Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Bully Bait

Bully Bait (The Odd Squad, book one)
By Michael Fry
Published 2013 by Disney Press

Nick doesn't really mind getting shoved into his locker - it's pretty roomy in there, actually - except when it gives him zombie butt. It seems the only solution to zombie butt is stopping the bully from cramming him into the locker - but how? Is it really possible that Safety Patrol will be the answer?

Publishers everywhere are still trying to recreate the success of Diary of a Wimpy Kid - this is one of the latest attempts. I think there is a real push (and need) for middle school fiction; in our area, this seems to be our biggest age group. Additionally, with the topic of bullying being pretty much everywhere nowadays (and middle school being a tragically difficult time in most kids' lives), there is definitely a need for kids to see more of these experiences in fiction. Bully Bait, the first book in a new series, is another example of "diary" type fiction. It's not written necessarily in diary format, but the story is told in first person, short chapters, with black and white illustrations throughout. I don't know that I've mentioned it here but over at my Goodreads account, I've admitted that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books have been getting on my nerves. What it boils down to for me is that Greg is not a nice person and an even worse friend and I just can't stand it - it seems to be played off as Greg just not knowing any better. It doesn't fly with me. So, whenever I look at readalikes for that series, it often isn't hard for me to like a character more than Greg.

Is this a suitable readalike for Wimpy Kid? Yes - it explores the awkward relationships kids have in middle school - with themselves, with other kids, and with adults (parents and other adults). It tackles the subject of bullying in a humorous way and brings to light that many bullies are dealing with problems of their own, some that make them pick on other kids to make themselves feel better. It highlights the slippery slope between bully and bullied - the main character here experiences both throughout the book. I love the wise but random advice Mr. Dupree gives Nick and his fellow Safety Patrollers. Though the construct of the Safety Patrol itself seems a bit too convenient, it gives Nick a chance to find other misfits and see if there might be a group for him somewhere.

Do I think kids will like this? Yes - I will definitely be pushing this one this summer.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

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