Combine Roald Dahl’s Twits and other villains, mix with the first-person–journaling trope and the comedic result might look something like this.
In his “Bully’s Log,” seventh-grader Niko Kayler provides an episodic text-and-pictures look at what he regards as the craft of bullying. Anything smelly, humiliating or painful (if not exactly lethal) provides the essence of a good trick to play on his victims, and he doesn’t stint on firing any number of wildly exaggerated blows at the random nerds who annoy him. Niko’s rogues’ gallery of bullies he most admires includes both Lucifer and Santa Claus. Katz picks the low-hanging…er, fruit of boogers, poop and farts to fill out his young antihero’s arsenal of tricks and tips for successful bullying. Occasional exclamations of “God!” and the use of adjectives like “mother-puking” send Niko’s malevolence veering off into slightly older teen territory (he says of cyberbullying, “I think it’s cheap and dirty. Like falling in love in Las Vegas”), and how many middle schoolers will recognize a reference to M. Night Shyamalan? The energy also seems to flag a bit with one relentlessly malicious sort of mayhem following another.
Packaged to recall other diary tales of middle school (faux-spiral binding, scratchy, faux-handprinted type—often hard to read—and roughly drawn illustrations), this take on the rotten inner life of a true bully is a mixed bag. (Fiction. 10-13)