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Bystander Hardcover – September 29, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6–9—Eric Hayes has moved from Ohio to Long Island, NY, with his mother and younger brother. His schizophrenic father left long ago. Eric soon meets Griffin Connelly, a handsome kid with natural leadership, lots of charisma, and a real mean streak. While Griffin is the perfect bully, David Hallenback is the perfect victim: beaten down and willing to do anything to get Griffin's approval. At first, Eric is a bystander, not participating in the bullying but not doing anything to stop it. However, several events move him out of this passive role: Griffin steals from him and reveals Eric's confidences about his father; adults at school address bullying; and Mary, a girl he likes, takes a stand against it. Eric realizes that his silence makes him complicit and speaks out, only to become Griffin's next victim. Preller has perfectly nailed the middle school milieu, and his characters are well developed with authentic voices. The novel has a parablelike quality, steeped in a moral lesson, yet not ploddingly didactic. The action moves quickly, keeping readers engaged. The ending is realistic: there's no strong resolution, no punishment or forgiveness. Focusing on the large majority of young people who stand by mutely and therefore complicitly, this must-read book is a great discussion starter that pairs well with a Holocaust unit.—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Praise for Bystander:
“Preller has perfectly nailed the middle school milieu, and his characters are well developed with authentic voices. The novel has a parablelike quality, steeped in a moral lesson, yet not ploddingly didactic. The action moves quickly, keeping readers engaged. The ending is realistic: there’s no strong resolution, no punishment or forgiveness. Focusing on the large majority of young people who stand by mutely and therefore complicitly, this must-read book is a great discussion starter that pairs well with a Holocaust unit.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Bullying is a topic that never lacks for interest, and here Preller concentrates on the kids who try to ignore or accommodate a bully to keep themselves safe. For Eric to do the right thing is neither easy nor what he first wants to do, and the way he finds support among his classmates is shown in logical and believable small steps. Eminently discussable as a middle-school read-aloud, [with] appeal across gender lines.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Preller displays a keen awareness of the complicated and often-conflicting instincts to fit in, find friends, and do the right thing. Although there are no pat answers, the message (that a bystander is hardly better than an instigator) is clear, and Preller’s well-shaped characters, strong writing, and realistic treatment of middle-school life deliver it cleanly.”—Booklist
“Plenty of kids will see themselves in these pages, making for painful, if important, reading.”—Publishers Weekly
“An easy pick for middle school classroom and school libraries, this book is a worthy addition to collections focused on bullying and larger public libraries, especially those with an active younger teen population.”—VOYA
Praise for James Preller and Six Innings:
“If Judy Blume could write a book about Little League, about its players’ deepest fears and secret dreams, it might come out something like this.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Dishing up a rare example of a character-driven tale that is also suspenseful and exciting, [Preller]chronicles a magnificent championship game between two Little League teams that is as much about the players as the plays.”—Booklist, starred review
“Following the play-by-play builds suspense and brings the reader right into the action and the special world of baseball and the people who love it.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A tale of baseball, friendship, growth, and coming to terms with hardships, this fast read will grasp any reader who enjoys sports.” —School Library Journal
“This is a book whose emotional pull creeps up on you, pitch by pitch….Like the boys on the field and in the press box, readers will feel this is a game to remember.”—Shelf Awareness
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Top Customer Reviews
Bystander is filled with suspense. From the first chapter, when Eric sees David Hallenback running scared across the basketball court, to the end it is hard to put the book down. Teens will connect with the situations and characters and this will surely open up conversations about what's right and what's wrong.
If the true job of literature is to help us understand the human condition, pick this up, read it and discuss it! Discuss it with any child availalble for learning. Work on reading comprehension, bullying prevention/intervention with this very real, very relevant, very important read on a very real, very relevant, very important topic. Educators everywhere will be applauding Mr. Preller's efforts efforts on this one!
Eric Hayes, like any new kid in town, is worried about finding his place and fitting in. From the first page, you feel the tension of Eric's struggle to make new friends and avoid trouble. And the main source of tension comes from Griffin Connelly, a scheming, manipulative bully. Unlike the stereotypical dimwitted bully, Preller makes Griffin believable, and therefore, all the more frightening - he's a popular seventh grader at Bellport Central Middle School. The plot has plenty of twists and turns as it follows Eric through the difficult first few months at his new school. Young readers will love this book, placing themselves in it scene by scene, wondering what they'd do if they were Eric.
Preller has got kids down. He knows how they think, how they talk, how they maneuver through the challenges and confusions of middle school life. Kids will love the humor that runs through the realistic dialogue and school scenes, even as they feel the tension that comes along with being a target, a bystander, or a bully.
An important and timely topic - this book should hit a big public nerve.