20 December 2011

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Tod Munn is a bully.  And this time he got caught doing something really bad, landing him in after-school detention.  He's stuck with Mrs. Woodrow writing in a notebook every single day for a whole month.  His friends - Rob and Rex - are mad because they are outside the school picking up garbage every afternoon, while Tod gets to stay inside, writing stories.  

Through Tod's "stories," the reader (and Mrs. Woodrow, who reads his entries every day, sometimes making comments) gets to know the bully.  We learn more about his home life with his struggling seamstress mom and his angry stepfather.  We learn more about his life in school:  how the rich kids look down on him, how he uses his size and his power to beat up on smaller kids for their money, and how he manages to maintain Honor Roll every quarter.  We learn about his unsolicited involvement in the school play, and we get to be his eyes and ears when the world seems to turn against him.  There may not be a lot of sympathy for this story's bully-hero, but his story will elicit unquestionable empathy.

Recommended to middle school and high school readers.  One of the best ending "punch lines" I've ever seen in YA fiction.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

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