Home > Book, Book Review, Children, Reviews, Young Adult > Book Review – The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

Book Review – The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

Book Description:

Ms. Finkleman is just our boring old music teacher. Or is she?

It all starts with a Special Project in Mr. Melville’s Social Studies class: Solve a mystery in your own life. For seventh grader Bethesda Fielding, one mystery is too tempting to ignore: Ms. Finkleman.

Bethesda is convinced that her mousy Music Fundamentals teacher is hiding a secret life, and she’s determined to find out what it is. But no one is prepared for what she learns. Ms. Finkleman used to be . . . a rock star? Soon the whole school goes rock crazy, and a giant concert is in the works with none other than timid Ms. Finkleman at the helm!

But the case isn’t quite closed, and the questions continue to swirl for Bethesda. Could there be even more to the secret life of Ms. Finkleman than she already revealed? With the help of her rock-obsessed classmate Tenny Boyer, Bethesda won’t stop until she solves the real mystery of Ms. Finkleman once and for all!


The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters may have been written for the middle-school/YA crowd, but it sure was an absolute delight for me to read! I highly recommend this very entertaining book for both the young AND the young at heart 🙂 (And bonus, it’s also a good way to get kids interested in the rock ‘n’ roll music of the 60s, 80s and 90s.)

When Bethesda Fielding decided to make her mousy and pretty much invisible Music (band/chorus) teacher the subject of her special project for her Social Studies class, nobody could’ve expected her to discover that Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School apparently had an ex-rock star in their midst. Suddenly, Ms Ida Finkleman is a local celebrity, and before you can say ‘ROCK ON’, Bethesda finds herself in a secret pact with Ms Finkleman and her rock-obsessed classmate Tenny Boyer, while Ms Finkleman’s re-energized sixth period music class exuberantly prepares for the greatest rock concert of their lives (aka the Annual All County Choral Corral)!

Like I said, I really found the story very entertaining (and funny). What student hasn’t wondered about who their teachers are outside the classroom? Who hasn’t secretly dreamed about being a rock star? And who can resist finding out a secret (and sharing it)? Ben H. Winters writes in an easy reading style, keeping the plot (and various subplots) moving along briskly with very real (and imperfect) characters (one note though, some of the adults are written to be comic relief here, especially the Mary Todd Lincoln principal who can’t resist making silly wagers with another rival principal). I also loved how Ben H. Winters managed to incorporate many ‘lessons’ here, but he is never in your face about it. There’s lessons about friendship, honesty, respect and most of all, about giving people second chances. Kids and adults mess up all the time, and that’s okay, you just dust yourself off, and make it up and try not to make the same mistakes again.

For me, the heart and soul of this book aren’t Ms Finkleman or the two main characters Bethesda and Tenny (although these characters do ‘grow’ a lot through the story), but it’s actually the previously bored students of sixth grade Music Fundamentals class who go over and beyond as they prepare for the rock concert – like the previously burnt out piano prodigy Kevin who rediscovers his love of music, or the klutzy Chester who masters the drums from sheer will … I loved how all the kids bloomed and bonded via rock ‘n’ roll.

Ben H. Winters has written a winning story here, and has made me a fan! I checked out his other works, and Android Karenina (a sci-fi/classics mashup of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina with steampunk) is definitely on my TBR pile.

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition ($9.99), Hardcover ($6.80) and Paperback (5.99).

The eBook is also available at B&N, Sony bookstore, Kobo books, and the iBookstore.

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