In Jay’s picture book, a boy with a tremendous name battles bullies, with help from his grandfather.
When Jug-a-ro-mack-a-la-lulu-a-quack-a-la-lulu-e-zack-a-la-lulu-o-pippin greets his new class in Badgersville, everybody, including the teacher, laughs at his long name. He receives a similar response from a crossing guard, a pair of policemen and some firemen, with each offender turning from humans into ugly green monsters as they laugh and taunt. Exasperated by the ridicule, Jug-a-ro-mack-a-la-lulu-a-quack-a-la-lulu-e-zack-a-la-lulu-o-pippin decides to leave town to escape the bullies. His grandfather convinces him to give the new town another try and hands him a notebook to record a 50-cent deposit each time he gets teased that he can put toward buying toys and games; that way his tormentors are doing him a favor by earning him money. It turns out this was the same notebook given to Jug’s grandfather by his grandfather when kids teased him about his name back in 1943. Books that fight the war against bullies are almost always welcome on the bookshelf. Jay, a classroom teacher, has combined fun silliness with the seriousness of ugly behavior in his picture book; even the illustrations play with brightness and darkness to reflect the tone of the page. Sometimes the rhyming text feels forced, and the final solution—material reward for ignoring bullies—may not sit well with parents hoping to teach their children how to get along with people without buying lots of stuff. Also, Jay may have attracted more readers if his characters had been shown laughing at themselves, too—readers are sure to giggle at the complicated name and might feel that’s an unambiguous bad thing since the people in the book who laugh at the name are depicted as monsters. But adults and kids will have fun trying to pronounce the main character’s name and the illustrations are rich, with an appealing zaniness. Discussion questions at the end help readers get the most out of the book.
Even with a few weak points, this book is a good addition to the anti-bullying genre.