From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6–Pretty Maggie Carey and her two satellites plague Elizabeth Moon. Their preferred method of cruelty is “advice” in the guise of kindness. The boys in their sixth-grade class have their own nemesis in the form of Stewart Gunderson. The bullying escalates, culminating in Maggie cyberbullying Elizabeth and Stewart urinating on Matthew Berry. Revenge dominates the thoughts of the victims as the middle-school dance approaches. The boys follow through with theirs, but Elizabeth chooses instead to confront Maggie. This is laudable but her gullibility as she falls for yet another fake overture of friendship is frustrating and incredible. Runt is written in a kaleidoscopic manner, including first-person student narratives; third-person scenarios; sundry documents; and, occasionally, outsiders' viewpoints, among them, those of a dog and a public librarian. A few of these asides are unnecessary distractions. The six main characters are complex individuals who defy the usual stereotypes. The students' skirmishes parallel the power struggles among the dogs at Elizabeth's house that are also maneuvering for position and acceptance. As Sadie, the Saint Bernard, states at the end, “I want to know where I belong. Just like you.” Overall, Runt is an honest, occasionally humorous portrait of life in the sixth grade, and an additional purchase on the topic of bullying.–Kathy Cherniavsky, Ridgefield Library, CTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Elizabeth, whose mother expects her to help with the dogs boarded in their home kennel, is used to occasional teasing from her middle-school classmates, but she’s stunned to be maliciously targeted on a social-media site. Meanwhile, classmate Matthew is suspended for punching a teammate who was urinating on his shoes. While these incidents provide focal points for the narrative, the book looks at individual students in a broader context. Baskin takes on the complex topic of bullying and handles it in a complicated way, through multiple points of view that include bullied kids, bullying ones, and bystanders. The narration shifts from first person to third person to letters, memos, and other documents while also changing from one individual’s perspective to another’s and assuming that readers will quickly figure out whose viewpoint is featured in each chapter. Although this approach offers insights into the characters’ thoughts and motivations, it slows the story’s momentum. Still, some chapters make riveting reading, and the novel could serve as a springboard for discussion. Grades 5-7. --Carolyn Phelan