By Mark Shulman
Published by Roaring Book Press
Copyright © 2010
Is there any way to reach a bully? Well I guess that depends why the bully is a bully.
Tod Munn is a bully. He’s the kid that intimidates you until you give up your lunch money. Unfortunately somebody else is horning in on his territory, so by the time Munn gets to his usual prey their pockets are empty. This isn’t sitting well with Tod and his “droogs”, so they are going to have to do something drastic. This time they get caught, but instead of expulsion the school counselor has a different plan. She sentences Tod to a month of detention with her, where he is to write in a journal every day. Tod might actually prefer to be with his friends who get assigned to outside clean up duty, at least then he could keep tabs on their mutinous ways.
The reader gets to view this story through the pages of Tod Munn’s detention journal. We slowly learn what landed Tod in detention and what his motivations are for bullying others. What we learn is that Tod is very smart, and even talented, but he is from the wrong side of the tracks trying to survive poverty and a bad family life. What we eventually learn is that some kids bully to survive, and some bully because their just mean. While neither path should be condoned the reader will come away with some empathy for Todd, because in addition to his other problems he is also being bullied just not in the straight up, physical, intimidating way that he bullies.
I love books that make me question my perception. Like most other people, I had been bullied a little bit when I was in school, and so I hate bullies. I root against them; I want them to get what they deserve. The assumption is that bullies do what they do because they are mean and horrible people.
Mark Shulman tells us a story from the bully’s perspective though, and he helps us to see that it is completely conceivable that some kids bully as a survival mechanism. Again, it doesn’t make it right, but this story actually made me feel for the bully protagonist. So, now instead of saying – I hate bullies, I’m more likely to say – I hate bullying.
“Scrawl” is one of those stories that you know is good because you get so invested in the character that you want to know what he goes on to do when there are no more words for you to read. Tod is a character that many teens will be able to relate to whether they are a bully or a victim of a bully, and I can see this book as a great conversation starter.