The Odd Squad, Bully Bait
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
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Nick is the shortest seventh-grader in the history of the world (he's pretty sure), doesn't fit in with any groups or clubs (who needs 'em?), and spends more time inside than outside his locker (they're roomier than you'd think).
Things only get worse when a well-intentioned guidance counselor forces Nick to join the school's lamest club-along with fellow misfits Molly and Karl-in her quest to cure all three of their "peer allergies." What starts off as a reluctant band of hopeless oddballs morphs into an effective and empowered team ready to face whatever middle school throws at them, including bullies, awkward romance, zany adults, and a brave new world of surprising friendships.
Renowned cartoonist Michael Fry brings an unforgettable cast of characters to life in an illustrated novel brimming with honesty, humor, and heart.
Michael Fry is the co-creator and writer of several comic strips, including Over the Hedge, which is featured in newspapers nationwide and was adapted into the hit animated movie of the same name. In addition to his work as a cartoonist, Michael is the founder of RingTales, a company that animates print comics for all digital media, and is an active blogger, tweeter, and public speaker, as well as the proud father to two adult daughters.
Originally from Minneapolis, Michael currently lives with his wife in Austin, Texas, where he is hard at work on the next Odd Squad adventure.
In an illustrated novel, the first in a proposed series, cartoonist Fry (Over the Hedge) humorously mines the world of middle school as seen through the eyes of bullied Nick to answer the question: Can three oddballs team together to take down the school bully? Nick, surely the shortest 12-year-old ever, spends his school days being stuffed in lockers by Roy. To counter their social isolation, Nick's guidance counselor forces Nick and too-tall Molly to join nerdy Karl in the lamest club ever: Safety Patrol. Mr. Dupree, a Shakespeare-quoting hippie janitor who is able to arm fart "Greensleeves," advises them to take control with a series of hilarious attempts to get back at Roy-until the kids develop some empathy for Roy and realize they are bullying him. Mr. Dupree's wacky antics as he advises the kids to "bring the crazy" are frankly bizarre. Much that the Odd Squad does to get to Roy (stealing, breaking into school records) is not admirable. But this gives the characters dimension: The bully is not all bad; the bullied are not all good. Abundant cartoon-style illustrations enhance the book's silly yet sensitive portrayal of bullying and unlikely friendships. An important message, humorously delivered, that will appeal to Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. (Fiction. 8-12)—Kirkus
Seventh-grader Nick is perfectly fine with his loser existence (even with the occasional times he gets stuffed into his locker) until his well-intentioned but ultimately misguided guidance counselor forces him to join a club with two other similarly odd outcasts, gangly Molly and portly Karl. The club not only raises Nick's consciousness, it immediately goes rogue and decides to seek vengeance upon Roy, the school bully making their lives miserable. Complications arise for Nick when Becky, the love of his life, is spotted in Roy's company; with the help of a proverb-spouting janitor, a stuffed pig, and the apparent ghost of Emily Dickinson, Nick manages to make his peace with Roy and snag Becky's attention. The bully story follows a stereotypical arc, first presenting Roy as an unintelligent jerk and then revealing a family history that makes him sympathetic and deserving of compassion. While Fry manages some restraint by having the two boys merely agree to a truce rather than become sudden besties, the ultimate outcome is nonetheless predictable. The oddball humor is the book's biggest appeal, with plenty of age-appropriate jokes that dabble in both witticisms and more scatological content. Fry (author of the Over the Hedge comic strip) provides grayscale spot illustrations throughout that are essential to the story, often delivering a joke's final punchline or a zingy one-liner. With their bulging eyes and large heads, figures are just slightly misproportioned, adding to the book's playful tone. There's not much new here in the way of middle- school territory but it's still plenty of fun-after all, who doesn't love a bunch of farting dog jokes? KQG—BCCB
Seventh-grader Nick spends more time inside his locker than out. Roy, the school bully, constantly tracks him down and throws him in there. When Nick ends up in the guidance counselor's office for the umpteenth time, she assigns him to a group of other misfits called the Safety Patrol. She is convinced that if they form a bond and overcome their "peer allergies" together, they will no longer be targets for bullying. The three kids do have something in common Roy. As much as they get on one another's nerves, they decide to band together to take him on. Though the plot gets downright silly and a bit confusing at times, the theme of friendship and, eventually, empathy for one another and for the bully, does shine through. The small cartoon illustrations on almost every page are the highlight of the book. They are clever and help clarify some of the story. Especially funny are the depictions of Nick's yoga-practicing grandmother, Meemaw, who always has the perfect wisecrack to sum up a situation. The first of a series, this title will be enjoyed by fans of Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books (Abrams). Tina Martin, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, IL—SLJ
Seventh-grade loner Nick Ramsey is so short he fits into his locker, a fact he knows well, thanks to bully Roy. Nick can only confront him surreptitiously by sending taunting texts as mysterious, self-assured "Max." Guidance counselor Dr. Daniels decides Nick needs to belong to a group and assigns him to safety patrol, along with two other bullied loner misfits, supertall Molly and overweight, geeky Karl. Soon the none-too-enthused trio, guided by offbeat, philosophical janitor Mr. Dupree, set out to stop bullying. But amidst high jinks and missteps, they discover the meaning of friendship and compassion, and find confidence along the way. With generously interspersed witty cartoon drawings (final art not seen), the first Odd Squad title offers an entertaining take on some familiar themes by blending humor, absurdity, and realism into a supportive message. Despite occasional story predictabilities, narrator Nick is an engaging antihero whose issues and dilemmas are sympathetically portrayed. Sundry side characters, including Nick's quirky grandma, Memaw, further enliven this enjoyable read, which is likely to appeal to Wimpy Kid readers. - Shelle Rosenfeld—Booklist