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The Pinballs

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,656 ratings  ·  130 reviews
You can't always decide where life will take you--especially when you're a kid.

Carlie knows she's got no say in what happens to her. Stuck in a foster home with two other kids, Harvey and Thomas J, she's just a pinball being bounced from bumper to bumper. As soon as you get settled, somebody puts another coin in the machine and off you go again. But against her will and he
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Paperback, 144 pages
Published August 10th 2004 by HarperCollins (first published January 1st 1977)
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Kids in Foster Care
18th out of 145 books — 77 voters
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487th out of 1,245 books — 1,246 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,358)
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Monica!
I’m Theme-Reading at the moment, friends, and the theme is “Books That Should Be Checked Out More By My Younger Patrons But Aren’t, Forcing Me To Potentially Weed Them From My Collection, Why Children Why Do You Not Have The Amazing Taste In Stories That I Want You To Have.”

So in that vein, here we have The Pinballs, a book that I very vaguely remembered reading and enjoying as a child. Upon reread I understand why it’s collecting dust.

The plot is good, though, let’s start with that.

Carlie, Harv
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Jillian
I feel relly bad for Harvey. His dad ran over his legs,and now hes an acoholic.And Carly's life is real hard because her dad said he would cut off all her hair!


Thomas J. never had a birthday well atleast he didnt know when it was. So when Carly heard about that she said Thomas J. could have the same birthday as her. He said yes because everyone needs a birthday there birthday will be on April. 7th. That same day Harvy was in the Hospital because his toes along with his legs were infected! And i
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Rebecca
Re-read to be on par with the 6th graders in September.
Byars did a good job crafting a slim, accessible story, with heavy, important themes, for relatively young readers.
I remember this book being one of the first really moving realistic books I read--being surprised by the drama (not melodrama, not overdone...but really serious stuff); it stands up over time. The dated details were dated when I first read it--and don't/didn't interfere with the story. I suspect young readers will think of the p
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Sophie
I remember when I read this for school in grade six, I would have gave it a three. I liked it, but purely plot wise I felt like there were serious issues I couldn't overlook. Ask anyone who knew me at the time, all I would do is complain about the ending of he Pinballs. "you can't leave more questions than answers, you just can't!" mm I think this part is spoilers so.... so anyways... I just hated how it ended with them on the bench at the park (I can't remember exactly. Where is Thomas's mother ...more
Krista
I have very mixed feelings about this book. It is about Harvey, Carlie, and Thomas J., three foster children who come to live with the Masons. Carlie is there because her step-father was abusive and hit, Harvey because his father was drunk and ran over his legs with a car, and Thomas J. because he was found as baby by two very old women who were neglectful in their care of him and who are now too old to take care of him. Carlie calls the three pinballs because they are being bounced around by li ...more
Mary
One summer Harvey, Thomas J. and Carlie all go to live with Mr. and Mrs. Mason, foster parents who have fostered 17 other children over the years. Carlie's 2nd stepfather beat her up. Harvey's alcoholic father ran over both of his legs with his new car, and Thomas J. was abandoned when he was about 2 at the home of two 90-year-old twin sisters who have fallen and broken their hips. Clearly these three children have not had stable or easy childhoods so far. Carlie compares them to the balls in pi ...more
Madelin
The Book is Mainly About 3 Kids that Live in A Foster home Together. I Like This Book because Is Mainly Explains About Self Control and How Adults make Mistakes at time. I Predict that what is going to Happen next is That they will Change their Behaviors and Try to change so that They can have a better life.
April
I remember reading this book in elementary school and feeling heartbroken for the characters. The characters in this book are called Pinballs because they are foster-children bounced from house to house. If you want a quick read that will have you feeling some emotion, check this book out.
Chace Thibodeaux
This is one of my favorite books from my childhood. I must have read it over a dozen times. Three kids get sent to live with new foster parents. There's 15 year old Carlie, who has bounced back and forth between several foster homes (like a "pinball") and is therefor the most cynical. 13 year old Harvey, who is in a wheelchair, thanks to his drunken bio-dad, and is very quiet. And 8 year old Thomas J., an orphan who seems to be the most "normal." Over the course of a summer, the three kids learn ...more
NebraskaIcebergs
It didn’t surprise me to read that Betsy Byars has received more letters about The Pinballs than about any of her other books. Of all her books that I have read, The Pinballs is one of my favorites. I love the three main characters. The plot is perfectly balanced. Even the writing style immediately impressed me. The Pinballs is a classic for many sound reasons.

