Reviews for Bully Bait

Booklist Reviews 2013 February #2
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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
"Shortest kid on the planet," Nick is bullied incessantly. When he and two other misfits are forced into Safety Patrol by the middle-school guidance counselor as "a place to belong," the three attempt to disarm their bully. Aided by a crazy janitor and (perhaps) Emily Dickinson's ghost, Nick discovers a few things about himself along the way. Wimpy Kid style illustrations are entertaining.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2015 Spring
Winning cartoony art grounds this third installment as Nick's harebrained schemes catapult from hilarious to outlandish at frenetic speed. But upper-elementary and young-middle-school readers won't mind: the antics of Molly; Karl; Nick's ever-hilarious grandma, Meemaw; and Meemaw's new boyfriend, school janitor Mr. Dupree, coupled with a mysterious secret society called MLEZ, will no doubt keep them entertained.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Fry's second installment is more scattered than the first, but the over-the-top antics of Nick and fellow Odd Squad-ers nevertheless prevail. An all-black-clad new student with a suspicious French accent tries to break up Nick's friendship with Molly, and Nick must unite with an old ally to stop her. Cartoony line drawings fill in holes to great comedic effect.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #1
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) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 August #1
Fry (Bully Bait, 2013) hits his stride in this second hilarious exploration of the hazards and histrionics of middle school, as seen through the eyes of Nick, the shortest seventh-grader ever. Having shut down bullying at Emily Dickinson Middle School, the Odd Squad has little of importance to do. Molly's growing friendship with a new girl at school makes Nick jealously seek attention. Wanting to prove that the ghost of the school's poet is real and realizing that Emily appears only when someone is bullied, Nick bullies himself. Wrapped in toilet paper and stuffed into a trash can that hurtles down a staircase, Nick embarks on a series of disastrous yet funny choices that bring Zero Tolerance for Intolerance to the school. Abetted by his quirky grandmother, Memaw, Nick crashes the class field trip to King Potatamus's Egyptopolis (and Water Park) in a wacky adventure that brings a flirtatious encounter between Mr. Dupree, the Shakespeare-quoting school janitor and Safety Patrol adviser, and Memaw, who, in Nick's estimation, "could make a mime scream." Amid the laugh-out-loud humor and abundant cartoon-style illustrations is an important message: While all kids may want to be normal, it's OK to be oneself. Or as Memaw says, "Sweetie, normal is overrated." Nick ably joins Greg Heffley and Big Nate in comically maneuvering the minefield of middle school life. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #3

Fry, co-creator of the comic strip Over the Hedge, makes his children's book debut with an illustrated novel, first in the Odd Squad series, starring 12-year-old social outcast Nick. As the story opens, school counselor Dr. Daniels has decided that Nick and two other friendless kids, Karl and Molly, need to team up to avoid being singled out by bullies. Nick and Molly resist initially (Dr. Daniels wants them to join the ultra-dorky safety patrol, whose sole member is clingy Karl), but the three soon develop a plan to get back at school bully Roy, who has been tormenting them. Intermingled throughout is speculation about the ghost of Emily Dickinson, who supposedly haunts the middle school. Fry's antic illustrations are a mix of charts, slapstick gags, and comics sequences, which provide welcome breaks from Nick's long-winded narration. The circuitous story line and the book's many over-the-top characters and pratfalls can get in the way of the points Fry tries to make about friendship, bullying, and outward appearances. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

Gr 4-7--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

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School Library Journal Reviews 2014 August

Gr 3-7--Much like Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books (Abrams), comic strip creator Fry's latest series entry brings readers a middle school student low on the totem pole, with harebrained schemes that play out through a mix of text and imagery. Lead character and narrator, Nick, also has an astronaut who often appears in his reflective comments, acting like a blend of a conscience and a parent, reminding Nick that his ideas usually look better on paper than in practice. In this installment, Nick and his best friend, Molly, both members of the school's "Safety Squad" (part hall monitors, part crossing guards), begin to worry about him, but not because Karl owns a talking bird who wears a top hat and spends much of his time talking to sea monkeys. Instead, they worry that a "secret" group, known as MELZ (after their school's namesake Emily Dickinson) is recruiting him and not them. Nick also worries about state testing; caring for his grandmother after she "breaks her butt" dancing with her boyfriend, the school janitor; and his maybe crush on Molly. The story is a humorous blend of outrageous and believable. The content is young and the text simple, making this most likely a better fit for upper elementary students than for middle school.--Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 November

Gr 4-7--Middle-schoolers Nick, Molly, and Karl have barely recovered from their last bully-thwarting episode in Bully Bait (Hyperion, 2013) when they encounter a mysterious warning about new student Simone. As the gang tries to get to the bottom of things, Nick inadvertently causes, and then falls prey to, a new schoolwide "Zero Tolerance" policy on bullying. Is Simone behind all the trouble? Characters are clearly drawn, if occasionally one-note. The farcical tone means that nary a paragraph goes by without an injection of comedy-sometimes bordering on hokey. Fans of goofy humor will find much to like. The sketchy black-and-white illustrations flow nicely with the text, usually expanding the story and adding humor rather than simply repeating what's been stated. There are well-worn clichés of staying true to oneself, but they are delivered with just enough of an oddball sensibility to feel unique. The page-turning, reluctant-reader appeal of this book is hard to deny. Fans of other illustrated novels like Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Stephan Pastis's Timmy Failure (Candlewick, 2013) will likely take notice.--Travis Jonker, Wayland Union Schools, MI

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