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Just My Luck Paperback – March 14, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Fourth-grader Benny is not having any luck. His father had an accident for which Benny blames himself. His best friend moved to Florida. And his brother George, who is autistic, can do tricks on his bicycle, while Benny is still having trouble starting and stopping. In her debut novel for middle grade readers, McGovern presents a heart-filled story of a likable boy who doesn't realize that his natural gifts are recognizable and valued by a supportive family and his teacher Mr. Norris. At school, a new program called C.A.R.E. rewards students who "do things that show our empathy and compassion." While the other students count their C.A.R.E. scores, Benny feels like his good deeds are invisible. At home, Benny's mother encourages him to find his passion, but he's not sure what that is. There are many moments that will ring true to middle grade readers: feeling anxious about friendships, wanting to be noticed, and trying to do the right thing. When Benny's father has to go back to the hospital, all of Benny's fears return, but, gradually, he is able to navigate his new circumstances, especially when he realizes that he and Mr. Norris share something very important. VERDICT Recommend this sensitive novel to fans of Lisa Graff's Absolutely Almost (Philomel, 2014) and Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt (Delacorte, 2010).—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
“I loved this portrait of a young boy struggling to find his role in a family determined not to be defined by their differences. Benny’s brave story, told with wry humor, is inspirational.” (Ann M. Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Rain Reign)
“In narrator Benny, readers find a resilient and very observant 9-year-old who accepts those around him with their strengths and shortcomings alike. His story is insightful and inspirational.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“McGovern’s thoughtful depiction of a family facing difficult situations without fracturing, coupled with a gentle message about not being too hard on oneself, will surely speak to middle schoolers with their own slate of worries.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A heart-filled story of a likable boy who doesn’t realize that his natural gifts are recognizable and valued by a supportive family. There are many moments that will ring true to middle grade readers: feeling anxious about friendships, wanting to be noticed, and trying to do the right thing.” (School Library Journal)
“McGovern’s observations about ordinary-seeming life and about the people around us, about small acts of kindness and healing and forgiveness, are perceptive and thought-provoking.” (The Horn Book)
“Benny’s first-person narrative radiates with exactly the kind of compassion his mother recommends. Like many nine-year-olds, Benny can be guileless in one moment and wise beyond his years in another. Highly recommended for fans of realistic fiction by writers such as Ann M. Martin or Lisa Graff.” (ALA Booklist)
“McGovern writes convincingly about characters trying to figure out how best to live with the complications of a disability, both the person whom it most affects and also those around him or her. Benny’s voice deserves to be read aloud in a classroom.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
“McGovern’s books make readers think carefully about the themes presented. Her beautifully written novels feature people who are different in some way; developmentally delayed or suffering from cerebral palsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, or autism. Her stories make people who are “different” more accessible to all of us.” (Examiner.com)
Praise for SAY WHAT YOU WILL: “This is a book to read, savor, and pass on and on until it has gone around the world twice.” (Ron Koertge, author of Stoner & Spaz)
“Exhilarating and heartrending.This novel is stunning.” (ALA Booklist (starred review))
“Readers will be surprised, moved, amused, worried, hopeful, and grateful.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“McGovern’s triumph is how well she normalizes and highlights the variety of disability experiences among teens and their often circuitous journeys toward claiming their voices and right to self-determination. Ultimately, a deeply engaging and rewarding story.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“What this book does best is move beyond the typical concerns and stigmas people with disabilities inevitably encounter to present an honest portrayal of the difficulties of growing up faced by these particular characters.” (The Horn Book)
“Cammie McGovern channels her knowledge and passion for specialneeds kids. Like the deservedly best-selling Wonder by R.J. Palacio—required reading for every family—this doesn’t just get you talking, it gets you thinking, feeling and rejoicing.” (Family Circle)
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Top customer reviews
Benny is in 4th grade, and his best friend moved away at the end of last year. He is struggling to find new friends. He is also struggling at home. He feels responsible for his father's accident over the summer that has left his brain more than a bit muddled. His family is dealing fairly well. After all they have some experience given Benny's older brother, George, who is autistic.
Then Benny's school starts a program to catch kids doing good deeds. Benny is determined to be recognized, but he is continually ignored. His teacher tries to explain that he's so good already; he shouldn't need the extrinsic motivation. But Benny does.
This book is all about friendship and kindness. It has wonderful characters and terrific messages, but it never feels preachy. There were some many fun details as well: Benny's obsession with making Lego stop motion movies, his friend Olga and her hand drawn comic books, George's antics, and Benny's teacher.
This book would make a great read aloud for children ages 8-10, and it is of course a great read for middle grade and up. I highly recommend it!