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A Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich
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A Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  450 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Benjie can stop using heroin anytime he wants to. He just doesn't want to yet. Why would he want to give up something that makes him feel so good, so relaxed, so tuned-out? As Benjie sees it, there's nothing much to tune in for. School is a waste of time, and home life isn't much better. All Benjie wants is for someone to believe in him, for someone to believe that he's mo ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by Puffin Books (first published 1973)
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This book brings up many great points to discuss with teens in a book club or school setting. Issues include: teen drug abuse and addiction, race relations, the successes and failures of the civil rights movement, the education of urban African-American youth, family communication, etc. Unfortunately, this book was written for a teen audience in the early 1970s, and that causes a tremendous amount of dated-ness. The hip jive dialect bears little resemblance to the language used by urban teens (o ...more
This book was written in the early seventies and is pretty dated now, both in the attitudes of the characters and the way they talk. Modern-day high school kids may find it hard to relate to and I, a white girl from suburbia, found the Ebonics hard to understand.

However, the book definitely has its merits. I was impressed with the author's ability to create a multitude of narrators, none of them sounding too much like the other. The author also did an excellent job establishing the setting (whic
Yinglin Chen
Benjie a 13 year old teenager, is having a bit of trouble admitting is issues. From smoking marijuana to injecting heroin, he keeps on saying he isn't addicted to any of the drugs. However, his mother and her boyfriend, Butler, constantly deals with Benjie stealing household items for drug money.

A book about teenage life in the 70's isn't necessarily the novel you thought it would be about. This book wasn't the best book if you don't pay attention to the headings and names of the chapters. Each
Evanston Public  Library
After reading a fascinating article on actress/author/playwright Alice Childress in the October 10 issue of The New Yorker, I decided to check out her young adult novel A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich published in 1973. Although some of the language is dated, this is still a powerful and moving book about 13-year-old heroin addict Benjie trying to find his way in New York's Harlem. Written in short, alternating chapters from differing perspectives (Benjie's mother Rose, best friend Jimmie-Le ...more
I snagged this book off of my boyfriend's sister's bookshelf before I flew out of town, mostly because the title was funny to me. Benjie is a 13-year-old boy living in a rough neighborhood with his mother, her boyfriend and her mother. As is typical in many young adult books the boy's descent into drug abuse goes almost entirely unnoticed though, interestingly enough, not because no one cares about him. It was refreshing that Benjie is not an abused child but simply a child living under poor cir ...more
I remember seeing this title when I was in junior high. My librarian steered me away from it. Although I never read it, I always remembered it because of the title.

Flashforward many, many, many years and I see the title again. The book is much thinner than I remember. I decide to read it anyway to see if it might be of interest to my struggling readers.

It's a good story with ever-changing points of view. The problem is the language. There is no way that I could get away with having this on my sh
A controversial book because of its slang, street language and drug activity, I think this book is more suited for teens/adults. It's not a "children's book" just because there is a child character. The book is set in a tough NY neighborhood. Benjie is a 13-year-old boy who abuses drugs, and the book is told from his point of view, as well as his mother's, his mother's boyfriend (Butler Craig), his grandmother, the next door neighbor lady who wishes Butler were hers, the school principal, and te ...more
I like this book and I don't like this book. This is a re-read for me. The first time I read it I was about the same age as Benjie. I think I liked it more then. The alternating perspectives is what makes this book interesting. Through the various narrators eyes you get a great vision of what the community is like, but at the same time I don't feel as if I got to know my main character well enough. He remains elusive and shifty throughout the book. The vernacular used can be at sometimes tricky ...more
My last book of the summer! This was a quick, arresting read, a story told in the voices and vernacular of its characters, with the occasional newspaper clipping thrown in. I have never lived in an urban slum, but the characters and events seemed convincing to me. There were only a few lines that sounded too snappy or poetic to be real--the title line was one of them. It's easy to imagine this novel being performed as a series of monologues. Each character has redeeming qualities, and in the end ...more
Alexis Wray
I really enjoyed this book. I especially like how it had all the perspectives in Benjis life telling the story of how heroin became apart of his life. The only part I didn't like was the ending, the ending was Butler just waiting for him to come home and hoping that he wasn't back on drugs. I just wish there would have been more of an ending!
Chase Larson

Sept, 16, 2014

This book has an interesting plot and I will tell you why. Ben starts to get addicted on drugs and his parents get worried. This starts alot of drama in the family. Ben isn’t worried about it at all even though he is being asked questions.

This book has a unique way of telling the story because each chapter has a diffrent point of view. In one chapter they could be using Bens point of view then the principals point of view on the matter of his drug abuse. It’s a very important part
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This one was okay. I liked that it was written from multiple perspectives, because drug addiction affects not only the addict but everyone around them. It's a very introspective book, focusing more on thoughts and feelings instead of actions. I personally had trouble relating to it because I'm not black, and the language took a couple of tries to figure out. The civil rights aspects of the book are still relevant today, but it distracted from Benjie's story. It felt like a longer read than it ac ...more
Viktoriya Tsoy
This book is pretty dated, and as extreme the racial relations in this book are, I can say in New York - there are still these issues present. I had some difficulty with the language, or urban words I should say, for example I kept reading chile as chili ( as in the pepper ) when it meant child. So yeah, thats tough especially if you didn't grow u around slang. The story is worth a read, and is quite engaging, but unfortunately not my favorite as far as "urban" writing. A good book to read with ...more

