The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman -- Middle School Book Review


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Our world is a crazy place. It is sometimes hard to imagine what others might be going through. I teach a school where we try to really get to know our students and I'm always shocked to hear what some of their home lives are like. And I teach at a private school where the parents are paying for their kids to attend. I can only imagine what life is like for kids in public schools. Today I am sharing a book that shares such a story. It is a middle school novel. The book is The Tenth Mistake of Hank Hooperman by Gennifer Choldenko. It is recommended for ages 10 to 13.

From the Publisher: 

Readers will be rooting for a happy ending for Hank in Newbery-Honor-winner Gennifer Choldenko’s gripping story of a boy struggling to hold his family together when his mom doesn't come home.

When eleven-year-old Hank’s mom doesn’t come home, he takes care of his toddler sister, Boo, like he always does. But it’s been a week now. They are out of food and mom has never stayed away this long… Hank knows he needs help, so he and Boo seek out the stranger listed as their emergency contact.

But asking for help has consequences. It means social workers, and a new school, and having to answer questions about his mom that he's been trying to keep secret. And if they can't find his mom soon, Hank and Boo may end up in different foster homes--he could lose everything.

Gennifer Choldenko has written a heart-wrenching, healing, and ultimately hopeful story about how complicated family can be. About how you can love someone, even when you can’t rely on them. And about the transformative power of second chances.

From Me: 

Hank is worried. His mother hasn't been home in a week. He hasn't gone to school in a week because he can't leave his young sister home alone. It isn't the first time she hasn't been home, but it is the longest. And now the building superintendent is knocking on the door and talking eviction since the rent hasn't been paid in months. They are also running out of food. He doesn't know what to do but when he finds his mother's bus pass and sees who the emergency contact is on the permission slip for a field trip he decides to go find the contact. After meeting nice women in the bus who give them some food as well as help them find the correct buses to the stranger's house, he wonders if he is making a mistake. However, he has no other options. It is rough going for Hank, but he is finally starting to make a new life for himself and Boo when his mother comes back. Now he has to decide between doing the right thing and his mom. Making the wrong choice could bring his world crashing down around him again. 

What an eye-opening story. You feel for Hank and Boo. Hank has been the parent to Boo for most of her life. He is trying to do what is best for her, but he is always worried about making a major mistake. The story is about second chances. There are second chances for Hank and Boo but also for their family, the stranger emergency contact and even her next-door neighbor. Each gets to decide how they will handle their second chances and whether to accept them or not. It is a strong story that has readers engrossed and wanting more. I love the rating of mistakes that Hank uses, and his fear of a number 10 mistake that there is no coming back from. There are so many powerful lessons in the book, and it will be eye-opening for some students who do not see this side of life.

This book is perfect to be read as a class. The discussions about choices, lifestyles and their second chances would be amazing. I can imagine the opinions shared and discussed throughout the book. It is well written, and kids will also enjoy this book for a summer read. I highly recommend it.