Written & Illustrated by Michael Fry
From Website: 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.
First Sentence: I was stuffed in my Locker.
Nick Ramsey spends more time in his locker than in class. The guidance counselor, Dr. Daniels, thinks he has “peer allergies” along with two other kids: Molly, an exceptionally tall girl, who is also a loner, and Karl, the only kid in safety patrol. These kids had one more thing in common: Roy. Roy is the school bully. He throws Nick into his locker, which happens so often that Nick found a way to remain comfortable in his locker, at least until the “zombie butt” kicks in. Molly’s shoes are often untied, so Roy, being a nice guy, ties them for her. She was better off and safer with them untied.
Dr. Daniels decided the correct cure for “peer allergies” is to join a group of your peers. Karl was already in Safety Patrol, now Nick and Molly would reluctantly join him. Together the kids wanted to stop Roy from bullying anyone, a lofty goal for three kids with few social skills.
The kids are not alone . . . well they think they are. A Shakespeare quoting, hippie janitor, with wild tales and one-line cryptic advice, becomes their mentor. Mr. Dupree is considered rather weird by most of the middle grade students, none of whom was alive in the 1960’s to have any comparison. Mr. Dupree tries to help the three kids with his stories, but the kids do not understand, at least not right away, what he is trying to say. Then there are the one-liners, which equally mystify the kids. His stories can be odd, and his one-liners confusing. The one solid piece of advice was odd. To defeat a bully they must “BRING THE CRAZY.” In the end, Mr. Dupree helped the kids in ways they will never know . . .or did he? Hopefully, book two will share the answer.
I read a book for a review, I gather notes as I read. Character names, ages, roles, relationships, point of view, action, anything that I want to remember to say. I ran out of ink. The story is well constructed, using both the text and illustrations effectively. Do not gloss over the art, sometimes it is part of the text. In doing so, you may miss an important piece of information, or, more likely, you will miss a laugh.
Many times I turned back looking for something I thought I missed. There is a lot to read and see. Despite all these goodies, the story is a fast read. What makes The Odd Squad: Bully Bait better than other similar concepts, is Michael Fry’s story is a page-turner. I could not put it down.
People are complex patterns of good, bad, and everything in between. The characters have that complex pattern, making it easy to empathize with bullied Nick, Molly, and Karl only to empathize less with Nick when he becomes the bully. Each character’s role often flip-flop just like real-life flips-flops.
Mr. Fry did a marvelous job listening to his inner child. His inner child may be the real author. He got the speech and actions of a typical middle grader down pat. Bullies are not always totally bad and irredeemable, nor are those that receive the bullying always good.
The Odd Squad: Bully Bait reminds me of Wimpy Kids and the Dork Diaries. The pages are plastered with doodles that sometimes explain, other times illustrate the action, and at its best, enter the fray as part of the story. You will not be giggling as you read and look at the art. No, this is a laugh-out-loud story-fest. Boys and girls, teens and adults will enjoy The Odd Squad: Bully Bait.
I found this on Michael Fry’s blog: “If you pre-order the book off Amazon and send me a receipt with your address to firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll send you a hand drawn cartoon of one of the characters. I really will.” Hurry, this releases in ten days. (click on title to go directly to book’s Amazon page.)
JUST IN: The Texas Library Association nominated Odd Squad for the 2014-15 Spirit of Texas Reading Program – Middle School.
Written & Illustrated by Michael Fry blog Comics Pinterest Hyperion Books for Children website Releases on February 12, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-4231-6924-6 224 pages Ages: 8 to 12
Copyright © 2013 by Hyperion Books Text & Illustrations: copyrights © 2013 by Michael Fry, used with permission.
.I have been informed, by an astute four-legged creature, that I neglected to mention that Michael Fry is the, as my friend put it, “THE OVER-THE-HEDGE GUY!” I sincerely apologize for the omission, although the link to the website is by Mr. Fry’s name. Canines!