The Next Great Paulie Fink
“Every one of these stories is different, and each one is true,” explains seventh-grader Paulie Fink near the end of the fascinating tale that bears his name. As The Late Great Paulie Fink begins, 12-year-old Caitlyn Breen is struggling to adjust to her new life in the tiny, 10-student school where she’s been enrolled by her mother. Located on the untended grounds of a dilapidated former estate in rural Vermont, with crumbling statues, free-roaming toddlers, and runaway goats, Mitchell School is an experimental learning facility where children build scarecrows, sort vegetables from neighboring farms, and receive daily lessons on the relevance of ancient Greek philosophy and mythology (Plato’s cave, Athenian democracy, catharsis, the scape goat) for their daily lives. Upon her arrival at school, Caitlyn discovers that her new classmates are despondent over the unexplained disappearance of their former classmate, Paulie Fink, a fearless, mischievous, tall-tale-telling troublemaker whose outrageous exploits charmed and amused everyone at Mitchell, including the instructors. Inspired by their favorite reality television program, Caitlyn and her new friends hold a schoolwide competition to select the Next Great Paulie Fink and hopefully save the school from bankruptcy in the process. Caitlyn, because of her unique position as an unbiased outsider, is appointed to act as judge. With its innovative combination of interviews, transcripts, letters, and firsthand narration and its characters brought vividly to life by voice actors Cassandra Morris, Zach Villa, and Cameron Bowen, The Late Great Paulie Fink is an insightful, engaging exploration of how we understand (and often misunderstand) our own histories and the importance of listening to the voices and perspectives of everyone.
Running time: 7 hours, 12 minutes
David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens