Reviews for Bully Book
Booklist Reviews 2012 December #2
Part instruction manual, part journal from the trenches, this debut novel incorporates both sides of the bullying issue into a single narrative. Eric Haskins is an average kid who has coasted through elementary school with a couple of friends and without attracting undue attention. But this year he is the "Grunt," the kid that everyone in sixth grade hates. Unsure of what he has done wrong, Eric becomes obsessed with getting his hands on the mythic Bully Book, which will supposedly tell him why he has been designated the Grunt. Eric keeps a journal, pages of which are intermixed with pages from the Bully Book. Reading the two together highlights how enigmatic the problem is for the child who is on the receiving end of a clearly defined set of unwritten rules. The fact that the Bully Book writes all the rules down adds a conspiratorial menace to the story. It is an over-the-top approach, yet it reinforces the insidious nature of bullying and its continued prevalence in the lives of middle-schoolers. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
The clever premise has sixth-grade "Grunt" Eric Haskins investigating a mysterious how-to guide on bullying circulating the school. Alternating between Eric's journal entries and passages from The Bully Book, the narrative conveys both the perspective of the bullies' unfortunate target but also the vulnerability of the "bully bookers" themselves. Readers will cheer for Eric as he regains control of his life.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #1
A meticulous anatomy of a bullying victim. Determinedly normal Eric Haskins is dumbfounded when his best friend, just back from camp, joins with a couple of other boys to call him "Grunt" at the beginning of sixth grade. Pretty soon, Eric is the class pariah; even decent and stalwart Melody turns away. A couple of chance remarks convince Eric that he's just the latest in a long line of sixth-grade Grunts and that the bullies are actually working from a manual. Readers know that Eric's right, because interspersed with his journal entries chronicling his miserable year are excerpts from the titular Bully Book, which advises, "You have to create yourself. And to keep yourself safe, you have to create other people too, like the Grunt." Eric's quest to uncover the Bully Book is genuinely suspenseful. The juxtaposition of Eric's journal against the Bully Book allows readers to see both the bullies' methodology and Eric's unwitting complicity. Gale gutsily portrays a gloves-off sixth-grade classroom in which variations of "gay" are flung around as insults (a usage that Eric articulately and bravely challenges). While it's hard to imagine even the numbest substitute teacher routinely allowing a vocabulary lesson to become a bullying opportunity ("Eric Haskins is generally stupid"), the other adults in Eric's life are convincingly ineffectual or self-deluded. A compelling and unusual look at a complex and intractable problem that succeeds admirably as story as well. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #2
This gripping debut novel, previously published by the author as an e-book, explores school bullying and power dynamics from perspectives at both the top and the bottom of the classroom social order. Excerpts from "the Bully Book" address readers directly, explaining how to rise to a position of power ("You need to pick lieutenants, loyal friends who can help you carry out instructions") at the expense of the "Grunt," a student singled out for abuse. Sixth-grader Eric Haskins writes intervening journal entries that detail his growing awareness that he has become his grade's targeted Grunt. Using the Bully Book's guidance, three boys mount a step-by-step campaign of psychological warfare against Eric, sabotaging his few friendships, turning classmates against him, and collapsing his self-esteem. Yet an inner resilience emerges as Eric tries to unravel the origins of the Book, a layered and attention-grabbing mystery. Gale's accounts of bullying are subtle and chilling, but readers will finish the book believing that the humiliations Eric suffers can be conquered. Ages 8-12. Agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 February
Gr 4-7--Previously published as an ebook, this is a chillingly realistic portrayal of bullying. Sixth-grader Eric Haskins, formerly normal to the outside world, has been chosen to be this year's "Grunt"-the target of an all-encompassing bullying scheme. When all of his friends turn against him, he discovers the root of his problems, The Bully Book, and methodically attempts to locate its origin and author, and find out why he has been targeted. Realizing that the practice goes beyond the misery of his sixth-grade year to past victims, he is determined to stop it from claiming future students. Alternately told through Eric's journal entries and The Bully Book's cruel directives ("You've got to ruin the Grunt's friendships…You need to start fights between the grunt and his friends. Spread rumors that will cause trouble"), the story is fast paced, with strong character voice in the writing. Readers will experience the depressive reality of a bullied child as they try to solve the mystery along with Eric. Those who have been victims will root for him as he tries to make sense of the warfare waged against him, while others may recognize tendencies in themselves that should be altered. Great for discussion.--Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA [Page 102]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
VOYA Reviews 2013 December
Eric was a pretty normal kid going into sixth grade, but things turned ugly very quickly. With the exception of Melody and Colin, the whole class began to pick on Eric. When Colin's older brother mentions "The Book" and how a "grunt" is selected each year, Eric concludes that he has been chosen. Following various clues, he eventually locates the manual. He discovers that the book has been handed down from class to class and dates back many years. The "grunt" is always a kid like Eric who is average and passively accepts the label bestowed upon him. Eric takes steps to counteract the book's poison by rotating its pages with his own painful journal entries. Passing down this revised Bully Book will expose this hurtful tradition and, hopefully, lessen its power With the voice of the book's original writer juxtaposed with Eric's, this novel grabs the reader at page one. Interspersed humor (bloody boogers and body fluids) lightens the serious tone and the mystery about the manual's author continues almost to the end. Calling upon his own unhappy experiences, the author demonstrates how easily bully Jason "Crazypants" and his lieutenants implement the book's toxic plan for classroom dominance; however, the novel's message about the importance of self-awareness and other tools needed to lessen the impact of bullying is equally forceful. Although it targets the middle school set, this novel will furnish teachers, parents, and teens with ammunition to combat this cruel conundrum.--Barbara Johnston 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.