A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the novel The Bully Book tells the story of Eric Haskins, who is victimized by most of his classmates. Some boys have come into possession of "The Bully Book": a manual that tells sixth graders how to survive socially by choosing a "grunt" to tease, alienate, and otherwise torture. The boys call Eric names, chase him, threaten and humiliate him, and occasionally assault him physically. Many of the names hurled at Eric are homophobic in nature: "gay," "gaywad," etc. Though Eric has the inner strength to try to unravel the mystery of the "Book" and try to change the way he's perceived, it's painful to read about this degree of bullying. This novel is geared toward fifth and sixth graders, in terms of reading level and content, but it could make sensitive kids fearful of the transition to middle school. Editor's Note: Eric suffers cruelly without seeking the support of teachers or parents, yet we always recommend that kids report bullying situations to a trusted adult.
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What's the story?
In Eric Kahn Gale's novel THE BULLY BOOK, sixth grader Eric Haskins becomes the victim of an ongoing conspiracy outlined in a kid-created manual, also called "The Bully Book." Each fall, a selected group of sixth graders receives the book and uses it to choose a "grunt," a victim to be teased, humiliated, alienated, and tortured. They then follow the book's instructions to encourage other classmates to avoid the grunt and separate him from his friends. Eric begins a quest to find out everything he can about the book and its creator(s), and work out how he can change others' perception of him as the grunt.
Is it any good?
Some aspects of The Bully Book are extremely effective, particularly the painful realism of Eric's situation as the "grunt." His fear and the cruelty he suffers are so believable, the book becomes pretty difficult to stomach. The mystery of the "Book" is also engaging and suspenseful. However, the adults in this novel --granted, seen through the eyes of the young narrator -- are clueless, wounded, and immature to an almost absurd degree. Eric's realization at the end of the story seems like the kind of platitude one of those clueless adults might offer to a kid who's being bullied mercilessly: They can't change who you are if you know who you are.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bullying. Have you ever been bullied or known someone who was? What's the best way to handle a situation like Eric's?
Does this situation seem realistic to you? How is this book different from other novels you've read in which a character is bullied?
How do you feel about the conclusion of the novel? Is Eric's problem solved?
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