More than anything, the characters are distinct and memorable. Meet Carlie. Byars tells us she is as hard to crack as a coconut. Carlie a
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Gayle Francis Moffet
I remembered reading this book in middle school and figured I'd never find it again. Lo and behold, it's still popular enough to allow for a re-release all this time later, and I got to sit down and read it again.

The Pinballs is set in the 70s and is about three kids who all wind up in the same foster home. They end up there for different reasons, and they are distinct in their personalities and individual responses to situations. It's almost pleasant to read this book again and realize there ar
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Swanbender2001
Three foster children find themselves staying with a nice couple and come to terms with some of their sense of loss. Harvey’s mother left him and his father when he was young to find herself and never thought to look back to her role as a mother and the heartbreak of her young son. Harvey’s father drank himself to ease the pain and was not much of a father to his son and then one day in a burst of self-indulgence, actually ran over Harvey and broke both his legs. The girl is far too cynical and ...more
Vaneja
The pinballs by Besty Byars is a funny,sad,entertaining. the children are Harvey,thomasJ and Carlie .Carlie is the big sister Harvey and Thomas J ever had.She got to the foster home because her step father hit her.Thats the end of that story.On to Harvey that a sad story.hes in the foster home becausehis father ran over his legs.The only reason he ran over his legs because he did not get out the car.Harvey did not get out te car because he got a reward for writing I LOVE BEING A AMICAN.Plus his ...more
Gale
BOUNCED BETWEEN FOSTER HOMES

Three unwanted kids--complete strangers to each other--find themselves in the same nurturing foster home, with three different tales of neglect and disillusion locked shamefully in their love-starved hearts. Wisecracking Carly compares their unstable lifestyles to that of unfeeling pinballs: bounced around by fate with little control over their substandard destiny.

When the children finally begin to verbalize (only to each other) their fears and ambitions, they make
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Jessica
Nov 15, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids up for something short, serious, and good
This is an extremely sweet little book about how it sucks to be in foster care, even if you have wonderful foster parents, which a lot of kids don't. I recently reread this, and it made me cry. Of course, I cry when I read the front section of the Times or watch a certain Adam Sandler movie, so that doesn't mean much.... This is a great book, though. The kids are all interesting, three-dimensional characters, not at all the big-eyed, trembling punching bags you might expect from a treatment of t ...more
Olivia Mainville
For a children’s book this touched on a rather dark subject – the pains of being placed in a foster family. This is the story of one girl who can’t get along with her stepfather, a boy in a wheelchair after being run over by his drunken father, and another boy whose only parents he ever had were a pair of 80+ year old twins who found him on their doorstep when he was a baby. They are the pinballs, shooting from place to place without control of where they’re going. They each try to pick up the p ...more
Carrie
This is one of those stories that stuck with me.
I re-read it as an adult and it's a little out of date - Do most children truly know what a pinball machine is to properly get the metaphor - but the substance stands up to the test of time.

Children will always be at the mercy of the adults in their lives, and they will always struggle to find their own place.

Mimi
Let me start by saying that I re-read this awesome book back in 2006 as part of the investigations I did for my Masters thesis paper. At the time I was exploring the issue of how works of grade-level fiction that will encourage at-risk learners to become life-long readers while achieving grade-level benchmarks. I also used to read this with my 6th grade students who were considered "at-risk" and they really identified!

Betsy Byars addresses such issues as abuse, abandonment, alcoholism and death
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Katie Kemple
I found a copy of The Pinballs at a thrift store recently. I don't remember reading many books as a kid, but I remembered this one and picked it up. As an adult, I was moved by its brevity and characters. Betsy Byars achieves quite a bit for a 22,000 word novel, particularly one that deals with a difficult situation for children.

