Friday, April 5, 2013

Odd Squad: Bully Bait by Michael Fry

This latest entry in the notebook novel genre isn't particularly new, but I found it funny despite the literary voice in my brain pointing out flaws.

Nick (the shortest 12 year old ever) is tired of being bullied by Roy, who's big, stupid, and mean. Against his will, he's teamed up with Molly and Karl on Safety Patrol to try to cure their "peer allergies". Molly gets teased because of her height and Karl is a stereotypical nerd, socially awkward and embarrassing to every human he comes in contact with. He's also the original (and only) real member of the Safety Patrol.

It turns out Nick isn't exactly innocent either, since he's been using his grandmother's phone to harass Roy and talk to Becky, the girl he has a crush on. Hijinks ensue, including an escaped boa constrictor, threatened death-by-tuna, and twistable science experiments.

The art is, I assume, fairly typical of the author's style (he's one of the creators of the Over the Hedge comic strip) but as it's not a strip I read, I didn't really have anything to compare it to. I don't think many kids will recognize it, but they'll like the art anyways - it's got that same mixture of cartoon style and a-kid-might-have-drawn-me that was so popular in Wimpy Kid and other titles.

There's nothing particularly different about this book. The characters are all very stereotypical - the bully who can't read and has family issues, the bullied kid who realizes he isn't innocent, the well-meaning adults who are totally clueless, etc. However, there are a few fresh touches. The Wise Janitor gets a makeover into a kooky storytelling hippie dude, there's a ghost who may or may not exist, and Nick's family is weird but funny. As long as teachers (and publishers) can refrain from suggested this book will assist in anti-bullying campaigns in any way, it's a hilarious read that kids will enjoy.

Verdict: This book made me laugh. It will make kids laugh. Go forth and purchase it.

ISBN: 9781423169246; Published February 2013 by Disney Hyperion; ARC provided by the publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013; Purchased for the library

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