Patterson turns from the governmental oppression of his Witch & Wizard series to a more everyday form: the social and academic confines of middle school. Emboldened by his friend Leo, newly minted sixth-grader Rafe Khatchadorian embarks on a plan to break every one of his school's rules, frustrating his teachers, causing his grades to suffer, and landing him in detention. Things aren't any better at home, due to the constant, unpleasant presence of "Bear," who Rafe's mother is dating. Park's cartoons are pitch-perfect and do their share of storytelling, sometimes betraying the gap between Rafe's version of events and reality (in one scene, a teacher, portrayed as a dragon, screams, "I don't want to eat you. Just talk to me"). The subject matter gets surprisingly dark, particularly regarding Bear's emotional abusiveness and two twists involving Rafe's relationship with Leo, though the latter arrives so late its impact is weakened. But the book's ultrashort chapters, dynamic artwork, and message that "normal is boring" should go a long way toward assuring kids who don't fit the mold that there's a place for them, too. Ages 8–12. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/2011 Release date: 06/01/2011 Genre: Children's
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