The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben Winters

Bethesda Fielding is an over-achiever.  And when she is given the assignment to solve a mystery in her life, she takes it seriously.  Her target is Ms. Finkleman, the entirely unremarkable, and unnoticed music teacher.  No one in the school (staff, students) know anything about Ms. Finkleman, and it is only when Bethesda finds a scrap of paper that leads her to some 1990s punk rock music, that she discovers that Ms. Finkleman was apparently once Little Miss Mystery, lead singer of the popular band, The Red Herrings.

The school is quickly in an uproar over the jaw-dropping news, and Ms. Finkleman becomes the most famous teacher in school, when all she really longs for is continued obscurity and to forget the past.  However, wheels are in motion, and before Ms. Finkleman can regroup, her program for a multi-school music competition is switched from 16th-century English folk ballads to rock music.  In order to cope, Ms Finkleman makes a secret bargain with Bethesda and rock-obsessed loner Tenny Boyer to get the show off the ground.

Full of quirky humour, zany side characters and plot twists, this book feels like a tribute band for Gordon Korman (he gives the book his recommendation on the cover) or Louis Sachar.  And, as my co-worker points out, it’s very clever and smart, built for eager middle-grade readers like the over-achieving Bethesda.  As a classroom read-aloud, it would be perfect, and I’m sure anyone reading it will be keen to share it with the teachers in their life (I have plans to give it to two middle grade teachers I know).  A little School of Rock, a little Harriet the Spy, Ms. Finkleman is a fun and engaging read for those looking for a mystery and a little wackiness.

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Filed under Book Review, Books I've Enjoyed, Just Read, Middle Grade Fiction

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