“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench
rollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater----'

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows


Friday, April 24, 2009

Max Quigley, Technically NOT a Bully • Middle-grade fiction

Max Quigley, Technically NOT a Bully
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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

In Story of Max Quigley: Technically Not A Bully, sixth grader Max Quigley and his sometimes victim Triffin Nordstrom, or "Nerdstrom" as Max would call him, are forced to spend time together because of an incident where Max and his so-called best friend Jared decided to bully Triffin. During this unfortunate punishment, Max learns that he and Triffin have a lot more in common than they both thought.

This book expresses real-life middle school problems. When I first read this book, I would reflect on my own middle school experiences and laugh. James Roy's combination of comedy and realism will make you want to read this book over and over again.

- Nico, seventh grader

K.Deeb - Sarasota Florida said...

My son who is in 4th grade read this book. He really liked it. He told me, "This is what goes on in schools today" and then he passed the book to a friend. 5 Stars to this author... Excellent

Mrs. Horne said...

I loved this book! After reading it, my first thought was that having middle-school students read a book like this would have far more of an impact than some of those pricey programs they try to sell to combat bullying.

All we hear is that it is important to keep the victim safe and away from the bully, but Max and Triffin's relationship shows that we need to teach students to confront their issues with other people instead of running away from them.

I was enthralled in the plot line and couldn't wait to see how their relationship turned out. I also was impressed at the references to a "bully" not really realizing he was a bully, and then confronting some of his other "bully" friends (hence, Jared).

I think this will reach kids of most age levels up to middle school. I would use it to supplement any bullying program at my school.

Excellent job! Picnic Basket Rating: 5/5

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

Julia Pitau said...

Who of us has never encountered a Max Quigley in life? If your answere is, "Me", then this book is not for you! I was quickly taken in by the quick pace and the short chapters. Knowing that there were only a couple more pages until the next chapter, it was hard for me to put this book down.

One of the first things I noticed about this book was the Austrailian tones that are sure to make middle-school students giggle. Another item I enjoyed is that this story is not "preachy" and doesn't attempt to be the cure-all for dealing with bullies. Real-life at your fingertips.

I enjoyed the strugle that Max and Triffin endured when they were forced to help each other out. And how appropriate that Max was surprised that Triffin was embarrassed to be seen with him. Such an eye-opener for James Roy's character and his readers.

This book is sure to please older elementary through middle school students.

Picnic Rating: 4

Media & Intervention Technician
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Julie P. said...

Since I have a daughter who is a huge reader, I love to find middle grade books that we both can read and enjoy. MAX QUIGLEY: TECHNICALLY NOT A BULLY by James Roy was a great find! We both read this book within a few days of each other and agreed that it was a very fun book to read.

I highly recommend MAX QUIGLEY for all middle-grade readers because not only is it a very entertaining book, but it also deals with a very serious issue -- bullying. I love that this book is written for middle-grade aged children because sometimes it is difficult for kids at this age to talk about bullies. I hope this book can be the opportunity for parents to open up communication with their children about bullying -- whether they are being bullied or even are the bully!

My daughter and I both liked this book, but I think this story will resonate better with young boys. The characters of Max and Triffin are somewhat typical of boys in every school -- the bully vs. the smart boy. I think Max and his insights into life are extremely funny, but the humor is definitely geared towards boys. That's not to say that girls won't like this book too -- I'm just saying that MAX QUIGLEY is a story that boys will love!

As a mother, I realize that it's "normal" for some kids to be bullies; however, I don't think we just have to accept this behavior. I'm fortunate that (so far) my kids have not been on the receiving end of serious bullying behavior, but that doesn't mean that I don't see it. It just breaks my heart to see how much damage one child can do to another, with not only with physical abuse but also with harsh words. Our elementary school as a fantastic bully prevention program that seems to be helping, but I think books like MAX QUIGLEY might be another way to bring attention to this topic.

There were definitely some valuable messages in this book that all children need to hear. First and foremost, the issue of bullying was covered from both sides. I have read quite a few books about children who were being taunted by bullies, but I can't remember reading about a bullying situation from the bully's point of view. I love that this book got into the mind of the school bully, and I think some kids will definitely be able to relate to Max. However, what I really liked about this story was how Max eventually realized how he was being perceived by others; and I was so proud of him for realizing how to be a good friend.

