Bullying and incivility have gotten out of hand at a boy’s school: Can he and his friends find a solution?
In his series of issue-oriented books for a middle school audience, Rink (Jimi & Isaac 5a: The Brain Injury, 2014, etc. ) frames his plots involving tween friends Jimi and Isaac around such issues as coping with self-doubt, making and keeping commitments, and dealing with unforeseen life changes. In this10th installment, told in the first-person voice of Jimi, a jazz saxophonist, self-described science nerd, and wry observer of parental and peer foibles, fighting and arguing have escalated at his middle school. Jimi and his best friend, Isaac, along with Tom and bossy Mallory, get in a shoving match. As punishment, the principal assigns the four to figure out the answer to the increasing incivility on campus. Mallory gets carried away, forming a group called the CIVILians, positive that ordering people to obey her “be nice!” rules is the way to go. Her method receives push back, sometimes literally, from kids resenting being told what to do. Soon, the CIVILians are being harassed by an opposing group called the Savages. Jimi, Isaac, and Tom want to expend as little effort in solving the problem as possible until increasing clashes between the groups indicate there are no easy answers to bringing people together. A favorite science teacher encourages the three boys and Mallory to think about the problem creatively. Rink has a terrific knack for placing relatable characters in realistic situations and giving them (and readers) food for thought, promoting discussion and problem-solving rather than spoon-feeding answers. A nuanced discussion at the dinner table about the definition of a bully awakens Jimi to the fact that bullying can take many forms and cause both physical and emotional harm. The author deftly adds an additional layer to the issue by having Tom express empathy for a bully he injured in order to protect a little kid, signaling his subsequent awareness that the offender is the product of an abusive home.
Engaging and thought-proving edutainment, with relatable tween characters facing realistic challenges, primarily from a young male point of view.