Runt

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Runt
a novel by Nora Raleigh Baskin

“Complex individuals who defy the usual stereotypes… Runt is an honest, occasionally humorous portrait of life in the sixth grade, and an additional purchase on the topic of bullying.”

School Library Journal

An insightful exploration of middle school bullying from multiple perspectives, by the award-winning author of Anything But Typical.

Elizabeth Moon grew up around dogs. Her mom runs a boarding kennel out of their home, so she’s seen how dogs behave to determine pack order. Her experience in middle school is uncomfortably similar.

Maggie hates how Elizabeth acts so much better than everyone else. Besides, she’s always covered in dog hair. And she smells. So Maggie creates a fake profile on a popular social networking site to teach Elizabeth a lesson.

What makes a bully, and what makes a victim? It’s all in the perspective, and the dynamics shift. From sibling rivalries to mean girl antics, the varying points of view in this illuminating novel from the award-winning author of Anything But Typical show the many shades of gray—because middle school is anything but black and white.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Baskin (The Summer Before Boys) again offers an on-target portrayal of middle-school angst as she portrays the day-to-day torments of students in a sixth-grade class. In a series of brief vignettes, she moves between classmates including “Smelly-Girl” Elizabeth, who can’t shake the lingering scent (or shed hair) of her mother’s dog-sitting business; Elizabeth’s nemesis, Maggie, who is “used to winning things,” but hasn’t been able to repair her fallout with her artistically talented former best friend Freida; and Stewart and Matthew, two athletes whose rivalry leads to a fight and a suspension. Although their backgrounds and interests are different, all of Baskin’s characters have experienced the pain of humiliation or exclusion in one way or another, and most of them recognize that life was simpler back when the whole class was still invited to birthday parties. Rather than providing tidy, concrete solutions to the characters’ dilemmas and the class’s pecking order, Baskin delivers an honest message about surviving bad situations and remaining true to oneself and one’s friends. Ages 8–12. Agent: Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (July)

KIRKUS
Bullies and the bullied: Could it help if they just better understood each other?

Baskin (Anything but Typical, 2009) has proven that she can sensitively handle the complex interpersonal relationships of the middle school set. Here, she takes on a daunting project, presenting a couple of separate bullying incidents from the perspectives of a variety of the players. Elizabeth’s growing up in an impoverished, single-parent home. Her notably lackadaisical mother takes in pets for an inadequate living, but Elizabeth, responsible and sensitive, handles the chores. Maggie—who’s become a middle school diva and turned her back on former best friend Freida—decides (but later regrets) to seek revenge for a perceived slight in the form of Elizabeth and Freida’s evolving friendship by creating a nasty social media page in Elizabeth’s name. Meanwhile, Matthew punches career bully (and richly deserving) Stewart after the hostile boy urinates on his leg. Does Stewart’s back story—a disabled sister—explain his behavior? Since it, like Maggie’s, is only sketched, not really. More information about the bullies and less about the bystanders would have been welcome. The often blundering attempts of the school administration to intervene are appropriately made light of and the nearly hopeless situations of some victims vividly illustrated, although a few glimmers of hope appear at the conclusion.

A thought-provoking and worthy effort on a multifaceted, seemingly all but insurmountable, problem. (Fiction. 9-14)