Ben and the Sudden Too-Big Family [NOOK Book]


Ben's philosophy of life is that there are two categories of things that happen, the all-right stuff and the not-all-right stuff. Ben has always lived with just his dad, Mitch, which definitely falls into the all-right category. When Mitch meets Casey and they decide to get married, that turns out to be all right, too. Then Mitch and Casey decide to adopt a baby from China, and Ben isn't sure which category the whole baby thing is going to fit into. After the baby comes home (it's all right), Casey and Mitch ...
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Ben and the Sudden Too-Big Family

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Ben's philosophy of life is that there are two categories of things that happen, the all-right stuff and the not-all-right stuff. Ben has always lived with just his dad, Mitch, which definitely falls into the all-right category. When Mitch meets Casey and they decide to get married, that turns out to be all right, too. Then Mitch and Casey decide to adopt a baby from China, and Ben isn't sure which category the whole baby thing is going to fit into. After the baby comes home (it's all right), Casey and Mitch announce that the four of them - as a family - are going on vacation with Casey's family. All twenty-three of them! Ben is sure this will not be all right!
How eleven-year-old Ben finds his place in a crazy-big family makes this a funny novel about family and what it means to be a part of one.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ben Mitchell's philosophy that "some things in life are all right and some things are not all right" holds true in this slice-of-life novel, as Rodowsky (That Fernhill Summer) comically depicts how the world of her 10-year-old protagonist is turned upside down when he becomes part of a "sudden, too big" family. Ben, whose birth mother died when he was a baby, thinks it is "cool" that his father is marrying Casey, the proprietor of a bakeshop, but that's before he realizes how many new people are destined to disrupt his contentedly quiet life. Ben is soon overwhelmed by the aunts, uncles and cousins who are now part of his family. And to make things more complicated, his father and Casey decide to adopt a baby from China. Some events-like traveling overseas to pick up baby Maudie Mingmei-turn out to be exciting for Ben, while other occurrences (such as having to vacation with his new relatives instead of attending soccer camp) are not as fun. Ben's misgivings about being embraced (figuratively and literally) by relatives whom he barely knows will draw sympathy from readers, as will his misfortune at getting stuck having to entertain the least appealing member of his new family-gloomy Great Aunt Nora-at a family reunion. Encapsulating the noise, chaos, mess and love that are all parts of being in a large family, this novel shows how some "not all right" predicaments turn out "all right" in the end. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Ten-year-old Ben has a pretty basic philosophy of life: "Some things in life are all right and some things are not all right." Ben considers his family to be all right. His mother died when he was an infant, so there is only his father, Mitch, and Ben. But that is about to change when Ben's Dad meets and marries Casey, a local baker. Since Ben likes Casey, so far so good—or, in Ben-speak, all right. This still-small family's life is disrupted when Mitch and Casey adopt a Chinese baby girl, Maudie Mingmei. Ben decides he doesn't mind being a big brother as the family settles into a new routine. When Mitch and Casey decide to join in the family vacation on the North Carolina coast, Ben doesn't want to go along. First, he had to give up soccer camp for this trip. Second, although he likes the part of Casey's family he has met, Ben feels like an outsider. Will his new cousins like or ignore him? And what about his new great aunt, nicknamed Poornora? Is Ben stuck with her presence or enriched by it? Will this trip to the beach with this strange, huge family turn out all right or not all right? In today's world of blended and extended families, young readers will find a lot with which to identify in this charming book. Ben is an engaging character and his story makes for a great page-turner, whatever sort of family the reader is part of.
Kirkus Reviews
When asked about his philosophy of life in school, ten-year-old Ben Mitchell posits that some things are all-right and some things are not-all-right. He and his dad Mitch are a two-man crew until Mitch meets Casey. Ben thinks Casey's all right; he's not too distressed when Mitch marries her. Ben is a little less certain things can remain in the all-right column when Mitch and Casey decide to go ahead with the adoption of a Chinese baby girl whom Casey had been planning to adopt as a single parent. Maudie Mingmei can cause problems, but she's actually all-right enough. Then the family attends a week-long party for Casey's parents, and the extended family is just too big. Ben feels lost until he finds a couple of kindred souls in Casey's aunt Nora and his new cousin JJ. Rodowsky's latest makes excellent bibliotherapy for boys with the blended-family blues. Ben's appealing first-person narration sounds like the musings of a real kid, and his story has a refreshing lack of major trauma. Even readers who aren't in his situation will identify. (Fiction 9-12)
From the Publisher
"This sweet and humorous novel explores Ben's "hodgepodge glop" philosophy of life, and in the process, he learns what it really means to be a family." —IRA

“Rodowsky is in good form, crafting another book with a likable narrator.”—School Library Journal

“Veteran author Rodowsky again demonstrates her skill at bringing a low-key approach to possibly melodramatic events.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"Appealing." —Kirkus Reviews

