Knights of the Lunch Table Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
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Boy uses brains, heart, and friends to stand up to bullies.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

No academic content here, but the social-emotional lessons are huge: The impact of bullying on everyone around the bully, the importance of friends and having an adult ally in tough situations, and how kindness and good humor can change a situation in an instant.

Positive Messages

Bullying is the premise of the series, but so it's over the top and demonized that there's no risk of glorifying it. The story here is the triumphant underdogs, whose struggles, kindness and inner strength are celebrated throughout the series.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teacher who is Artie's ally shows what an impact one person can have, and the ease with which Artie finds friends just like him at his new school is nice to see in a middle school novel.

Violence

There's a lot of violence and threats (both physical and emotional) related to bullying, and while it isn't glorified, it's present on almost every page.

Language

There's no swearing, but the series is full of insults ("moron," "shut up," "wimp") that really sting Artie. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Frank Cammuso's Knights of the Lunch Table series tackles important issues with depth, sincerity, humor, and heart. The illustrations in these graphic novels, featuring Artie and his underdog friends on quests against school bullies and an evil principal, jump off the page, and the writing is both silly and serious. The themes, though, could be tough for younger readers who have experienced bullying or loneliness at school. Artie lives in fear of being pummeled by Joe, and while everything about these stories is shown in a distinct good-vs.-evil setup, the empathy shown toward the bullies could hit more sensitive readers hard. 

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What's the story?

In the KNIGHTS OF THE LUNCH TABLE series, Artie King is the new kid at Camelot Middle School, but finds himself to be the target of the school bully, Joe, and his gang, The Horde. Artie quickly finds his own circle of friends, school misfits Percy and Wayne, and an instant ally in science teacher Mr. Merlyn, but still must avoid the bullies or pay the consequences. Artie becomes a school legend when opens a supposedly magical locker that no kid has ever been able to open, but that enrages The Horde. Throughout the series, Artie and his friends battle the bullies on the dodgeball court, in the school halls, on stage with their bands, and all around Camelot.

Is it any good?

Graphic novels often tackle serious issues, and this engaging series is no exception, as we see a boy dealing with school bullies. The Knights of the Lunch Table series offers a funny, empathetic look at the bullying behavior so many children experience at school. Readers might not have been on the receiving end of physical bullying, but most have, at some point, felt like Artie: picked on just for existing. But here, Artie stands up and is true to himself, with the help of a couple of close friends and a teacher who looks out for him. The series targets ages 7-11, but might be better for the older end of that range, readers who can process the deeper issues. That said, Artie and his friends have fun with their own gang, knights gathered around their round lunch table, joking, and happy to be together.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how bullying affects everyone in the Knights of the Lunch Table series. It isn't just Artie or other direct victims; the entire school lives in fear of Joe and The Horde. What would that be that like?

  • Mr. Merlyn is Artie's first ally, and it changes how Artie feels at school. Have you ever had an important ally, or been someone's ally?

  • What other graphic novels are about kids at school? Do any others go on quests like Artie?

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For kids who love middle school stories and tales of standing up to bullies

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