Bully Bait

illus. by author. 224p. (The Odd Squad Series). Hyperion/Disney. 2013. RTE $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-6924-6. LC 2012014286
Gr 4–7—Seventh-grader Nick spends more time inside his locker than out. Roy, the school bully, constantly tracks him down and throws him in there. When Nick ends up in the guidance counselor's office for the umpteenth time, she assigns him to a group of other misfits called the Safety Patrol. She is convinced that if they form a bond and overcome their "peer allergies" together, they will no longer be targets for bullying. The three kids do have something in common-Roy. As much as they get on one another's nerves, they decide to band together to take him on. Though the plot gets downright silly and a bit confusing at times, the theme of friendship and, eventually, empathy for one another and for the bully, does shine through. The small cartoon illustrations on almost every page are the highlight of the book. They are clever and help clarify some of the story. Especially funny are the depictions of Nick's yoga-practicing grandmother, Meemaw, who always has the perfect wisecrack to sum up a situation. The first of a series, this title will be enjoyed by fans of Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books (Abrams).—Tina Martin, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, IL
A stand-out among books on bullying due to its nuanced look at the issue, irreverent humor, and a resourceful victim. Told from Nick’s point of view, send-ups of middle-school topics speak directly to kids. Nick describes the Peer Mediation Club as “a bunch of bossy eighth-grade girls.” And he notes that the student government has “about as much power over school as I have over Roy.” Readers will realize that Nick’s mounting mistakes will come to no good long before Nick does. Tension builds as Nick uses a false identity to woo his crush and torment bully Roy. Michael Fry’s comic illustrations, honed by his work as a cartoonist, further the narrative as well as provide funny asides.

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