The Autobiography Of Meatball Finkelstein


Meatball Finkelstein was born big. He’s always been and always will be a big guy, and he’s cool with that. But he seems to have more than his share of problems: his large size coupled with his parents’ unfortunate choice of name–yes, it says Meatball on his birth certificate!–make him the prime candidate for the attention of Rufus Delaney, the most horrible bully at school. Meatball’s pretty used to the way his life works, and he usually goes along–it’s easier than fighting back. But one Monday morning, events ...
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Meatball Finkelstein was born big. He’s always been and always will be a big guy, and he’s cool with that. But he seems to have more than his share of problems: his large size coupled with his parents’ unfortunate choice of name–yes, it says Meatball on his birth certificate!–make him the prime candidate for the attention of Rufus Delaney, the most horrible bully at school. Meatball’s pretty used to the way his life works, and he usually goes along–it’s easier than fighting back. But one Monday morning, events conspire to make Meatball really mad and he discovers that he’s not just an ordinary kid–he’s an ordinary kid with a superpower! And wouldn’t you know it, he stumbles onto an evil plot that requires his very special power to save the day. But can one boy really protect all the students of the world from a dastardly group of school principals?

Thirteen-year-old Meatball, an overweight vegetarian, discovers that eating meatballs gives him the magic power of turning into anything he wants, and he uses this ability to fight his principal's diabolical plot to eliminate fun from the planet.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
At twenty-seven pounds, four ounces, Meatball Finklestein was born big. Thirteen years later, he's still big. Although he is comfortable with his looks, Meatball has a lot of problems. His older sister, Precious, a perfect child and straight-A student, doesn't speak to him. His parents, preoccupied with their failing health food store, have no time for him. And Rufus Delaney, the school's worst bully, has made him a prime target. He takes Delaney's torment in stride, but one day, when the cafeteria menu reads "Meatball Monday," he is pushed to his limit. To his amazement, he discovers that he is blessed with unique superpowers that are unleashed in a very strange way. Oddly enough, he also discovers that Principal Walrus W. Weaselman, the bane of everyone's existence at Parkman Junior High, is really his biggest problem. Readers will laugh their way through this quirky page-turner, anxious to find out how Meatball—with the help of his one-armed best friend, the beautiful "new girl" at school, and his ninety-seven-year-old grandfather—saves the world's children from Principal Weaselman's dastardly plot. 2001, Delacorte Press, $14.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Ellen R. Braaf
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-For an overweight vegetarian named Meatball Finkelstein, being accepted by his peers seems impossible. The boy has given up trying. He has his one friend, another untouchable, and he is just fine-until he falls in love with a pretty new girl and, in a foolish attempt to prove himself, he eats his first meatball. At this point the plot takes its first high-speed curve. The meatball gives him magical powers, which unleashes plot twists and surprises that swing the story from average into a very funny, screwball comedy. As his principal exploits Meatball's powers, the protagonist learns that his parents are not perfect, that his grandfather has a secret, and that a secret society intent on doing away with childhood exists. As Meatball discovers the shocking truth about principals and the PTA, he learns to accept himself. The characterization is fairly shallow and the story is plot driven, but the style and mood are consistently lighthearted. Far superior to Venokur's The Amazing Frecktackle (Delacorte, 1998), this is a good choice for reluctant readers. Meatball's story is fluffy and funny enough to keep circulating for years.-Amy Stultz, Leesburg Public Library, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440417095
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/1902
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.64 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Ross Venokur is a screenwriter who has written for Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, and DreamWorks.
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Read an Excerpt


Dear Diana Capriotti:

I got the letter. You're right, that's a generous offer. What can I say but yes? Yes, I'll tell you about my secret. I'll tell you the truth about principals and about the principal principal and his principle, the Principal Principal's Principle, as you may have seen it in the papers. I'll tell you about the FV, the PWO, the PPP, and the PTA. Basically, I'll tell you about every single thing that happened to me last week. But first, I'm going to tell you about my name, because everyone's always interested in that. Besides, it's the beginning of my story.


