From School Library Journal
Grade 3–5—Ten-year-old Ben, whose mother died when he was a year old, is satisfied with the calm, predictable life he shares with his father. Then, in the 18 months this novel spans, three females drastically alter his world. He categorizes the changes as "all right" or "not all right," according to his barebones philosophy of life. First, there's Casey, the co-owner of a new bakery, who is warm, attentive, and fun. When she becomes his stepmother, she engenders mostly positive changes. The second is Maudie Mingmei, the baby Casey was arranging to adopt from China before she married. Although he worries that having a younger sibling will cause chaos, Ben is charmed by his lively new sister. He encounters Casey's great aunt, called "Poornora" because of her overwhelming pessimism, when they are both reluctant houseguests at a beachside cottage shared with Casey's parents. More of Casey's relatives are renting the surrounding houses. Complications arise as Ben tries to fit in with his new cousins. Even worse, Poornora decides that since they are both outsiders, they should be miserable together, and constantly seeks his company. Ultimately, he's able to appreciate this persnickety lady as well as the rest of Casey's "too-big family." Rodowsky is in good form, crafting another book with a likable narrator whose experiences with acquiring a stepmother and an adopted sister are portrayed in a positive, humorous manner.—Deborah Vose, Highlands Elementary School, Braintree, MA
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Ben is used to being in a two-person family--just him and his dad. Then things change. First, his dad marries Casey; then the three of them go to China to pick up the little girl Casey had decided to adopt before she met Ben's dad. Ben's philosophy of life boils down to the idea that there's stuff that happens that's all right, and stuff that happens that's not all right. So far, despite some adjustment problems, things have been all right, but Ben is tested by a family vacation that includes Casey's 25 relatives. Straightforward and easygoing, like Ben himself, this story has a simple appeal. Even without any moments of high drama, it will keep readers' interest--in part because Ben's voice is so endearing but also because everyday concerns are realistically played out. With Ben's compassion for a relative left out at the family gathering, the story takes on some heft as well. A solid offering from a veteran writer. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved