Monday, June 29, 2009

Max Quigley Technically Not a Bully


This book by James Roy was originally published in Australia in 2007, but it is making its debut in the United States this year.

Anyone who reads our blog with regularity knows I'm very character driven when I read, and I was disappointed to find that I found the main character, Max Quigley, to be unlikeable for the first part of the story. He did some amusing things, but truly he was a bully to many other children, and I'm not a fan of bullies at all. Max does gradually make changes in his behavior (and the gradual changes were very believable), and I actually LOVED him for something he does at the end, but for me, it was a long time coming.

I've heard some very positive things about this book, so I started rereading the reviews out there, and I came to this conclusion: I think that me being female had something to do with my reaction. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to stereotype all female readers, but I do think this is a book that boys will love more than me (sort of the same way I can laugh at parts of the movie Dumb and Dumber, but my husband thinks the whole thing is hysterical):
  • An incident in the lunchroom -- "So I figured I was totally justified in throwing his baked bean sandwich onto the ground next to my tragically splattered pie and grinding it into the concrete with my shoe" -- -- gross food humor
  • On April Fool's Day, Max puts his sleeping brother's hand in warm water and makes him wet himself -- bodily function humor
  • Max wanted to be a wrestler for a whole school Literature Day celebration, and wrestle with his friend. He had to find a book on wrestling to justify his plan -- action better than a book report any day
  • The notepad illustrations throughout the book that make Max's thinking more visible -- fun, sarcastic humor
What I do love about this book, and why I will definitely include it in my classroom library is that James Roy does a wonderful job of presenting two perspectives of bullying. Since the story is written in first person, most of the time the reader is inside the mind and motivations of a bully. But, every once in a while, we are able to see the point of view of the person being bullied. The one child being bullied is actually very clever, and his reactions and comments are a little confusing at times for Max -- I enjoyed that. For my 5th graders, I think both viewpoints are important.

Roy himself is quoted as saying, " I also wanted the reader to go full journey, but start out thinking, 'I like this kid - he's naughty, but kind of fun.' Ultimately, I wanted to write a hopeful book, not just for victims of bullies, but for perpetrators themselves."

After I read the quote, I realized Roy accomplished what he set out to do in Max Quigley Technically Not a Bully. Job well done!

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