cover image Confessions of a Former Bully

Confessions of a Former Bully

Trudy Ludwig, illus. by Beth Adams, Random/Tricycle, $15.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-58246-309-4

Katie, the antagonist of Ludwig's My Secret Bully, is back, this time narrating her own rehabilitation. Drawing on the tropes of the personal journal, the confessional, and the self-help shelf, this illustrated mock-notebook depicts how Katie, now in school-mandated counseling, owns up to her actions, deepens her understanding of "bullying behaviors" ("I used to think of bullying as only being physical"), and learns how to "become a better friend." Ludwig packs a lot of expertise and teachable moments into these pages, which often strains the authenticity of Katie's voice, leaving little sense of her character. An unfortunate reliance on quotes from famous people also prompts responses from Katie like, "Mr. Gandhi sure sounds a lot like my grandma." Adams, a debut illustrator who combines naïf drawings with collage, has the same problems: her pages often feel over-designed and glib. Still, bullies (and maybe victims) will undoubtedly recognize some of their own troubles as they follow Katie's journey. Ages 7–11. (Aug.)