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The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman Hardcover – September 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-7–Given a class assignment to find a mystery and solve it, seventh-grader Bethesda Fielding sets out to discover the true identity and personality of Ms. Finkleman, her seemingly ordinary music teacher. The woman is so ordinary that she is practically invisible to students and staff alike. This changes when Bethesda unearths some 1990s rock music paraphernalia and puts the pieces together (so she thinks), to find that Ms. Finkleman used to be Little Miss Mystery, in the band The Red Herrings. Bethesda is in a quandary after the project becomes the school's obsession. There is a rock star among them and so the choral corral that Ms. Finkleman was planning for a multischool competition will now showcase rock and a performance by her, instead of the 16th-century English folk ballads she had hoped the students would deliver. It is safe to say that Ms. Finkleman shuns the sudden fame and the attention it garners her. This story is part mystery, part friendship novel, part school story. There are twists and turns, but what is most enjoyable is the effect that learning and playing rock music has on the teacher's students. Everyone seems to discover their true inner selves through music, and that includes the not-so-mysterious-after-all Ms. Finkleman.–Tracy Karbel, Chicago Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Ms. Finkleman, a mild-mannered Music Fundamentals teacher, is a completely anonymous figure at Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School. She is such a nonentity that ace student Bethesda Fielding determines there must be more to her—a secret history that needs to be uncovered. When Bethesda discovers her teacher’s punk-music past, the repercussions are hilarious, revolutionary, and TWR (“Totally Way Rock”). Bethesda is a lovable nerd and heads a cast of characters who are clearly types yet still believable, and their dialogue is authentic. This title touches on intriguing issues about identity, the way teachers connect with their students, and second chances, all of which could open up lively discussions. This is also a just-plain-fun read that culminates in a wholly satisfying ending, and it will easily appeal to fans of Andrew Clements and Gordon Korman, as well as anyone who ever watched School of Rock or High School Musical and imagined putting on the best show ever. Grades 5-8. --Kara Dean

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 910L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061965413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061965418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,646,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben H. Winters is the author of seven novels, including Countdown City, a nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award, and The Last Policeman, which won an Edgar Award, was nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, and was an Amazon.com Best Book of 2012. His other books include Bedbugs, Android Karenina, the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the middle-grade novels The Mystery of the Everything and The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, a Bank Street Best Book of 2011 and an Edgar Award nominee. Ben is also the author of many plays and musicals for children and adults, and he has written for national and local publications including the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and the Huffington Post. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he teaches at Butler Univsity, and he blogs at www.BenHWinters.com

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beverly L. Archer VINE VOICE on February 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Summary from Booklist: Ms. Finkleman, a mild-mannered Music Fundamentals teacher, is a completely anonymous figure at Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School. She is such a nonentity that ace student Bethesda Fielding determines there must be more to her--a secret history that needs to be uncovered. When Bethesda discovers her teacher's punk-music past, the repercussions are hilarious, revolutionary, and TWR ("Totally Way Rock")

Mr. Melville is notorious for assigning "special projects" in his social studies class. Who knew his assignment "to solve a mystery" would turn the quiet mouse-like music teacher's life upside down.

Students who enjoy Andrew Clements' (Frindle, No Talking, etc) style of writing. It is a quick, engaging read that will also serve as an introduction to mysteries. The characters are well developed and the plot moves along at a good pace. Students will enjoy the musical references. Would make a great read a loud for the classroom.

Mrs. Archer's rating: 5 of 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joel Begleiter on July 2, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Started this expecting a great young adult book. Ended it having cried several times, having discovered that it works for people of any age. Great read, start to finish.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on October 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an assignment, Bethesda Fielding's seventh grade social studies teacher asked her students to solve a mystery in their lives. Bethesda decides to investigate her boring band teacher, Ms. Finkleman, because she suspects there is more to her than meets the eye. Is she really just a plain band teacher, or has she been hiding a secret life? But when Bethesda thinks she has solved the mystery, an even bigger one unfolds, transforming the way the whole school thinks of Ms. Finkleman.

This book is full of surprises. Mr. Winters can turn ordinary school activities into intriguing events. Twists and turns in the story will keep you on the edge of your seat. I highly recommend The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman to readers of all ages.
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By Karin on January 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
It was very enjoyable one of the best books I've read. My favorite character is Bethesda fielding even know her special project wasn't correct she was still awesome !
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