A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Thirteen-year-old Butterball has very few friends at his new junior high school. He feels out of place, socially awkward, and is teased or ignored by many of his peers. His mother and father have separated and he blames her for everything that's going wrong in his life while elevating his irresponsible, verbally abusive father to hero status. Everything begins to change when Butterball attacks his one of his only friends, Maurice, and brutally beats him on the playground, fearing that Maurice had told people about his mother's lesbian partner, Evelyn. Now, he's meeting with a therapist every week and being forced to own up to and work out his feelings, so they can get to the bottom of why he would do such a thing. Butterball is also dealing with his new status at school -- as a bully, rather than just a \"nerdy kid\" -- and trying to find the best way to get next to a very friendly, very pretty girl he likes at school. What direction will Butterball's life ultimately take? Will he live the rest of his life as a superhero or a villain?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about peer pressure, bullying, and the need to feel acceptance among one's peers. How do kids deal with pressure from others at school? How important is gaining acceptance among one's classmates and other kids? Is bullying common in your school, or in your neighborhood? See our tips on dealing with bullies.
Families can also talk about what makes a family. Why was Butterball worried about his classmates finding out about his mother? Do you know of anyone with gay parents? What other types of families are in your school and neighborhood?
Is bullying common in your school or neighborhood? Are you being bullied? Have you ever acted like a bully? Do you have someone you trust to talk about your feelings? Why is it important to step in when you see someone else being bullied?
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