Thirteen years ago from two weeks from last Tuesday, Babs Finkelstein spent most of the morning and all of the afternoon and evening lying on a delivery room table screaming her head off. Her husband, on the other hand, didn't make a sound. Harvey Finkelstein could barely breathe. This was only the second time he had been through childbirth, the third if you count his own. Either way, this wasn't how he remembered it.

Two years earlier, Harvey and Babs's first child, Precious Finkelstein, quietly popped into the world in the middle of the afternoon. Six pounds and nine ounces of perfect baby girl. Precious's arrival was as uneventful and painless as any mother could hope for. Nothing like the trauma Babs was experiencing now.

Helpless, Harvey did what he was best at. He paced back and forth with his two-year-old daughter in his arms. Hours later, after Harvey wore a hole in the sole of his left loafer, Babs pushed out the Finkelsteins' new baby—the biggest, roundest, fattest baby the world had ever seen. A twenty-seven-pound, four-ounce freak of nature.Me.

My mom and dad burst into tears. Of joy? I've never been dumb enough to ask. And though they sobbed, my precious sister, whom I had not even been introduced to yet, giggled, pointed and said her first word ever. Not "Mommy." Not "Daddy." "Meatball." How precious is that?


Precious is perfect. She's a straight-A student, she's fluent in three languages, she's popular, she's president of two million extracurricular activities, she's a poet, she's a French horn player, and she's even something of a chef. She has perfectly straight blond hair with a perfect flip right above her shoulders. And, as my mom is always quick to point out to anyone who'll listen, Precious's perfect curl perfectly complements her perfectly adorable freckles on her perfect button nose, which sits beneath the most perfectly clear blue eyes ever created.

I, on the other hand, look like a meatball. My face is round. My body's round. Basically, I'm round. Which, of course, means fat. My mom prefers big boned, while my dad wants me to believe that I'm still growing into myself. And though they and my sister are all tall, thin, blue-eyed blonds, I ended up with marinara-red hair and seared-beef-brown eyes. It's hard to believe I'm even related to these people. But I am, which gives me the distinguished honor of being the only imperfect thing in Precious's otherwise perfect life—and if there's one thing my sister can't handle, it's imperfection.

Poor Precious could never figure out what to do with me. Part my hair to the left or to the right, put me in a hooded sweatshirt or put me in a sweater vest, give me glasses or give me contacts, and I'm still a fat kid named Meatball. There's just no escaping it. So it was only a matter of time before Precious had to face the simple truth: I would never be perfect. And as far as Precious was concerned, if I couldn't be perfect, I couldn't be. Period. So she started to pretend that I didn't exist.

The silent treatment began when I was in kindergarten. It was a Monday morning. My sister kept up her Meatball Acknowledgment Embargo until the maple bookshelf fell off the wall and pinned her leg to the ground. We both knew that Precious had only one choice. Actually, she could have waited six and a half hours for my parents to get home from work. And to be fair, she tried. But after an hour and a half, the pain became unbearable and she asked me for help. That was on a Wednesday, two and a half years later.

The next morning, the second embargo started, and it hasn't let up once in the last seven years. It's like my mom and dad tell anyone who sets foot in their market, "When our Precious sets her mind to something, she does it perfectly, every time."


Nine years ago, when I was four, my mom and dad decided to fulfill their life's dream. They quit their boring government jobs and opened a tiny health food market called

Tofu For-u

Celebrating You and Tofu.

I don't know exactly when my parents got on their health kick, but it was sometime before Precious and I were born, because neither of us has ever eaten a piece of meat—not beef, not chicken, not turkey, not even an egg. That doesn't mean that I haven't wanted to try meat, though. I have.

In third grade, I woke up one night in the middle of a dream about a corned beef on rye the size of the Empire State Building, with a Chrysler Building-sized side order of chicken parmigiana, and I stumbled into my parents' bedroom.

"Is everything all right?" my mom worried.

"Uh-huh." I nodded. "Why don't we eat meat?"

"Meatball." My mom took my hand in hers. "If we were intended to eat animals"—she smiled softly—"they would be covered in ketchup. Now go back to bed."

Regardless of when and where the vegetarianism began, it seemed to pay off when Mom and Dad opened their dream market's doors to enormous success. The market grew more and more prosperous each year until, in its fifth year, Tofu For-u attracted the attention of


The Supermarket for Our nation's super health needs.

