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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This book effectively shows some of the ways bullies are created. It also offers valuable insight into how to combat and reverse the bully mentality by showing Butterball's transition from budding bully back to being a good kid.
No matter how bad a situation seems, no matter how much trouble someone has gotten into or caused, kids have the ability to make positive choices, atone for mistakes, and turn their situations around. There's also the message that kids should not be afraid to open up when they are having trouble (such as dealing with bullies, teasing, feelings of isolation, etc.). The very act of opening up opens the door for fresh perspective and solutions.
Positive Role Models
Surprisingly, Butterball ends up being a positive role model because of the way he turns himself around and begins to head down a positive path once he gets through a very rough patch in life. His therapist, Liz, his mother, her partner, and even his friend Maurice (a victim of Butterball's bullying) show admirable qualities. Liz helps Butterball learn how to open up and talk through his feelings. His mom and her partner try to set a reasonable example for him as they take steps to improve their lives in the absence of his rather distant and irresponsible father. Maurice shows empathy, tolerance, and loyalty to Butterball before he becomes the victim of Butterball's misplaced rage.
Violence & Scariness
There are few descriptions of violence, but scenes where kids are preparing for violence are intense. There is a scary beating with a battery-filled sock, and an attempt at a second battery-sock assault that backfires. Following that attempt a group of kids carries out a revenge beating. And there are several smaller instances of bullying and intimidation.
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The story contains quite a bit of foul language. Butterball curses around his friends, his therapist, and occasionally around his parents. His friends, therapist, and parents also swear often.
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Products & Purchases
Several references to name brand merchandise and products, including, Nike, Snickers, Macintosh (Apple), Panasonic, and Honda.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There are a few references to alcohol consumption, particularly in and around a party. Kids are seen having and drinking beer and showing obvious signs of intoxication.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Playground, the first novel by the popular rapper 50 Cent, is loosely based on his own experience and contains many references to bullying and sexual orientation. There is quite a bit of foul language and several instances of children being insubordinate or disrespectful to parents and other adult authority figures. This book shows the kinds of forces that create bullies and very even handedly shows its central figure, Butterball, being bullied and bullying others.
Is It Any Good?
The author, rapper 50 Cent, made the right choice when deciding to tell the story from Butterball's perspective. It allows readers to understand the main character's motivation, pain, anger, frustration, and insecurities while keeping them tuned into his sense of humor and desire to be a good person. We can both empathize with Butterball's plight and be infuriated by his naivete and foolishness.
The story gives a pretty even-handed account of how bullies like Butterball are often created -- through poor treatment by other bullies and, in his case, poor examples set by authority figures. Butterball is an engaging character and an excellent storyteller, with a great, dry sense of humor. Readers will find it difficult to put the book down.
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Our Editors Recommend
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