Review by Stacy Mills
My goal for this review was to find a book for children that does not have an action hero or send its readers into wild adventures and places unknown. I found what I wanted in Just My Luck, the first novel written by Cammie McGovern for young readers.
Benny is nine years old and in the fourth grade. From the very first sentence, “My Mom has a theory that when bad things happen, you should think about someone else’s problems and try to help them,” the stage is set for Benny and his family to navigate their lives after a bicycle accident involving Benny and his dad leaves his dad with a brain injury.
Benny cannot ride a bicycle by himself. After taking a big spill on his bike when he was younger, he hasn’t been interested in riding. He hasn’t ridden for two years. One day, his dad suggests that Benny take his bike to the track while he runs laps. After much encouragement from Dad, “It’ll be fun. I’ll be right there running my laps,” Benny reluctantly agrees by saying, “I guess I could try.”
Benny is embarrassed when his dad has to hold his bike to help him get started, but once he starts pedaling, he flies around the track, lap after lap. His confidence is building until he encounters a woman on the track holding her dog on a leash that spans the width of the track. To avoid riding into the leash, Benny yanks on the hand brakes and goes flying to the ground. His dad runs up to help and hits his head against Benny’s helmet. It doesn’t hurt, so he doesn’t think anything of it.
At home, Benny is carefully watched for a possible concussion. Benny is fine but Dad isn’t. After sliding to the floor unconscious, 911 is called. He is transported to the hospital, and it is determined he has had a brain injury. Benny tells himself it wasn’t his fault, as does everyone else, but…
For the remainder of the book, Benny, the youngest of three brothers, struggles to find his place within the dynamics of his family and their differences. His oldest brother, Matthew, is described as the tallest kid in ninth grade and plays on the basketball team, albeit not well.
His twelve-year-old brother George is autistic and plays Special Olympics basketball. Benny doesn’t feel he is good at anything. Benny is a great kid; he just doesn’t think so. He has a good sense of humor, is touchingly patient and helpful with his autistic brother, compassionate to others, spunky, insightful, creative and an all-around type of kid any parent would be proud of. Others see it in Benny, including his beloved teacher, Mr. Norris. It’s just that Benny doesn’t see it in himself.
Let your child read this review to see if it might spark some interest in reading this book. I think many children could easily relate to Benny and his struggles. I will be recommending it to my fourth grade granddaughter.
Just My Luck is available at our Jefferson Carnegie Library for check-out. If your child does not yet have a library card, please stop by the library. Debbie Brewer will be happy to help.
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