Once Super Health's corporate headquarters got wind of my parents' success, they did what they do best. They opened one of their megastores right across the street from Tofu For-u and stole all Mom and Dad's customers.

Nowadays, I almost never see my parents. They're always working, or having some meeting at a bank, or off attending some small business owners' conference in a place like Tallahassee. And when they are home, they're in their bedroom with the door closed and their voices down so that I can't hear what they're saying, which makes it really difficult for me to hear what they're saying. I have to get all my information through the air-conditioning vents. The other day I heard them say something about $37,816.14. I couldn't figure out exactly what they were talking about, I just knew it wasn't good.

I tiptoed past my parents' room to talk to Precious about it. She may love to pretend I don't exist, but when it comes down to it, family is family. I hoped that what I had to say would finally put an end to the seven-year Meatball Acknowledgment Embargo. Instead, she chased me out of her room with a stick without uttering a single word. She's that good.

You don't believe me? Ask Max, he'll tell you.


The moment Max walked into my second-grade class, I learned that there is something worse than being the new kid at school: being the one-armed new kid. Two months before he showed up at Parkman, Max and his mom grabbed a cab uptown to meet his dad. Without looking, the cabbie pulled out into traffic, and the next thing Max knew, he was in a hospital bed, but his right arm wasn't. Fortunately, Max's mom was not hurt. Don't feel bad for him. He hates that.

Besides, I never feel bad for him. At first, it was simply because I was too busy feeling bad for myself to worry about anyone else; but now it's because of the Cabbie Pact. After we met, it only took Max one week to become so completely fed up with my round-the-clock personal pity party that he looked me in the eye and said, "Get over yourself!"

"That's easy for you to say," I whined. "You don't look like me. You're a normal-sized kid, with normal brown hair, with normal green eyes, with a normal name, with—"

"One arm!" Max reminded me.

"What about that?" I had been dying to ask him this question since we met: "Your arm got ripped off two months ago—why are you always in such a good mood?"

"Because," Max replied, "I'm not the cabbie."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"The cabbie's dead."

"Oh" was my brilliant response.

And that's when we made the Cabbie Pact. Max and I resolved that from that moment on, we'd never feel bad for ourselves or for each other. We were alive, we had a lot to be happy about, and we weren't going to waste our time sitting around being depressed. Now everything's nice and simple. Max is my best friend, and I'm his right-hand man—not that he needs one.

Before Max lost his arm, he was a righty. So when he showed up in second grade and the rest of us were learning how to write cursive, he had to learn how to print all over again with his left hand. "The only hand I have left," Max joked. It was amazing. He never got frustrated. And by the end of second grade, he wrote cursive just as well as I did. By the end of fifth grade, Max was our Little League team's best pitcher. Last year, he took up painting, and wouldn't you know, he's great at that, too? Come to think of it, he's a lot like Precious. Maybe that's why I like him so much. Don't tell Precious I said that.

The only other person Max and I ever talk to is my gramps, and he can't hear a word we say since he's been deaf forever. He can read our lips, though, and he taught us both sign language. To be honest, I'm still figuring it out, but Max is a pro. If you're ever looking for me, chances are I'll be at Gramps's place. He lives two floors below the rest of us, and I'm down there all the time.

Gramps is the only grandparent I have. My grandma died before I was born. She had one of those awful diseases that parents don't like to say around their children. And my other grandparents were hit by a stray shot put at the '92 Summer Olympics. We saw the whole thing on TV, along with the rest of the world. The government of Romania still sends us flowers and local cheeses every year on the anniversary of their death.

Actually, that's what woke me up last Monday morning. The flower guy was ringing Gramps's buzzer, which Gramps, being deaf, obviously couldn't hear. He has a light hooked up to the doorbell, but he didn't notice it last Monday morning since he was sleeping too. I pulled myself off the couch, told the flower guy he had the wrong Finkelstein ("This is the Finkelstein on twelve. You want my parents—the Finkelsteins on fourteen."), and realized that I was already fifteen minutes late for school. I only mention all of this now because last Monday was the day everything went nuts.

Copyright 2002 by Ross Venokur
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