The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler

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Product Details

$17.99  $16.73
Kar-Ben Publishing (R)
Publish Date
5.3 X 7.6 X 0.8 inches | 0.75 pounds

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About the Author

Karen Pokras is a writer, daisy lover, and occasional baker. An avid reader, she found her passion for writing later in life and now runs all of her stories past the furry ears of her two feline editorial assistants before anyone else. She lives with her family outside of Philadelphia.


"What do the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, a telescope, spy notebook, a hairy fingered piano teacher, and a suspected kidnapping have to do with each other? When Danny Wexler lets his overactive imagination combine them, readers will quickly engage in The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler. Eleven year-old Danny Wexler is the only Jewish boy in his blue-collar town. He recounts his experiences in such a believable middle school voice that his ridiculous misconceptions about life seem just as plausible as his achingly real encounters with an anti-Semitic bully in school. He makes two good friends, even though one has to sneak visits to Danny's house because his mom doesn't want her son hanging out with a Jewish boy. Readers will laugh out loud, or at least roll their eyes like Danny's teenage sister, when they read how he convinces his friends that space aliens will land in his backyard when they're contacted through a musical code. Danny and his friends are certain aliens are somehow connected with the Bermuda Triangle theory and a reported kidnapping by someone driving a white van. Many people in the town are employed at the fiberglass factory, where there is growing antisemitism. Danny's dad hasn't received a promotion in 20 years, something he attributes to the bosses' dislike of Jews. Danny confides in an elderly neighbor who turns out to be Jewish. She helps him make sense of his many relationships, with gentle humor and wisdom. When his father is threatened by anti-Semites at work in the factory, Danny begins to realize the difference between imaginary and actual dangers. A serious explosion at the factory brings townspeople together as victims and helpers; people begin to understand each other and move beyond prejudice. Danny realizes some of his misunderstandings, and even the school bully pitches in. This fast-paced story, humorous, yet touching, may be a 'hard sell' with its childish looking cover. But make no mistake, there is much to think about and discuss. Characters are well drawn, with rich and believable emotions. The author skillfully weaves many disparate threads to create a clever and entertaining fabric of community." -- Debbie Colodny, AJL Newsletter

-- (12/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)

"Eleven-year-old Dan-ny Wexler has some imag-i-na-tion; space aliens, were-wolves, kid-nap-pers, and dis-ap-pear-ances in the Bermu-da Tri-an-gle fill his thoughts and bring about some pret-ty wild the-o-ries about the world in which he lives. Life feels uncer-tain and filled with dan-gers, even in his famil-iar small town. But one thing is not a fig-ment of Dan-ny's imag-i-na-tion: anti-semitism. Anti-se-mit-ic feel-ings per-co-lat-ing through-out the town are very real and can-not be denied.

Dan-ny is the only Jew-ish boy in his school. When his father is threat-ened by anti-semites in the fac-to-ry while at work, and Dan-ny faces sim-i-lar threats by some of his class-mates and their fam-i-lies, Dan-ny must learn to dis-tin-guish real dan-gers from the imag-i-nary kind. A seri-ous chem-i-cal explo-sion at the fac-to-ry adds dra-ma but also sup-plies a cat-a-lyst for under-stand-ing and a focus for dis-plays of kind-ness and car-ing, help-ing the cit-i-zens of the town draw clos-er and begin to move beyond sus-pi-cion and fear.

This fast-paced sto-ry, although filled with humor, is built on a foun-da-tion of neigh-bor-ly bonds and mutu-al assis-tance. Dan-ny, his fam-i-ly, and his clos-est friends are sym-pa-thet-ic and like-able. Some of the town's res-i-dents are will-ing to learn about them-selves and one anoth-er in spite of deeply root-ed prej-u-dice and lay-ers of mis-un-der-stand-ing. Read-ers will be enter-tained but will also come away with food for thought and mate-r-i-al for seri-ous dis-cus-sion with class-mates, teach-ers, and par-ents as they read about an imag-i-na-tive boy and the world in which he, and all of us, live." -- Michal Hoschander Malen, Jewish Book Council

-- (10/6/2021 12:00:00 AM)

"Danny Wexler is a middle schooler with two best friends, a family, and an elderly neighbor that are central to his life. The relationship between Danny and his sister is typical, and his relationship with his parents influences many of the questions and actions Danny takes. The relationship he has with his elderly neighbor is at once endearing and precarious, acting as a catalyst for how Danny interprets and understands many of the events that occur in his life. However, it is the relationship with his friends that will draw readers to him. The group is quirky and real; teaching Danny about life and the different perspectives that surround him. Karen Pokras does an excellent job of realistically conveying the perspective of a middle schooler. She captures Danny's use of imagination vividly, without making him sound silly. She also realistically portrays the microaggressions Danny and his family encounter as a result of anti-semitism as well as the confusion they cause for a young man who is growing up and facing a world that is not always kind to him. Highly recommended." -- Maria J. Sexton, Library Media Specialist, Douglas High School Library, Douglas, Arizona, School Library Connection

-- (8/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)