The fall and rise of Bradley Chalkers, class bully, are chronicled in this humorous, immensely appealing story. Bradley, 11, known alternatively as Chicken Chalkers and a "monster," is hated and feared by his fifth-grade classmates and teacher, teased unmercifully by his older sister, and treated warily by his well-meaning but ineffectual parents. He derives a modicum of comfort from playing with his only friends—a motley collection of little glass and brass animals. When Jeff, a new kid, arrives in class and offers friendship, a confused Bradley first demands a dollar or he'll spit on the newcomer; he later exchanges the dollar for Jeff's friendship. It's a shaky alliance at best, considering the state of Bradley's psyche and the fact that, as Jeff grows more comfortable, he begins to prefer his more well-adjusted classmates. Then, into Bradley's life comes Carla Davis, newly-hired school counselor. This lovely, caring young woman is a model of therapeutic wisdom, and it is their slow-to-grow, but eventually solid, relationship that helps Bradley to see himself as a worthy and capable individual, deserving of friendship, gold stars, and an invitation to a girl's birthday party. His transformation is beautiful to see, though, of course, there are mishaps, failures, and disappointments, as well as triumphs, some of which are quite moving, others highly comical. Even the happiest of children feel like misfits from time to time; most have also encountered bullies like Bradley. As the story moves along, readers will begin to sympathize with Bradley; they'll root for him, hoping he'll exchange his misfit status for reasonable contentment. Happily, readers are also likely to come away from the story with the sense that they've been rooting for themselves, too.
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