The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower

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From the critically acclaimed author of A Tangle of Knots comes a humorous story full of heart, courage and a touch of magic.

Bernetta’s summer couldn’t be going any worse.First her ex-best friend frames her for starting a cheating ring in their private school that causes Bernetta to lose her scholarship for 7th grade. Even worse, Bernetta’s parents don’t believe she’s innocent, and forbid her from performing at her father’s magic club. Now Bernetta must take immediate action if...

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From the critically acclaimed author of A Tangle of Knots comes a humorous story full of heart, courage and a touch of magic.

Bernetta’s summer couldn’t be going any worse.First her ex-best friend frames her for starting a cheating ring in their private school that causes Bernetta to lose her scholarship for 7th grade. Even worse, Bernetta’s parents don’t believe she’s innocent, and forbid her from performing at her father’s magic club. Now Bernetta must take immediate action if she hopes to raise $9,000 for tuition.  But that’s a near impossible task with only three months until school. Enter Gabe, a boy con-artist who’s willing to team up with Bernetta to raise the money. But only if she’s willing to use her talent for magic to scheme her way to success.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Bernetta loves being her father's assistant during his magic act and performing a few tricks of her own, but she never imagines that her sleight-of-hand skills will turn her into a 12-year-old con artist. But after her so-called best friend frames her as the mastermind behind a cheating ring and Bernetta loses her private-school scholarship, Bernetta lets cute boy Gabe talk her into going into the "confidence business" with him over the summer-how else can she amass the small fortune she needs to pay her tuition? The sneaky scams the two pull off will enthrall readers (in direct proportion to their ability to disturb parents, especially as the stunts require at least as much thievery as cleverness). The author describes a few of Bernetta's father's magic tricks and explains some of Gabe's people-reading techniques, adding to the book's fun quotient. The story builds well as the likable and increasingly desperate Bernetta gets drawn into a wild scheme, looking for a big payout and revenge. Graff (The Thing About Georgie) asks readers to take some leaps of faith with the plotting, but she rewards them with a strong voice. Bernetta's eventual realization-"There were a million alternate Bernettas she could become, and she wasn't going to get roped into becoming one she didn't like"-reads as hard-won and insightful. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060875923
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/29/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Graff is the author of Absolutely Almost, A Tangle of Knots, Double Dog Dare, Umbrella Summer, The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, The Thing About Georgie and Sophie Simon Solves Them All. A former children's book editor, she's now a full-time writer and adjunct professor. Originally from California, she lived for many years in New York City and now makes her home just outside of Philadelphia. You can visit her online at

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Read an Excerpt

Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, The PLM
The Pros and Cons

Chapter One

sleight of hand n:
an effect performed by manipulating the objects in one's hand; requires impressive manual dexterity

Bernetta pedaled her bike furiously, her long, frizzy braid whipping out behind her, strands sticking out at every twist. The second Saturday in June, she decided, was far too late in the year to be wearing a trench coat while riding a bicycle. She'd have to keep that in mind for the future.

Bernetta dumped her bike outside the Trunk Number Eight dinner club and hurried into the lobby. She raced past the trick guillotine in the corner, the wax statue that waved as she passed, and the box that appeared to hold a coin until someone stuck a hand inside to grab it, only to come back with a fistful of air. The photos that lined the walls sped by in a blur, but Bernetta had seen them so many times, she could have drawn them from memory. There was Harry Houdini hanging upside down from a skyscraper and wearing a straitjacket, the great Alexander Hermann floating a five of hearts in midair, and Harry Blackstone slicing a lady in half with a buzz saw. Right in the center, just below the sign that read Trunk Number Eight's Very Own, was Bernetta's favorite photo of all. The man with the flop of brown hair and the thick-rimmed glasses, holding a tiny yellow canary, was Bernetta's father, Herbert Wallflower.

At the door to the dining room Bernetta reached into the pocket of her coat and pulled out a glittery pink headband, complete with a neon pink feather, and slipped it over her forehead. She cocked the feather at what shecould only hope was a jaunty angle, took a deep breath, and turned the doorknob.

The room was bursting with diners, but Bernetta quickly spotted her father performing his famous napkin-into-feathers trick at table eighteen against the far left wall. She made a sharp right and hoped her father wouldn't notice her as she crossed to the stage.

She leaped up the stage steps and slid behind the thick red curtain. The clock on the wall read six forty-one. Nineteen minutes until show time. With any luck, her father wouldn't notice her until she was already onstage, holding out an empty birdcage for his very first trick. Once the show had started, a magician couldn't just tell his assistant to go home, could he? Even if she did happen to be grounded.

Bernetta slumped out of her trench coat and adjusted her bright pink sequined dress, tugging it at the hips. Maybe when her grounding was over and she was back on everyone's good side, she'd suggest that her father's assistant wear a less hideous dress.


