I’ve never been inspired to write a review for a book on Amazon until now, but feel I must after reading The Life and Crime of Bernetta Wallflower by Lisa Graff! I read it after reading several favorable reviews as a possibility for my intermediate classroom library or read aloud. I actually feel yucky about writing something negative, but I feel I mus.
What did I take away from the book? Crime pays! Not a message that I want my students or children to have reinforced. Bernetta is the accused of running a forgery ring for school papers and expelled. She then is happy to meet a new friend at her father’s magic club, which she is present at after sneaking out of the house (another bad message). The boy follows her and sneaks into her bedroom (yet another bad message) and convinces her to meet him without her parents’ knowledge. He then proposes setting up a sting/con to earn money for the summer. For unknown reasons Bernetta agrees to go along with it and proceeds to tell one lie after another: to her sister- to enlist her help so she can have an imaginary babysitting job and her parents-she goes everyday to the “babysitting” job and even takes her younger brother along with her on some of the con jobs. After conning numerous people and businesses out of a considerable amount of money, her new “friend” helps her old best friend/enemy con her out of all of the money by accusing her of “stealing” her backpack. Spoiler alert-turns out her new “friend” is friends with her old “friend” and had run a similar con job in the past. The lying and stealing continue with the help on the new friend’s uncle who helps Bernetta and friend pull one last con on to get all the money back from the “evil” best friend. The kids end up with $10,000 and a summer full of lying and it is not until the last paragraph where Bernetta decides to own up to her family as to what she has really been up to! In my opinion, the biggest betrayal is not friend to friend, but Bernetta to her family. The reader is left with Bernetta having gotten away with crimes and lies with only the hint that she might get into any trouble for it. Not a message that I think any young reader needs to have. Don’t include this book in your classroom library!
I read this book after reading several positive reviews by others, so if you’d like a different opinion, check out:
Mother Reader’s blog
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast