Reviews for B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy)

Booklist Reviews 2013 March #1
With his potter father always looking for the ideal place to set up a kiln, Sammy Greenberg moves frequently. Ensconced in a new middle school, he becomes the brunt of bullying from James Lee and his eighth-grade gang--for example, his head is quite often inside the boys' restroom toilet. It is a pleasant surprise when Skink (short for Skinner) enters Sammy's grade. In his first Hebrew class, Sammy gets the idea of making a clay golem to protect Skink and himself from the bullies. Little do they know the adventures (good and bad) they will have after Gully (B.U.G.) comes alive, and through Gully, the boys learn the power of friendship and acceptance. In the end, Sammy must also take responsibility for destroying the golem. Yolen and Stemple weave a magical coming-of-age story that addresses the themes of bullying, friendship, good versus evil, first crushes, and making good decisions. Pair these with James Patterson's series for middle-schoolers. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Twelve-year-old Sammy Greenburg is a victim. School bullies make Sammy's days miserable, but things begin to look up when he befriends a new student named Skink. When Skink is beaten by the same bullies who make Sammy's life a nightmare, Sammy creates a golem to protect them. Though utterly far-fetched, this is a likable tale with a clear and laudable message about friendship. Glos.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
Twelve-year-old Sammy Greenburg is a victim. School bullies make his days miserable -- dunking him headfirst into the toilet, tripping him in the hallway, spitting on his food. But things begin to look up when he befriends a new student named Skink, and they start a "klezmer jazz boogie pop fusion rock" band with fellow student Julia Nathanson. Skink even attends Sammy's Hebrew lessons with Rabbi Chaim, who, upon hearing of the bullying, introduces the boys to the story of Reb Judah Loew, who, in sixteenth-century Prague, created a golem, "made of clay, animated by the name of God, to stand as protector of the Jews when death threatened them all." When Skink is severely beaten by the same bullies who make Sammy's school life a nightmare, Sammy creates his own golem to protect him and Skink. Somehow, Sammy is able to make a being so lifelike that he attends school, comes over to spend the night, and plays drums in the band, and no one wonders too much who he is or where he came from. Though utterly far-fetched, this is a likable tale with a clear and laudable message about friendship and learning to fight your own battles. dean schneider

Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #2
Some books are impossible to describe. Saying that B.U.G. is a teenage version of the golem legend would make it sound like Twilight-era supernatural fiction. And saying that the golem plays drums in a fusion band would make it sound like the Archies. In a way, this is a story about bullies. Sammy Greenburg and his friend Skink get beaten up several times before the end of the novel, so it starts to make sense for Sammy to build a golem who will protect him. At times, the story feels less like a fantasy than an old-fashioned problem novel, about fights and crushes and sitting alone at the lunch table--and as a coming-of-age story, it's very involving. Once in a while, the book also turns into a musical about a teen band. This is unfortunate. Sample lyrics: "But power when it's not in check / Can leave your life an awful wreck, / Turns success right into drek." The genre finally doesn't matter. It's a story about a boy in trouble. It's funny and scary and thrilling and--like most versions of the golem story--deeply sad. The Jewish legend works surprisingly well as a story about bullying. But there may be moments when readers scratch their heads and say: The golem is playing the drums? (Yiddish glossary) (Fantasy. 8-13) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

Gr 4-7--Sammy Greenburg, 13, is tired of feeling scared and alone, and of being beaten up and tormented by a gang of bullies known as the Boyz. When he meets a new student who shares his interest in music, he is thrilled to have someone to call a friend. His joy is short-lived, however, when Skink is badly injured by the Boyz. Sammy decides that he and Skink need protection, so he creates a golem from clay, a mythical bodyguard from Jewish folklore. Gully soon becomes more than Sammy's protector; he becomes his friend. Despite warnings from his rabbi to destroy Gully before it's too late, Sammy revels in his newfound sense of security. While he is happier than ever, perceptive readers will sense danger ahead. A good amount of suspense is built into this story, but the plot drags at times. Readers will relate to Sammy's feelings of loneliness and frustration, but the other characters feel flat and underdeveloped. Most disappointing of all is the cringe-worthy dialogue, which seems much too young for both the characters and the intended audience. This is especially problematic when paired with advanced vocabulary and some violent content, as when one of the bullies attempts to kill him. While elements of this story may appeal to fans of magical realism, ultimately the slow pace and cheesy dialogue will disappoint most readers.--Liz Overberg, Darlington Middle School, Rome, GA

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