, The fabled fourth graders of Aesop Elementary and I put a spell on you.

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