Friday, October 15, 2010

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman - Ben H. Winters

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters
At Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School, Mr Meville the social studies teacher is know for his special project. They can be given at anytime and have nothing to do with the curriculum. The students love them. For the newest special project- Mr. Meville ask his 7th grade students to solve a mystery in their own lives.

Bethesada Fielding decides to solve the mystery that is Ms. Finkleman, the band and chorus teacher.

Bethesda stood and addressed the other kids at the table as if she were making a big closing argument in a courtroom. "This woman is a part of our lives!" She's a part of our community. We take music with her every single day." (Which wasn't true, since music and art alternated, plus there were weekends and everything, but nobody interrupted. Bethesda was on a rool.) "And yet we don't know the first thing about her! Ms Finkleman is a walking, talking mystery, right in our midst.

Bethesada uncovers a secret of Ms. Finkleman. Word quickly spreads that the band and chorus teacher was a rock star. When Principal Vreeland hears about Ms. Finkleman's musical background, she demands that the seventh grade class put on a rock concert for the All County Choral Corral musical competition. Ms. Finkleman doesn't want to but she has no choice.

Bethesda and Ms. Finkleman share the main character spotlight with Tenny who isn't doing well in school. Ms. Finkleman works out a great deal with the two, so Tenny is producing the show. The only thing that can hold Tenny's attention is rock music.

Tenny's mind always drifted back to rock and roll. By the time Melville had let him off the hook and moved on to the next kid, Tenny was already drawing on his shoe. But then the music started. That girl with the glasses, Bethesda was playing a record on a beat up turntable. Tenny dropped his marker and sat straight up, eyes wide open, trying to figure out what song it was. What band even. It was punk, definitely early nineties punk, but who was it? Whatever it was it was awesome. The song was built on a thundering four-four beat, straight up and down with a galloping, snare-rolling drum figure and a really sweet, slippery eighth note bass line. And the vocal - the vocal was insane. The lyrics were garbled and buried in the mix, further distorted by the record player's tinny old speaker. But it didn't matter what this girl was singing. The way she was singing it was out of control. The vocal was delicious, a serious of mad whoops, passionate and atonal and intense.

I picked up this book because of the great cover. As good as the cover is it doesn't hint at the musical goodness that's inside. It all begins with Tenny though by the end all the seven graders rock out. Even Kevin Mckelvey a classically trained pianist who wears a suit to school.This book was some serious fun. I loved it. Winter's writing is fun and clever. The author even sneaks a little heart into the story.

an excerpt

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