The serious topic of bullying gets a light treatment in this tale of limited social skills and accidental friendship.
The brisk introduction of Thomas, a newcomer to town, may leave readers, like his new acquaintances, cold. Cocky, pushy and clearly impatient, Thomas quickly decides that if his first approach doesn’t work, he’ll “be a bully instead.” Unfortunately, he’s just not cut out for the role. In what feels like an almost obligatory humorous pose, Thomas is shown peering into a mirror wearing only his tighty whities and bemoaning his flabby abs. Frustrated and determined, Thomas waits for someone truly puny to pick on only to discover that another, much bigger bully has gotten there first. Put into the position of defending young Gomer (and himself), Thomas thinks fast and deflects the danger. Paintings in acrylics on gessoed paper have a pleasingly textural look, well-suited to the warty characters and woodland setting. Bright pops of blue, purple and red contrast with the mossy greens and browns that dominate many of the illustrations. The appearance of a bug-eyed fly throughout provides additional interest. Unfortunately, none of this quite manages to compensate for the slim storyline and pat resolution.
Like Thomas himself, Levy seems intent on sabotaging her own effort to connect and find a warm welcome. (Picture book. 4-7)