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According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, each day an estimated 160,000 students in the US refuse to go to school because they dread the physical and verbal aggression of their peers.  Many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression. It’s reported that 6 out of 10 American youth witness bullying at least once a day.

The results of another study indicate that bullying begins in elementary school, peaks in middle school, and falls off in high school. It does not, however, disappear altogether.

So, Eric Kahn Gale’s new book, The Bully Book, is a timely work. Sixth grader, Eric Hastsings is The Grunt. In bullying terms, it means he’s the guy that will get picked on repeatedly. He’s the guy that will be singled out, ostracized, ridiculed and tormented, not only in sixth grade, but throughout his school career. Eric has no idea why he was chosen.

Jason Crazinsky is the king of the hill, the leader of the triumvirate that will make Eric’s life miserable. Unfortunately, this trio includes Eric’s (former) best friend, Donovan, who over the summer transformed himself from nerd to cool guy.

Are Jason and crew following the Bully Book, allegedly handed down year after year to a new six grader or are they winging it? Does it really matter? However they are doing it, Eric’s life will suck.

But when Eric learns about the book’s existence by mistake, he wants to find it and learn what characteristics make him the perfect Grunt and he devotes sixth grade to this endeavor.

There is no reader who won’t relate to the events in The Bully Book, either as the recipient of or witness to Jason and his friend’s torment of Eric. There is no reader who won’t feel Eric’s pain (except maybe a bully). While some of the action that takes place may force the reader to stretch his or her imagination, that’s not the important part of this book. The important part is that you recognize school bullying for what it is…the systematic physical or emotional torture of an individual by one or more classmates.

I urge parents of elementary and middle schoolers and students themselves to read The Bully Book. It is a good and eye-opening read.

For a female perspective on bullying, try Amy Goldman Koss’ Poison Ivy. Another excellent read by a great YA author.

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