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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Like the other books in the Middle School series, there is some valuable insight into bullies and bullying. There's also a pro-reading agenda. Bunkmate Norman (aka Booger-Eater) is an avid reader and entices book-adverse Rafe into becoming a book lover. Norman recommends many popular tween titles, including Holes and The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Rafe is known for his perseverance in the face of adversity. At camp he and his bunkmates are bullied incessantly. Rafe helps his cabin pull together to avoid being persecuted by the Bobcats. Rafe also helps Norman shake "Booger-Eater" the nickname that has haunted him summer after summer.
Positive Role Models
As is typical of this series, Rafe is always in trouble with the authorities, in this case camp director Major Sherwood, aka "The Dictator." In the end, Rafe chooses helping a friend over his own comfort. Adult characters for the most part are not helpful and portrayed as stupid or insensitive.
Violence & Scariness
There's a wide variety of bullying at camp --not particularly violent, but very mean spirited words and pranks. The adults at the camp consider it "all in fun," but it isn't.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Rafe is attracted to the lifeguard/math teacher at camp. His fantasies about her are benign and age-appropriate. The Bobcats steal bras from the girls' camp and hang one on the flag pole.
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No swearing, but a lot of gross slang, including lots of toilet humor.
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Products & Purchases
Bunkmate Norman is an avid reader and there is a nice subcurrent of books throughout the story. The authors plug many popular tween reads as well as the other three books in their Middle School series.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The Bobcats sneak off at night to smoke. Norman's dad is abusive and drinks."Bad dads" are depicted in a comic-like illustration drinking and smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, is the fourth book in the series following Middle School: The First Years of My Life, Middle School: Get Me Out of Here!, and Middle School: My Brother Is a Big, Fat Liar. Although there's an underlying anti-bullying message, there's also a lot of gross humor, and protagonist Rafe isn't as interesting a character as in the first two books. He does help his bunkmates, but the book is missing the interesting underlying conflicts that drive him. Still, tweens will find this a good quick read with lots of great illustrations.
Is It Any Good?
This fourth book, which sees Rafe continuing his daily battles with bullies, is the least interesting of Patterson's Middle School series, with a less cohesive plot and characters. That said, there are some interesting twists. The scary bunkmate Legend turns out to have a kind heart and helps protect the other Muskrats from the bullying Bobcats. Norman, whom Doolin had given the camp nickname "Booger Eater" years ago, reveals to Rafe a bit about his unhappy home life and abusive father. For Norman, coming to Camp Wannamorra is a picnic compared with a summer at home.
Norman's love of reading is his key to survival, and he's able to turn Rafe on to the joy of books. Ultimately, even with its weaknesses, the book's middle school humor and engaging illustrations will appeal to many readers.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.