by James Roy
Just out! • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt • Middle-grade fiction • Ages 8 - 12
"Technically, I'm not actually a bully. Bullies wait behind lunch sheds and steal kids' Twinkies. I've never stolen anything in my life. Bullies beat people up. I've never actually punched anyone in my entire life...."
Story: Max Quigley is no angel; in fact one might call him a bully. But even as he taunts "wimpy Nerdstrom," he also begins to understand him. A most unlikely friendship grows. In the end, Max wins readers over, keeps them laughing, shows he is capable of change, and ultimately, brings us to a better understanding of boy dynamics.
Story behind the story: James Roy explains how this book came to be: "Many of my middle-grade books have featured bullies…but always from the point-of-view of the victim. How I came to use this as a theme isn't worth exploring in too much more detail than this: when I was a kid, I grew up for several years in the Pacific Islands (Fiji and Papua New Guinea) and when I returned to Australia I was socially... well, behind. And as a result I got bullied. Now, in saying that, I'm not trying to illicit any kind of sympathy or pity - it's just how it was, and I'm certain that living in those places and the bullying that followed helped form me as a writer. But that has underpinned my interest in bullying as a recurring theme in my writing.
Then came something of an epiphany - the recognition that the bully has a story as well. To regard the bully as a cardboard cutout character is a simple but common mistake. As I say in my author talk in schools, the kid who steals your lunch money every day is rarely doing it because they need more lunch money. It's almost always because their sense of power is lacking, usually stemming from issues that begin long before they get on the bus to come to school, and as a result they need to improve their position of power....So I asked myself, 'What is the bully's story?' And at that moment Max Quigley emerged into my world."
MAX QUIGLEY is funny, and so I asked the author spoke to the humor element as well: "It's all well and good to write a book that makes kids think, but if they aren't engaged enough to get to the payoff at the end, the whole exercise is pointless. Hence the humour. I wanted kids to read Max's unreliable (and self-justified) recount of the events and initially find them funny, and to side entirely with the diabolical Max. But then, as the story went on, I wanted them to begin to squirm a little, and to recognize that Max's actions were causing real pain to his victim, all the while wondering whether redemption might come to Max. I had such fun writing this book, and I really hope that young readers everywhere love it too."
What some early reviewers have to say:
"Roy has a . . . substantive story to tell . . . Max’s small but accumulating steps toward reformation are believable as he becomes more aware of his effect on others—especially a wannabe-bully first grader who seems destined to follow in Max’s footsteps and whom Max has been training in 'leadership skills.'" —Horn Book
"Roy gives the . . . genuine growth in Max’s humanity a light touch and some realistic stumbling blocks, in a not unsympathetic look at bullying from the other side."—Kirkus Reviews
"This Australian import looks at bullying from the inside. Max tells his story in the first person, illustrating it with occasional line drawings on notebook paper. His self-justifying voice is convincing; readers will be sucked into going along with his worldview and just as surprised as he is when playful fighting becomes real. Straightforward chronology, believable dialogue, self-contained chapters, and plenty of humor make this accessible to reluctant readers and particularly appealing to boys who may see a bit of themselves in this realistic school story."—Booklist
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.