The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  It’s bad enough that Caitlyn’s mom has decided to move to Vermont right before Caitlyn starts seventh grade.  But when Caitlyn starts school at Mitchell, she finds she’s part of a group called The Originals, the first kids to go through the tiny community school that opened eight years ago.  Caitlyn’s arrival in seventh grade isn’t the only big news–class clown Paulie Fink has mysteriously disappeared. Caitlyn hates the school at first, and can’t believe there are no lockers, that she has to sit with a kindergartener at lunch, and that her class is in charge of looking after a bunch of goats.  When her classmates decide to create a reality show to find out who the next Paulie Fink will be, Caitlyn reluctantly takes on the role of leader, creating challenges to find out who can take Paulie’s place. When budget troubles threaten to close the school, she is surprised at how much she wants to keep it open.  Interspersed with interviews, emails, and texts, Caitlyn’s narrative shows how she grows and changes throughout the first months at her new school. 368 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I wasn’t a huge fan of Ali Benjamin’s The Truth About Jellyfish, so my expectations were low for this book. I was pleasantly surprised by the fun and interesting characters.  The format and the reality show idea will appeal to readers. I may have found another fifth grade book club book.

Cons:  Caitlyn comes across as a bit of a brat at the beginning of the book, but readers who persevere will learn the reasons for her behavior and see some positive changes as the story goes on.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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