Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Max Quigley by James Roy

Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully by James Roy

Max Quigley, by James Roy, has the look and feel of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Max Quigley is actually a foreign import. I'm definitely not against foreign imports when it comes to books, but be careful, you may catch yourself talking a little Australian before you're done reading.

You might slip into a, "G'day Mate!," instead of saying good morning or good day. Instead of saying "cafeteria," you might ask your teacher for permission to go early to the "canteen." What would happen if you called someone in the hallway, "lovey?" And, what would happen if you said "mum" instead of mom when you got home tonight? Would she think you deserve one across your "bum?"

There are always repercussions when you try to be different, even in the way you speak. When you speak differently than anyone else you can't help but stand out. And, you know what happens when you stand out in middle school. You get noticed. How horrible! Hopefully, you won't get noticed or recognized by a ....bully.

Everyone knows what happened to Taylor Swift, right? Taylor Swift was about to be recognized for Best Female Video at an awards show and then what happens? That bully Kanye West climbs up the stage, takes over the microphone, and announces Beyonce should have won.

Just a few weeks before this incident Taylor Swift made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. It was a show featuring exceptionally talented children and young adults. Oprah asked Taylor to give some of her younger fans some suggestions for success. What she said surprised me a little. She said:

"I think that the most important thing is to be different enough where you stand out. The only place that being like everybody else is cool is junior high."

In my opinion what she meant by being "different enough where you stand out" means letting the world see your differences, your uniqueness, the things that make you stand out in the crowd. Think of American Idol. Don't the judges like Simon Cowell constantly say to the contestants that they need to have their own unique and distinctive style? Unfortunately, some students in the middle school world don't always value, support, and accept differences in their classmates.

In the book, Max Quigley, Max is having trouble appreciating differences in one of his classmates. He is amazed by how much Triffen Nordstrom stands out. Triffen Nordstrom can't help but stand out in the crowd no matter how hard he tries not to. Max constantly calls him Nerdstrom. Max compulsively picks on Nerdstrom as his favorite target. Max's most recent accomplishment involved shoving Nerdstrom out an emergency door that locked from the inside while on their field trip. Besides torturing Nerdstrom, Max likes to draw, and he especially likes to draw pictures of Nerdstrom. Take a look at the example on p.29. (The picture of one of Max's teachers trying to hopelessly cope with the copy machine that doesn't work on p. 84 is one of my favorites.)

I think this book is unique in the way it is told from the bully's perspective. This twist definitely adds to the humor found throughout the book. In the beginning of the book you can't help but shake your head when Max cannot grasp the fact that he is a bully. You can tell he's obviously going through denial. Just listen to these words from pp. 23-24:

"[T]echnically 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....The other things bullies do is hurt people. And I don't mean just a flick on the ear or a punch to the leg. I mean hurt people, hurt them until they cry or have to go to the hospital. And as far as I know I've never caused anyone to get taken to the hospital....I've never even made Nerdstom cry, and he's about the cryingest-looking person I've ever seen....Like I said before, most of the things that have happened to Nerdstrom when I've been around have either been completely his own fault or just jokes that have gone a little bit wrong."

Can you hear the denial? How many clues does Max give that reveal he could be a bully yet not realize it?

If you like school stories and books about friendships I would recommend, Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully, by James Roy. It's a book that covers a serious subject in a humorous way that helps us all think a little bit more about ourselves and how we accept others.

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