A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Runt explores bullying from all sides. Middle school life is far from black-and-white: Bad-guy bullies become sympathetic in the passages from their points of view, and good-guy underdogs sometimes make mistakes that hurt others, too. Some of the language might be strong for younger readers ("crap" and "jerk-off"). There are two main instances of punching that aren't very graphic or described in detail, but one past incident of violence among animals is horrific and might scare younger readers. Sex isn't really part of this world; the 10- to 12-year-olds are just becoming aware of physical attraction but don't act on it or display any understanding of it. But there's a hint that a "weird janitor" stalks one of the boys, and one boy's pants get pulled down at a school dance.
What's the story?
A class of sixth graders tell their stories as they learn to navigate middle school. Popular Maggie resents smart Elizabeth, so she posts a fake profile page of Elizabeth as "Smelly Girl." Elizabeth has the perfect opportunity to exact revenge at the school dance, if she can bring herself to go through with it. Meanwhile basketball jock Stewart relentlessly bullies just about everyone. When Matthew finally has enough and strikes back, he's the one who suffers all the punishment. As the story unfolds from everyone's point of view, the kids struggle to find their places, learn to do what's right, and how to cope with the problems you can't change.
Is it any good?
RUNT relates two bullying incidents from many different points of view, but the voices aren't always distinctive enough to cue the reader as to who’s narrating, or who or what they're talking about. The confusion eventually sorts itself out, though, and the insights provided, both from the bullies, their victims, and the bystanders, are often surprising and worth waiting for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents can talk about bullying. How much bullying goes on in your school? Has it ever affected you or someone you know? What did you do?
Is what happens to Elizabeth (cyberbullying) different from how Stewart bullies Matthew? If it is, in what way? What's the same about both kinds of bullying?
What did you think about the part told by the dog? What things about how dogs relate to each other are like how people relate to each other other?
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