For readers just past Captain Underpants, for those who relish the sort of humor of Louis Sachar and Jack Gantos, here is a hilarious novel by an author who truly gets boys. His main character Max Quigley is no angel; in fact one might call him a bully. But even as he taunts "wimpy Nerdstrom," he also begins to understand him. A most unlikely friendship grows. In the end, Max wins readers over, keeps them laughing, shows he is capable of change, and ultimately, brings us to a better understanding of boy dynamics.
1. SKIN TAGS
That Monday I went to school, I had a meat pie for lunch and it was nice.
Really, I should say that my pie would have been nice if that complete idiot Josh Hargreaves hadn’t knocked it out of my hands and onto the ground. He claimed he was just trying to defend himself, but who defends himself with a pie? I mean, honestly! No one, that’s who. And even worse, who defends himself with someone else’s pie? That idiot Josh Hargreaves, that’s who. Which just proves what an idiot he actually is.
So yes, my pie would have been nice, if I’d been able to eat more than two bites before stupid Hargreaves went and lashed out wildly after I fl icked his ear, and knocked my half-eaten pie all over the ground. So I fi gured I was totally justifi ed in throwing his baked bean sandwich onto the ground next to my tragically splattered pie and grinding it into the concrete with my shoe.
Mrs. Hinston didn’t see it that way, but she’s practically blind, so what would she know? Not much, since I told her halfway through detention that my irritable bowel syndrome was playing up and that I had to rush to the bathroom to avoid a very messy accident. She said I could go so long as I came straight back. I went, but I didn’t go back.
On the way to meet Jared down near the tennis courts as planned, I ran into Triffi n Nordstrom. Or Nerdstrom to his friends. If he had any. Which he doesn’t , probably partly because of his faintly ridiculous fi rst name, and partly because he’s got no interesting aspects to his personality at all. Nerdstrom was sitting on one of the benches near the cricket nets, reading some absurdly fat book, and as I went past I caught him glancing up at me. I wondered if he was about to say something, but then he didn’t , probably because he couldn’t think of the right words to use.
Elvish ones, for example.
I didn’t care, though. Nerdstrom means nothing to me. He’s like a boil on the bum of our school.
Actually, that’s not quite right, because a boil is irritating and weepy, like Luke Keynes in fifth grade.
Nerdstrom’s more like a little skin tag, one of those little fatty nodules like the ones my grandma had just below her ear. Not painful, not really in the way, just there. Only noticeable at all if you know it’s there and you bother to look.
Yeah, that’s what Nerdstrom is. He’s a skin tag.
"Roy gives the . . . genuine growth in Max’s humanity a light touch and some realistic stumbling blocks, in a not unsympathetic look at bullying from the other side."—Kirkus Reviews
"This Australian import looks at bullying from the inside. Max tells his story in the first person, illustrating it with occasional line drawings on notebook paper. His self-justifying voice is convincing; readers will be sucked into going along with his worldview and just as surprised as he is when playful fighting becomes real. Straightforward chronology, believable dialogue, self-contained chapters, and plenty of humor make this accessible to reluctant readers and particularly appealing to boys who may see a bit of themselves in this realistic school story."—Booklist
"Roy has a . . . substantive story to tell . . . Max’s small but accumulating steps toward reformation are believable as he becomes more aware of his effect on others—especially a wannabe-bully first grader who seems destined to follow in Max’s footsteps and whom Max has been training in 'leadership skills.'"--Horn Book
“The cartoonish categorization of the cover art . . . eloquently sets the tone and states the theme of this Australian import . . . Max’s self-justifying perspective on his own behavior is what creates the humor here . . . a refreshing, respectful portrayal of a strong-willed boy.”--The Bulletin
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