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2009 Award
Bystander
( by James Preller, Feiwel & Friends $16.99 Score: )

Eric and his family move back to his mom’s hometown after his parents’ divorce. It’s a bumpy time made all the worse by a bully by the name of Griffin and his ‘gang’ of followers. There’s plenty of suspense and some welcome dollops of humor in the telling of this tale of 7th grade boys who can be as cruel as girls are often portrayed. In fact, the guys tend to use physical abuse along with the emotional taunts so common in this kind of story. But this story doesn’t just focus on the boys, it’s their fathers, one mentally ill and absent, the other an alcoholic, that the author weaves into the back story, as if to explain the boys and their behavior.   Of course the business of belonging and excluding others is so developmentally typical, kids do not need disturbed parents to explain the behavior away, but it does add leavening to the story. In the real world of bullies where kids have been driven to suicide, this is a mild story. Still, it is a portrait of a cruel world that calls for courage as well as strong adults kids can turn to. After making his way into belonging, Eric has to face the truth about going along and being a bystander or being true to what he knows is right even if that makes him a target. In a world where bullying makes the evening news, this is clearly a story that will resonate with middle school boys. 10 & up.

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.


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