Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pinballs” as Want to Read:
The Pinballs
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pinballs

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,051 Ratings  ·  153 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
Paperback, 144 pages
Published August 10th 2004 by HarperCollins (first published January 1st 1977)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pinballs, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

K This is a book about three kids living in a foster home. It has many complex social issues and explores how the kids overcome or come to terms with…moreThis is a book about three kids living in a foster home. It has many complex social issues and explores how the kids overcome or come to terms with them now that they are finally in a safe, healthy home environment. This is a powerful read. It was written in the 1970s however, and there are some old references. I highly recommend it!(less)
White Oleander by Janet FitchOne for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly HuntThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThree Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-CourterPictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
Kids in Foster Care
20th out of 160 books — 99 voters
Beyond Bridalveil Fall by Sheryl SealAgainst The Tide by John F. HanleyPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealThe Jupiter Chronicles by Leonardo Ramirez
Best Books About Family Relationships
86th out of 450 books — 319 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jubilation Lee
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
Feb 13, 2011 Jillian rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2007 Rebecca rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2012 Sophie rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jul 24, 2015 Stephany rated it liked it
I read this book in middle school. I remember it being about encouragement and power through childhood during a very conflicted time for 3 foster children. They learn more about each-other, their past,and their hardships. I definitely recommend this book to children and teens.
Bailey Wavrunek
Apr 26, 2016 Bailey Wavrunek rated it really liked it
The Pinballs by Betsy Byars is a novel about three foster kids and how they deal with moving into a new foster home. The home they are moving into is the Mason’s. The Mason's have had many other foster children and it is obvious from all the pictures on the wall. Carlie is the first one to arrive. Carlie is very tough and wants to be in control. She is like this because she has been repeatedly abused by her various step-fathers. She doesn't really trust anyone because of this. Next is Harvey. Wh ...more
Ryk Stanton
Jan 09, 2015 Ryk Stanton rated it really liked it
I remember reading this as a kid. No, I remember checking this book out of the library as a kid and not reading it. Hey, it was called The Pinballs, and I loved to play pinball!

Yeah, it's not about pinball. Pinballs are used as a metaphor by the jaded, defensive foster child Carlie as she explains to the others that foster kids are like pinballs, put somewhere together without reason and just bouncing around with no sense of control. It's a pretty smart metaphor, that's for sure. And when it's r
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
Sep 16, 2015 Aimee rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 17, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
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
Katie Kemple
Jul 25, 2014 Katie Kemple rated it liked it
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.

Feb 04, 2011 Madelin rated it liked it
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.
Feb 15, 2009 April rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2014 Chace Thibodeaux rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 23, 2015 Julie0208 rated it it was amazing
The Pinballs is about three childen from three unhappy situations who end up in the same foster home. Betsy Byars, the author, kept the tone of the novel and the characters themselves practical and unsentimental. It allows young readers to absorb the shocking and heartbreaking things that happened to Carlie, Harvey and Thomas J before they were placed in the Mason home. There is also no overblown, overly optimistic or unrealistic ending to the book. The Pinballs is a great little slice-of-life a ...more
Trevor Wells
Dec 30, 2015 Trevor Wells rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: etc
When I first began reading The Pinballs, I didn't think I was going to enjoy it. It started out pretty slow and, with the small page number of 136, I didn't think there would be enough time for a compelling story to be told. But to my surprise, The Pinballs managed to shape into a well-written, compelling story with a great moral that is pieced together naturally. It's not exactly The Fault In Our Stars, but it can still tug at the heartstrings.

Plot Synopsis: Carlie feels she has no control over
Sep 22, 2014 NebraskaIcebergs rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
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
Gayle Francis Moffet
Mar 14, 2013 Gayle Francis Moffet rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2009 Swanbender2001 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 25, 2013 Gale rated it liked it

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
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
Mar 06, 2010 Mimi rated it really liked it
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
May 08, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
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
Mar 14, 2013 Erika Schuck rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 02, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it
This is one of our Battle of the Books titles. I don't think my students will appreciate the 1970s nostalgia of Sonny and Cher, but I'm sure they will enjoy the sweet relationship of these three foster kids who never give up on each other.
Apr 18, 2016 Robin rated it it was amazing
Easy read for JH or remedial young adults who are going through alot in their lives.

These three kids become friends as they are are pinballs bounced around from foster home to foster home.
Claudia McCarron
The characters are what really make this book, as there's not much in the way of setting or plot. But the kids are wonderful. A nice, short read which reminded me why I love middle-grade so much.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Harvey 4 35 Aug 31, 2011 05:10PM  
  • Soup (Soup, #1)
  • Taking Care of Terrific
  • Thank You, Jackie Robinson
  • Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You
  • The Exiles at Home (The Exiles, #2)
  • Fig Pudding
  • Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands
  • Molly Bannaky
  • Don't Hurt Laurie
  • Baseball in April and Other Stories
  • Ida Early Comes over the Mountain
  • Mick Harte Was Here
  • Jelly Belly
  • Finding Buck McHenry
  • Sixth Grade Secrets
  • This Place Has No Atmosphere
  • A Royal Pain
  • Notes from a Liar and Her Dog
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
More about Betsy Byars...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »