Monday, March 16, 2020

40. The Bully of Barkham Street

The Bully of Barkham Street. Mary Stolz. 1963. 208 pages. [Source: Library] [j realistic fiction; realistic fiction; friendship; school; bullying]

First sentence: Martin Hastings wriggled at his desk.

Premise/plot: Readers perhaps first met Martin Hastings in Stolz’s The Dog on Barkham Street. The Bully of Barkham Street is a companion novel told from a different character’s point of view.

Martin is an unhappy boy who is constantly being picked on by teachers, his sister, his parents. Everyone has a problem with him. Everyone thinks he’s the problem. And that’s a problem. He’s caught in a pattern, a cycle. He doesn’t like it, but doesn’t know how to end it.

Edward Frost, the boy next door, teases him, calls him names, insults him every single time they see each other. There’s no getting away from it. Why can’t Eddie just stop.

Martin hates everything about his life. He decides quite wisely that he can only change himself. He cannot make other people see him differently, treat him differently....but he can change his own behavior and attitude and hope that someone will eventually see that he’s changed.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I just loved it. It made me love Martin. I liked seeing him redeemed. I liked seeing his view of some of the same events. I wanted to yell at his parents a few times, more than a few times. But the truth is, all the characters are human. It would not be much of a stretch to believe that there are reasons they behave the way they do. They may be just as unhappy in their cycle of yelling, fussing, being stressed and frustrated. Perhaps they want to run away from themselves too.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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