What do you do when the school bully is also the principal’s son?
For fifth grader Bell Kirby, the answer involves devising many systems and routes to help him avoid crossing paths with the bully, Parker Hellickson. He keeps them all in the notebook that’s never far from his arms. And he’s had plenty of time to work these systems out—Parker has been bullying him since the beginning of fourth grade, ever since Bell accidentally broke Parker’s toe and kept him out of a soccer tournament. Bell’s systems mostly work—until Daelynn Gower, a former home-schooler with multicolored hair, moves to town. Daelynn refuses to change herself to avoid trouble, and she soon becomes a target. But when Parker expects Bell to join in on the torment, Bell has a choice to make. Does he play it safe, or does he join with his real friends in standing up to Parker and proving to everyone, even the principal, that Parker is a bully? Gracefully folded into this tale are themes of friendship, accountability, engineering, and cooperation, and there is even a discussion on what life was like for Leonardo da Vinci. Even with a wide range of topics, Burt keeps the plot lively and focused as the very believable kids work to solve their own problems through both empathy and logic. The book adheres to the white default, with one of Bell’s friends described as having dark skin and another with an Asian name.
A satisfying tale of bullying redemption with a STEM twist. (Fiction. 10-14)