Thirteen-year-old Benjie is like a lot of ghetto children: he's black, he's poor, he hasn't got a father, and he's gone from smoking marijuana to using heroin. He says he’s not addicted. He can stop anytime he wants. However, his mother and her boyfriend, Butler Craig, are getting fed up because he's stealing all their stuff and selling it for drug money. When the teachers see him stoned at school, they send him up for detoxification and treatment. Benji is released and things seem OK fo
Medeia Sharif
Benjie is hooked on heroin and we get to see his viewpoint and those of everyone around him—family members, teachers, friends, and dealers. This is one powerful read about addiction centering on a young person spiraling out of control. I liked the shifting narrators with each chapter heading announcing who was speaking. Published in the early 1970’s, readers will get a feel for that decade and the civil rights issues of that time.
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I liked the use of multiple characters leading a narrative A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich. I think it helped because the main character Benji and his addiction to heroine compromised his interpretations of events, specifically with Benji’s teachers and his Benji's stepfather, Butler. Benji had many moments complete and utter disrespect of Butler for the plain reason that he is not his real father. I can see how the fact that Benji's real father abandoning his family could foster harsh feeli ...more
A little heavy-handed on the political commentary, but this novel featuring a 13-year-old drug addict protagonist and four other first-person narrators is written well. Each of the voices feels very distinct. The ending was thought provoking.
I love this book. It's deceptively slim, which led my students (and me, at first) to think it wouldn't be as complex or challenging as some other pieces we read. But, this book is challenging in different ways--it has a rotating cast of speakers, which can make it tricky to remember their relationship to Benjie, the "protagonist," and the urban slang and dialect can be challenging as well. But, I love how Childress critiques education, urban life, fatherhood, the role of teachers, Black National ...more
This book is memorable because I chose it for my first book report in 6th grade...the book is about an inner-city kid and the language includes some adult words - most importantly the F-word. My mom flipped through the book and then flipped out - she gave the librarians more than a piece of her mind and even tried to get the book banned from our school...I was absolutely mortified. I became fast friends with the librarians, who would save books for me under the circulation desk and if it was som ...more
Ronald Wise
A quick read that gets right to the heart of the matter regarding a heroin-addicted 13-year-old boy. It is presented as a collection of statements by the boy himself and the other people in his life. There is a moment or two in the book where it appears to be headed in an unrealistic direction, but then the story line, the characters, and the reader are brought back to reality.

Written 36 years ago, this book for young adults focuses on violence and drugs that now seem mild compared to the change
J. Monique
I read this book years ago and I was in awe when I finished it.
Kristen Mohr
A little melodramatic at times, but basically sound.
Keith Miller
This book was okay it was kind of boring.
I liked the shifting narrators and the depth of each POV; each person's story helped me understand the circumstances that led up to and continued through Benjie's story. I liked the historical context--I have a sense for early 1970s NY now. This book is essentially about addiction and the devastation it causes in individuals and communities; and it's about the role of autonomy within family systems. The slang is something that takes getting used to, but I think this is a very valuable quick read ...more
Marcia S
The language in the book was a little hard to follow at first. Reading the story from the characters view gave a more in depth view of the psychological thinking’s & personal troubles of the characters. This book made me feel many emotions from laughter from a funny joke made by one of the characters; anger due to the situations that many of the characters were facing as well as sadness due to the struggles the young boy was facing and knowing that there are far too many Benjie’s in the worl ...more
This is one of the best 100 YA books.

It was a very interesting read. The story of a 13 year old junkie living in Harlem, it is told from several points of view. We get a few pages at a time from Benjie - the 13 year old, his friend, his Mom, his step father, two teachers from school and a counselor. It does paint a pretty desperate picture of living in the slum areas of a big city. However, the novel does also give the sense of hope present in some of the people in Benjie's life.
Kim Kanofsky
Very interesting read about a 13-yr old African-American boy who feels abandoned by the world and starts taking drugs. Very realistic. Loved how it was told in several different people's points of view. I probably would have given it 5 stars, but I didn't like the open ending. I guess I wanted closure on this great book.
Benn Kist
Interesting book- plenty of observational humor, drug-use and racism for the kids; a LOT of dated slang and references. The characters and the presentation of their respective worldviews feel true on the whole, but kind of canned (as Childress' archetypes of "the society" each uniquely fail to help Benjie)... but then again, I'm writing this 40 years after it was first published- the book has unfortunately (subject matter-wise) held up pretty well.
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Alice Childress (October 12, 1916 – August 14, 1994) was an American playwright, actor, and author.

She took odd jobs to pay for herself, including domestic worker, photo retoucher, assistant machinist, saleslady, and insurance agent. In 1939, she studied Drama in the American Negro Theatre (ANT), and performed there for 11 years. She acted in Abram Hill and John Silvera's On Strivers Row (1940), T
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“One day I almost said it . . . after goin over the words in my mind, "Benjie, the greatest thing in the world is to love someone and they love you too." But when I opened my mouth, I said, "Benjie, brush the crumbs off your jacket.” 1 likes
“Schoolteachers can be some hard-eyed people, with talkin eyes; they mouth sayin one thing and them eyes be screamin another.” 1 likes
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