The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez
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Release Date
June 24, 2014
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Everyone thinks Benny Alvarez is Mr. Negativity. According to Benny, he's just realistic about seeing the "other side" of things—when it comes to just about everything. But maybe there's another way to deal with the things Benny can't control—like his ailing grandfather, his wild younger brother, and the know-it-all girls at school. In this poignant novel about acceptance, Benny Alvarez will have to decide . . . Is the glass half empty or half full?

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Embracing Optimism
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Benny has a rather complicated life that includes a lot of friends and family. There are friends Jocko and Beanie, who are in his class at school and are as interested as Benny is in words. Benny has siblings Crash (who is young, rowdy, and rather sensitive) and Irene (who has a quirky boyfriend Aldo). His older father is retired from teaching, and so around the house a lot, and his grandfather is very involved but who has suffered several strokes.A poetry unit in Benny's class takes up a lot of the time at school, especially when Benny realizes that Claudine also is very fond of poetry, and he might be very fond of her. The time at home is taken up with Crash being Crash, and the slow slippage of the grandfather into poorer and poorer health. Benny doesn't have a great outlook on life (his mother categorizes him as a "glass half empty" sort of person), but he does start to realize that a certain amount of optimism is necessary to make it through the day.

This is a nice, short, relatively funny book for boys. Just walk down the shelves of any middle grade fiction collection and pick out all of those-- there aren't many, and so many more are needed. This has a great cover, lots of solid middle grade issues, slight romance, and a character who is a tiny bit ethnic (Spanish name but a fair amount of Irish ancestry as well). This will be a popular book.
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