Julie
This book was recommended to me by a student, and he said it was awesome. While I can see its appeal in the 70's, I highly doubt he has ever read this book at all and was just messing with me. It's a book that was probably excellent at its time, but needs to be retired.
Erika Schuck
I read It to see if it was appropriate for my kids or if it would make the ones that have been in/are in foster homes uncomfortable. I was especially worried if it said something negative about foster homes. Even though we talk about their experiences and most of them have been bad, we always hope that they are going to a wonderful & forever foster home & don't want them to give up or think all foster parents are bad. But this book is so touching, funny, honest, & appropriate for my ...more
Jennifer
This book has been a favorite read of mine since childhood. Over the years, I've picked it up again and again for a quick little read. The content is well written, the characters believable and ones for which the reader can really root/hope for as the story progresses. Thomas J is the youngest - the helper, Harvey is 13 and the token nerd-wannabe-something more important, and Carlie is one heck of a tough yet sweet gal once you get to know her. Together, with the help of their foster parents --t ...more
Heather
Carlie, Thomas J., and Harvey start the summer moving into foster care. Harvey's father ran him over with a car and broke both his legs, but Harvey claims he is in a wheelchair because of a football accident. Thomas J. ended up in foster care after the elderly twins raising him fell and broke their hips. Carlie is on her 3rd father and in her mind she is 0-3 where fathers are concerned. Carlie has decided the three of them are pinballs - they ended up in the same hole, but not by choice - contro ...more
Ambulur
Read this with my high 3rd grade group. I was a little hesitant at first but it really made them think. We had awesome conversations and we were totally sucked in. :)
Badiss
This book is about a girl named Carlie. Carlie lives in a foster home with two other kids, Harvey and Thomas. Carlie is never able to make her own decisions. She has no say in what goes on in her life. Against Carlie’s will she become friends with Thomas, and Harvey. The three friends make a choice to start standing up for themselves, and to speak up for each other and themselves.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a fun book. I am sure they would enjoy it very much.

If i were
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Ruth
Another childhood fave - misfits, abandonment, loyalty - this book has it all. It takes place in the 70s / early 80s (when it was written) and is a tame take on life as a foster kid. It was so radically different from my childhood (adults really behave that way????) that I was taken with this book. I shared it years later with my own 5th grade students to mixed reviews. Our school district even that the video of Pinballs that we watched after reading the book. In the end, it may have been the da ...more
Seamus
The story Pinballs is about three kids who move into a foster home and learn a lot about each other. Harvey is in the foster home because he wanted his dad to go to his concert at school because he played the trumpet. His dad was drunk, got in his 4-by-4 truck and ran his son over and broke his legs. Thomas J. is in the foster home because his guardians are too old to watch over him, they are the oldest living twins in the city. The main character Carlie, she is in the foster home because her pa ...more
Bunny
I read this book an extremely long time ago. It is one of those books that I wracked my brain for enough details to google and find it. Thank cod for Wikipedia.

A truly enjoyable book that all spoiled middle-to-upper class rich kids need to read when they think their life is so horrible and difficult.

1/30 - I re-read this this morning. I knew it would be a quick read, and I hadn't read it in so long.

This is way more upsetting than I remember. I must have grown more sympathetic in my old age. But
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Josiah
I really, really liked this book, and considered giving it four stars. In the end, it might get three and a half.
I love the kids that live in this caring, sympathetic foster home, and their backstories are heartbreaking, vivid, and even funny in the case of the youngest. Speaking of the youngest, it was Thomas J. whom I liked the most, absorbing his sweet personality and enjoying his story for all it was.
Betsy Byars really did a good job in this book, I would say. It is one of my favorite of
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Mas5thgrade
I learned that even if you are sent to a foster home while your parents 'find themselves' or just have to chill out, you can't let anyone push you around. You are in charge of your OWN life, and no one else is. Also, some people could be your worst enemy and you don't want to be in the same ROOM with them, let alone the same HOUSE, they can actually turn out to be your best friend(s) and someone who you need to rely on for support when things don't work out the way they should. This is a very in ...more
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Betsy Byars has written over sixty books for young people. Her first published in 1962 and since then she has published regularly. Her books have been translated into nineteen languages and she gets thousands of letters from readers in the United States and from all over the world.

She has won many awards. Among them are the Newbery Medal in 1971 for her novel The Summer of the Swans, the American
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More about Betsy Byars...
The Summer of the Swans Tornado The Midnight Fox The SOS File Keeper of the Doves

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