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Review of Binny Bewitched

Binny Bewitched
by Hilary McKay; illus. by Tony Ross
Intermediate, Middle School    McElderry    233 pp.    g
6/17    978-1-4814-9102-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-9104-4    $10.99

McKay continues to display her extraordinary gifts (for language, nuance, humor; for capturing human nature and family dynamics) in this third book about the endearingly imperfect Binny Cornwallis (Binny for Short, rev. 1/14; Binny in Secret, rev. 7/15). Ever since her father died, bankrupt, Binny and her family “thought about money so often and with such anxiety that it was like an extra nightmare person living in the house.” When she finds a stack of twenty-pound notes in an ATM and impulsively pockets the lot, it seems like an answer to a prayer (“Oh, money! Oh lovely, needed, unlooked-for money!”), but instead it’s the start of a miserable seven days. All weekend, increasingly guilt-ridden, she moves the money around the house, hiding it in a series of unlikely places; by Monday morning she can’t wait to give it back, whatever the consequences. But where has she put it? Desperate, she ransacks the house, to no avail. Did someone steal her stolen cash, as “best of enemies, most loyal of friends” Gareth suggests? If so, the suspect list would include everyone close to her. The plot moves at a whirlwind pace but folds in big ideas to mull over: who we are, at heart, and what’s important and not important; the elasticity of true friendships (including — whoa! — the possibility of romantic love); and the stress and vulnerability of never having enough money. As the book comes to its clever and satisfying conclusion, we realize that we’ve also been watching Binny become a writer before our eyes. “Tomorrow she would have to go to the bank. Down and down and down fell Binny’s courage, until an idea reached out like a friendly hand to save her. Tomorrow, when it’s all over, I will write it down.”

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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