"Encapsulating the noise, chaos, mess and love that are all parts of being in a large family, this novel shows how some 'not all right' predicaments turn out 'all right' in the end." —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374706876
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/20/2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • File size: 287 KB

Meet the Author

COLBY RODOWSKY is the author of many distinguished books for children and young adults, such as That Fernhill Summer, which The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books praised as a "character-driven novel about the complicated connections of family." She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Read an Excerpt

Fifteen Words or Less

It was in the just-after-the-holiday-break part of fourth grade when Mr. Kelly, our English teacher, told us to write our philosophy of life in fifteen words or less. I thought for a minute and then wrote, "Some things in life are all right and some things are not all right." After that, I sat curling and uncurling the edge of my paper and wondering what I should have done with the extra word.

When everyone was finished, Mr. K. folded his arms, harrumphed a bit, the way he always does, and said, "Now elaborate on what you’ve written."

This led me to add, "What actually happens a lot is that the all-right stuff slides into the not-all-right stuff and what you end up with is a hodgepodge glop. And that’s life."

By this time Mr. K. was walking up and down the aisle, looking over our shoulders, and when he got to me he said, "Pretty basic, Ben. Wouldn’t you say?" Only I could tell right off that it was one of those questions that wasn’t really a question and didn’t need an answer. Then he snorted and moved on.

I always figured that that whole philosophy-of-life thing wasn’t so much a real assignment as it was a way for Mr. Kelly to kill some dead time on a winter Friday afternoon. I mean, even though he collected our papers, we never got marks or comments, never had to turn them into essays or projects of any kind. If you ask me, it was a good fifteen words or less, plus elaboration, down the drain.

Oddly enough, though, those fourteen words attached themselves to the inside of my head like a refrigerator magnet, and from then on I set out to check everything that happened to me to see if it belonged in the all-right column or not-all-right column. The trouble was, I didn’t exactly keep up with the sorting—all right, not all right— mostly, I guess, because during the next year and a half a lot went on in my life.

My name is Benjamin David Mitchell. My father is Mitch, making him Mitch Mitchell, except to people who don’t know him well and then he’s Bradley J. Mitchell. I’m told that when I was born (ten years before Mr. Kelly’s down-the-drain assignment) my mother, Sara Jane, announced that there would be no shortcuts and I would forever be Benjamin David.

Then she died, in a car crash, when I was just over a year old, and left me with lots of pictures but no real memory of a mother. In fact, as far as I can remember, it’s always just been me and my dad—Ben and Mitch— which, to my way of thinking, and maybe because I didn’t know anything else, made for a pretty cool arrangement. So cool that in my entire life, ten years and counting, the all-right stuff had always been miles out in front of the not-all-right.

The first thing to know about my father is that he has taught history at MacCauley, a private boys’ school in Baltimore, for absolute ages. Because of that, I get to go there for free, as a sort of perk or something. The only drawback is that I can never just go home and hang out after school. Instead I have to stick around—in the library or the locker room, or outside playing sports or watching the high school kids at football or lacrosse practice—till my father’s ready to leave. After that, we head home together, fix supper, do homework, watch TV, play video games or read (Mitch way more than me), and go to bed. Weekends are pretty much the same, especially since MacCauley is the kind of school where a lot of stuff happens then. Like games and meets, fall fairs and spring fairs, shows and debates, and even car washes. And the dreaded Science Competition.

I guess I’d have to say that good old MacCauley has always been the center of our universe, which isn’t nearly as lame as it sounds. I mean, we have a lot of neighbors, too, and get together with them for cookouts and crab feasts and New Year’s celebrations. We lend them ladders and snow shovels, and we borrow rakes and duct tape from them, so it all works really well.

And in the family department we have Aunt Jo and Uncle Charlie and their two sons. Scott and Stan are eighteen and nineteen, so not exactly the kind of cousins I can hang out with, but through the years they’ve been really okay, plus they’ve given me a bunch of outgrown stuff—like bikes and sleds and skateboards. Besides, their house was where we went for all the heavy-duty celebrating, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mitch’s birthday, and mine, too. Aunt Jo is Mitch’s older (and only) sister and she has this mother-hen thing, always checking to see if we eat enough broccoli and go to the dentist twice a year.

She was also the one who, ages back, introduced my father to my mother and, if you ask me, I think Aunt Jo had thoughts about doing something like that again. For a while now she’s been on a mission to "find someone for Mitch" and there’s been a steady parade of lawyers, paralegals, librarians, teachers, and even a poet. There’ve been blondes, brunettes, and three redheads. Sometimes Mitch would ask them out a time or two. Sometimes not. But he was never really interested.

Until the day, not long after Mr. Kelly’s assignment, that we stopped at the Bread Basket.

Excerpted from Ben And The Sudden Too-Big Family by Colby Rodowsky.
Copyright 2007 by Colby Rodowsky.
Published in 2007 by Farrar Straua Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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