The Odd Squad Bully Bait by Michael Fry

Like the title suggests, The Odd Squad Bully Bait is about bullying.

Michael Fry’s humorous account of the struggles of Nick, “the shortest seventh-grader in the history of the world” is clever. It is a study of physical and verbal bullying in a school setting told in a way that makes it easy for children to relate to.

Nick is a loner and a misfit.  He teams up with two other odd balls — Molly and Karl — to take on the class bully, Roy.

But the story is a little more complicated than it seems. This is because Roy, who is a physical bully, is himself also a victim. He is the recipient of bullying — albeit funny — text messages.

Lessons for life

When Nick, Molly and Karl get together to form the Safety Patrol they find an adult ally.  The school’s Shakespeare-quoting janitor, Mr Dupree has the gift of telling amazing tall stories that provide lessons for life.

Nicely illustrated with funny cartoons that add to the story, The Odd Squad should appeal to children and parents and teachers.  This is an entertaining and enjoyable read and highly recommended for readers aged 8+.

 The Odd Squad : Bully Bait by Michael Fry is published by Disney-Hyperion. ISBN-10: 1423169247 ISBN-13: 978-1423169246  (Disclosure: a free review copy was provided via Netgalley.com)

Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann illustrated by Maurice Sendak

“The most wonderful things can be seen if you have the right sort of eyes for it.”

Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann with illustrations by Maurice SendakNew from Crown Publishing and in good time for Christmas comes just such a book in a sumptuous edition of  the 200-year-old story of the Nutcracker, a magical tale that opens on Christmas Eve in the Stahlbaum household where Marie and Fritz are excitedly awaiting their Christmas gifts.

Originally published in 1816, Hoffmann’s story demonstrates that children have changed very little in the last 200 years.  This edition of Ralph Manheim’s translation of the text with illustrations by Maurice Sendak was first published in 1984 and has been reissued to mark Sendak’s death which occurred earlier this year.

Nutcracker is a perfect book for bedtime stories. It is an exciting story for children and like the best children’s books has plenty to amuse the adult who is reading it aloud. There are natural breaks at the end of some of the chapters marking logical points at which to say goodnight before resuming the story next time.

Every so often a book comes along that you simply fall in love with and want to hold on to for ever. This one is a keeper.

An advance review copy was provided free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Nutcracker by E.T.A.Hoffman, translated by Ralph Manheim with illustrations by Maurice Sendak is published by Crown Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-385-34864-5.