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)