The Secret Life of Dilly McBean


Book: The Secret Life of Dilly McBean

Author: Dorothy F. Haas

Jacket Illustrator: Sharron O’Neil

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks, republished 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0027382006 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0027382001 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0590431385 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0590431382 Paperback

Language level:  2

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: Science Fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Haas,Dorothy F. The Secret Life of Dilly McBean (Published in 1986 by Bradbury Press, an affiliate of Macmillan Inc., 866 Third Ave., New York City, NY  10022).  Twelve-year-old Dilloway “Dilly” McBean’s parents were killed in a terrible automobile accident when he was a small boy.  Under the care of the Commercial Chemical and Corn Trust and Savings Bank, Dilly lived at home with Cook, upstairs maid Mamie, and housekeeper Mrs. Carmichael until it was time for his education.  Then he was sent to a different boarding school each fall and a different summer camp every summer.  That is until Mr. Homer Orbed becomes his new guardian and takes Dilly to begin a new life in a real house in the small town of Hennessy Depot, where he lives with Mr. and Mrs. Blackpool, finds a dog which he names Contrary, goes to public school, makes friends with fellow students Bryan, Jessica, and Matt, and is tutored by the kindly professor Dr. McEvoy.

     However, Dilly has a secret power and is kidnapped by a computer whiz madman, the dastardly Dr. Keenwit, who is out to steal Dilly’s money and seize world power, planning to control the world with a computer.  The young orphan must use his strange power to match wits with Keenwit.  What is Dilly’s special power?   Can he foil the villain’s plot?  What will happen if Dilly’s power hurts him?   There are references to smoking a pipe and some common euphemisms (gosh, golly, heck) but no major objectionable material.  While the book does move rather slowly to the final climax, it still sustained my interest.  School Library Journal noted, “So much science fantasy for this age group has such rapid-fire pacing and pyrotechnics that this book stands out by its willingness to take time with the story and keep the super powers low-key. While not a great book, it does have more substance than many.”   If children show an interest in science fiction books, they should like this one.

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