The Pinballs

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by Betsy Byars. Novel. 185 pages. Grades 5-8.
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Review

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Carlie, Harvey and Thomas J., three foster children, have been taken in by the Masons who have had many other foster children in the past. It's Carlie who compares the children to pinballs, controlled by external forces, and at the mercy of fate. Carlie is tough; she has been abused by her step-fathers and is convinced that people are not to be trusted. The master of insult, she maintains her tough exterior.

Harvey has two broken legs, having been run over by an alcoholic father after being abandoned by his mother. He is convinced that his father has kept his mother from communicating with him since she ran away to find herself in a commune. Thomas J was also abandoned; he was found as a toddler by elderly twin sisters whose minimal love and care for him has ended when both of them are hospitalized with broken hips. He is inarticulate and overly anxious to please. The Masons provide a supportive environment in which the children learn to care for each other and begin to experience love and trust. This is a believable, funny and touching novel.

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