Here are Booking Daughter's thoughts:

I liked MAX QUIGLEY although I thought it was kind of boyish. I think the book was not just for kids that get bullied, but also for kids that bully. I liked how Max changed throughout the story by becoming nicer. I also liked the drawings on some of the pages. I enjoyed reading about the other characters in the story, not just about Max.

Rating: 4/5
http://bookingmama.blogspot.com/

Christy said...

I loved this book! I especially enjoyed hearing the "bully's" point of view. I thought that the idea of putting the 2 boys together to help them work out their differences was great and reminded me of the original Parent Trap movie. While Max and Triffin do not become the best of friends in the book, I think Max comes to understand Triffin in ways he never would have if he had stayed a bully. I only wished Max would have told off Jared! I book talked this to my class because I have many reluctant readers and I knew some of the content that was Australia specific would throw them off (i.e. meat pies, the bush). I've had 3 kids read it so far and they have loved it. I give this book 5 out of 5 picnic baskets. Enjoy!
Christy Briggs
5th Grade Reading/Lang. Arts Teacher
Fruitland Intermediate School
Fruitland, MD

Brian said...

I'm glad I reread author James Roy's comments back on the main page. He said that he wanted readers to side with Max at first but start to squirm as they realize that Max's actions cause his victims genuine pain.

I hope readers get this. I wasn't convinced that Max actually did. Yes, he helps Triffin at the end, but up until that point Max is much more interested in justifying his actions...and believing his own justifications. There isn't an overwhelming amount of evidence to show Max will truly change.

I have no problems with the book. I admire James Roy's ability to get into the head of a bully and create such a realistic first person voice. Other reviewers are right in saying that there are lessons to be learned from Max, both for the bully and the bullied.

That being said, it's not my favorite. Personal taste, nothing more. Max's actions frustrated me such that I nearly put the book down, unfinished. I'm glad I didn't, but it's just not the sort of book I'll eagerly recommend.

Rating: 3 - Neutral

Anonymous said...

Max's voice is excellent. His inability to recognize the dangers of his behaviours rings true. His reluctant friendship with Triffin may ultimately save him but it is too early to tell.

The book stops far short of preachy, I think too far. I wanted Max to have one minute of clarity for the consequences of his actions but that might be the assistant principal in me.

I think it is a fun book and can see the appeal.

3/5

Dia Macbeth
Assistant Principal/Teacher Librarian
Riverbend Jr High
Edmonton, Alberta

james roy said...

Thanks to all those folks who have been reading and reviewing Max Quigley. They're all very thoughtful and considered reviews, and I've read them with great interest.

I was particularly interested in Dia Macbeth's opinion that Max doesn't have a moment of clarity about his consequences. That's quite a valid point, although in his defense, I'd say that:
1. He has a number of moments of partial clarity throughout the story, and I think this gradual buildup of awareness in him, and the reader, can be a more persuasive device;
2. The ending was left open quite deliberately, and has been used as a group talking point for readers. I had a bunch of tough non-attending boys who read this as their read-aloud text, and at the end we had a very stimulating discussion about what social consequences (positive and negative) Max might experience as a result of the action he takes at the end of the book, and;
3. I'm planning Max Quigley Book 2 even as we speak...

James Roy

Michelle said...

While Max may not think he's a bully, his actions say otherwise. Most books that I have read on this topic are from the victim's point of view, I found it interesting to see things through Max's eyes. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Carrie Blagg said...

"Max Quigley, Technically NOT a Bully" was quite an interesting read. Max, the bully, with his partner-in-crime, Jared, torment Triffin Nordstrom (Nerdstrom). Triffin is not self-confident although smart, and has to deal with Max on a daily basis. Max's parents and Triffin's mother decide to put the two boys together, due to an incident, by having Tiffin tutor Max. The boys also start spending time together on the weekends, find they have some things in common, and eventually become friends.

I was hoping that Max would have had more "WOW" moments when he would realize the hurt he was causing to those he bullied. At one point his father said he didn't know what to do about Max's behavior and as a parent I felt Max's parents reaction (or lack of)was weak. I was disappointed in one area of the book where Max hits his older brother in the chest and his brother is trying to catch is breath. I was hoping the older brother would come through as a role model, however, that was not the case.

