Parents' Guide to

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez

By Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Rich, authentic characters are heart of thoughtful novel.

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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BENNY ALVAREZ is a touching, character-driven book with rich themes. Some readers will be bored by the lack of action, but more patient readers will be rewarded with a contemplative look at family relationships and the complex dynamic between boys and girls in middle school. The characters are realistic, given considerable depth thanks to the compassion and empathy that infuse the story.

Benny is an authentic boy protagonist with richly developed family and friends, much like the characters in author Peter Johnson's The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr., aka Houdini. Benny is a rare find in books aimed at boys: He's smart without being overly precocious, and he has a warm, considerate heart despite his supposedly prickly nature.

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