Bernetta whirled around and found herself face-to-face with Bram Mitchell, Trunk Number Eight's oldest and friendliest waiter. He wrapped her in a giant bear hug.

"Hey there!" Bram greeted her. "I thought your dad said you weren't coming tonight."

Bernetta shrugged. "I decided to make a surprise appearance," she told him.

"How was Elsabelle's graduation this afternoon? Valedictorian of her class, huh? That's big stuff!"

"Yeah," Bernetta said. "Big." Bernetta didn't feel like explaining that she hadn't actually gone to her sister's graduation. That when a person gets suspended on the last day of school...even if she doesn't deserve to be suspended...she is barred from attending any and all school events.

"Well, I'm glad you made it. Otherwise Todd was going to fill in as assistant, and frankly I don't think he looks half as pretty in the dress. I'll let him know you're here. Also, I've been working on my latest trick, and I wanted you to be the first to see it."

"Oh, yeah? How's it coming?"

Bram snapped his fingers by Bernetta's right ear and produced a small red rubber ball.

"Pretty good," she told him.

"Not really. It was supposed to be a live alligator." Bram's smiling face quickly melted into grandfather seriousness, all concern and wrinkles. "But really, kiddo, is everything okay? You look troubled. Any problems I can help with?"

Problems? Bernetta almost laughed. How about a backstabbing ex-best friend, an unjust school suspension, and an unearned summer-long grounding? She'd like to see how troubled Bram would look with problems like those.

"I don't think you can help," she said.

"No?" Bram replied, rolling the ball between his fingers. "I'm pretty good at fixing things."

Bernetta thought about it for a moment. "Actually," she said, "maybe you can help."

"What do you need me to do, kiddo?"

Bernetta pulled back the stage curtain an inch and peered out into the dining room. Her father was still at table eighteen, but the other side of the room was clear. She turned around and looked at Bram.

"I need a basket of bread," she told him. "Table seven."

Bram's thick eyebrows shot up, like two furry gray caterpillars arching their backs. But all he said was, "Pumpernickel or sourdough?"


Bram tossed the red rubber ball to Bernetta, and she caught it. "Good luck," he said.

Bernetta waited a full minute, running through the steps in her head, but when the clock read six forty-six, she knew it was now or never. Making sure her father was still occupied, she ducked out from behind the curtain and scurried down the stage steps, clutching a deck of cards in her right hand.

She hated to admit it, but she was just the slightest bit nervous. She'd been working the Saturday-night show as her father's assistant for over a year now, but she'd never done any close-up work before. Maybe if she dazzled everyone at the club...showed them all what she was made of...her parents would forget about the whole stupid grounding thing. At least as far as Saturday nights were concerned. She couldn't imagine a whole summer without Trunk Number Eight.

Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, The PLM
The Pros and Cons
. Copyright © by Lisa Graff. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 3, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for

    Bernetta Wallflower knows two things: 1) a lot of stuff about magic since her father owns a magic club known as Trunk Number Eight, and 2) people who appear to be your friends can turn on you and leave you with nothing. <BR/><BR/>Accused of running a cheating ring in her private school, Bernetta finds herself without a scholarship to Mount Olive for next year. Because of her problems at school, she is also grounded for the entire summer. She needs $9,000 in her bank account if she hopes to return to Mount Olive for seventh grade, and babysitting appears to be the only thing she is qualified to do. Then Bernetta meets Gabe, a self-professed con artist, and he offers to cut her in on the action he has planned for the summer.<BR/><BR/>Using the sleight-of-hand skills she has learned at her father's magic club and her natural acting talents, Bernetta joins forces with Gabe to earn some serious money. Instead of reporting to her fake babysitting gig, Bernetta meets Gabe at the mall where they begin running scam after scam to earn the money she needs to replace her lost scholarship. After all, it's for a good cause, so how could anyone object?<BR/><BR/>Everything seems to be going smoothly until Ashley Johansson shows up. She is to blame for Bernetta's trouble at school and the suspended scholarship, and now here she is threatening even more trouble. Can Bernetta get what she needs and still find a way to live with her actions? One thing she does learn is that everyone has more than one option in life; it's just about which option you choose.<BR/><BR/>Lisa Graff's THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF BERNETTA WALLFLOWER is a whirlwind adventure in petty crime and accepting the consequences of one's decisions. Graff begins each chapter with a new magic term, and readers will be fascinated with the description of well-known cons used by Bernetta and Gabe. Bernetta's story is sure to entertain, but at the same time present readers with challenging questions about doing the right thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book was funny, in some parts, and in others it was sort of sad. The main charachter, Bernetta, has gotten herself into a big mess of ttrouble, and many kids her age can realate. We have all at one time or another gotten ourselves into some sort of trouble where it's almost impossible to dig ourselves back out again. I liked the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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