My favorite part of the book was Max coming through for Triffin.

Although there were some things I was not fond of, I do see what Mr. Roy was trying to get across to the reader.

I give this book a 4/5. This book is for middle school students.

Carrie Blagg, Librarian Assistant
Cherokee Elementary School
Paradise Valley, AZ

Carrie Blagg said...

"Max Quigley, Technically NOT a Bully" was quite an interesting read. Max, the bully, with his partner-in-crime, Jared, torment Triffin Nordstrom (Nerdstrom). Triffin is not self-confident although smart, and has to deal with Max on a daily basis. Max's parents and Triffin's mother decide to put the two boys together, due to an incident, by having Tiffin tutor Max. The boys also start spending time together on the weekends, find they have some things in common, and eventually become friends.

I was hoping that Max would have had more "WOW" moments when he would realize the hurt he was causing to those he bullied. At one point his father said he didn't know what to do about Max's behavior and as a parent I felt Max's parents reaction (or lack of)was weak. I was disappointed in one area of the book where Max hits his older brother in the chest and his brother is trying to catch is breath. I was hoping the older brother would come through as a role model, however, that was not the case.

My favorite part of the book was Max coming through for Triffin.

Although there were some things I was not fond of, I did see what Mr. Roy was trying to get across to the reader.

I give this book a 4/5. This book is for middle school students.

Carrie Blagg, Librarian Assistant
Cherokee Elementary School
Paradise Valley, AZ

May 24, 2009 9:03 PM

angel believer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary Lou D., literacy facilitator, Bella Vista Elementary, Cottonwood Heights, UT said...

Max Quigley Technically NOT a Bully will have many readers at the title. Many fifth and sixth grade students will want to open the book when they read the title. They won’t be disappointed. I believe that middle school students would also enjoy this book. The writing has an edge to it - meanness and a feeling of intimidation at the beginning of the book. Max is an intimidator. Since Max doesn’t hit others he feels that he’s not technically a bully. The author helps the reader to understand Max. His favorite target is Triffin Nordstrom. He calls him “Nerdstrom.” The book is a satisfying read though at the beginning I was worried. I didn’t like Max. He was too mean, but that is what a bully is. The author, James Roy, crafted the story well. By the end of the book I liked Max. James Roy has written a book that just may be a runaway hit with older readers. I give it a 4 out of 5.
Mary Lou D., literacy facilitator, Bella Vista Elementary, Cottonwood Heights, UT

Anonymous said...

“Max Quigley, Technically NOT a Bully” is an engaging story told from a fresh perspective. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Max IS a bully. It is to James Roy’s credit that Max is not completely unlikable or unsympathetic. The reader is presented with a believable portrait of a boy who is lacking in much thoughtfulness or kindness at the story’s beginning. As with the other reviewers, I found myself liking Max more as the story progressed. I would give “Max Quigley” a 4 out of 5.

Sharon Reidt, Library Clerk, Brooks Memorial Library

Lisa Kennedy said...

How many times can children be told that we all have value and that no one of us is any better than the other? Sadly, too many times for the lectures to remain with the child. Reading, Max Quiqley, Technically not a Bully, might well be the means to an excellent end. The story of the relationship between Max and Triffin is an adult inspired forced "friendship" which could easily become the next "lecture". Instead, the author has created characters that every child knows. Max is "the bully", Triffin, "the nerd". Each has something to offer the other but both pride and embarassment prevent an immediate resolution to their differences. I loved that the story evolved in a more realistic manner and timeline than most "bullying is bad" books. Children will enjoy the story because they will recognize the characters as people they might know. The fact that Max does not recognize himself as a "real" bully will intrigue the majority of them. Could they be "bullies" and not know it? The "outsider", Triffin, is probably more recognizable to those who feel they don't fit in. James Roy has done an excellent job of using humor to keep the reader engaged in a story and lesson without the standard lecture. I would certainly recommend this book to any child who might need assistance in understanding the importance of each person. Bullies, nerds, and all those in between will enjoy this book. On The Picnic Basket scale a giant 5!!

Tasses said...

Please see my complete review on Reading Rumpus

Reading Specialist
Pembroke Pines, FL
3.5/5 stars