Written by K. A. Holt
Chronicle Books 10/01/2014
Age 8 to 12 176 pages
“Kevin has a bad attitude. He’s the one who laughs when you trip and fall. In fact, he may have been the one who tripped you in the first place. He has a real knack for rubbing people the wrong way—and he’s even figured out a secret way to do it with poems. But what happens when the tables are turned and he is the one getting picked on?”
“First day of school.
A parade float of himself.
Kevin, the class bully, is in seventh grade. He loves picking on certain kids. His teacher, Mrs. Smithson, does not like him, but does like to send Kevin to the principal’s office. She also turns a very blind eye when Kevin is no longer the bully, but the bullied. At home, Kevin is the accident baby with four “P” brothers: Patrick, Paul, Petey, and Philip. Mom and dad are both busy physicians with little time for home or Kevin.
Kevin keeps a notebook of his days at school, writing them in verse. Petey, in charge of driving Kevin to school, is a bully himself. When he notices Kevin’s notebook, Petey makes terrible fun of Kevin and then chucks the notebook out the car window. Kevin searches but cannot find it. Robin, who fits perfectly between the boy’s bathroom sink pipes, finds the notebook. It becomes blackmail. Robin wants to be the Poetry Bandit. Robin is a little jerk.
Mrs. Little, the librarian, knows it is Kevin tearing out pages from classics, circling and adding a letter or two, creating a unique poem, and then posting it at school for all to see. Mrs. Little soon takes to Kevin. She encourages Kevin to stop defacing school property and use paper other than pages from children’s classics for his unique poetry. As long as Robin has Kevin’s private notebook, sharing it at random, Kevin is nervous. There are a few bombs in the notebook that Kevin does not want exploding at school.
Written in verse, Rhyme Schemer is a fast read. It is also an extremely enjoyable read that kept me laughing, sometimes loudly. Kevin is not a bad kid. His home life looks ideal to others, but reality is another matter. His parents are rarely home and brother Petey—who hates Kevin—is especially mean whenever possible. Bullies beget bullies. Kevin enjoys picking on his classmates. He meets with the principal much too often.
Kevin is not the classic bully who is mean and full of hate that spews out at other kids. Kevin is frustrated and trying to get his parent’s attention. His home life is mostly unfair and soon school will become unfair. The teacher ignores Robin’s attacks at Kevin, whether it is passing mean notes during class or ignoring a physical confrontation—where Kevin does not retaliate. She really does not like Kevin and then favors Robin, mainly because his father holds an important position.
I really like Kevin. He is a character you can easily favor, wanting him to catch a break. He’s a likable kid. Kevin pays a big price for defending Kelly, but he gains a friend, his first. I understand Kevin. He is the baby in a large family, but instead of being spoiled, he is picked on, sometimes harshly for no real reason. In a house full of people, Kevin is alone. What must it be like to have four brothers, all wanted, and with planned-out names beginning with a “P” (I wish I knew why), but he is the accident with a name beginning with the wrong letter. This alone must make him feel alienated from his family. Kevin deals with school unfairness and home by becoming a feeling-less, like stone.
Kids will like Rhyme Schemer. They will like Kevin. Kids will see a bully from a new perspective. The text is funny in so many places, and even sad in a few. Ms. Holt’s writing style is enjoyable and kid like. Kevin is the narrator, but I wonder if he is also the author and Ms. Holt his conduit. Kevin wrote several Odes to his principal’s tie. Some are in the story and some are at the end of the book. Don’t pass these by.
“[Clearing throat noise here.]
O, Principal’s tie
You make me want to puke
Because you are the color of
Squishy, moldy fruit”
Reluctant readers will also find Rhyme Schemer easy to read. At the end, I was not ready to stop reading. I wanted more. There are no unanswered questions, no threads laying in wait for a resolution; I simply want to read more of Kevin’s poetry. Rhyme Schemer is one of those rare books that stay with you, long after the last page flips over. I hope to read Kevin’s eighth grade notebook.
RHYME SCHEMER. Text copyright © 214 by K. A. Holt. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.
Read a excerpt of Rhyme Schemer HERE (no cost)
Buy Rhyme Schemer at Amazon—B&N—Book Depository—Chronicle Books—your favorite bookstore.
Learn more about Rhyme Schemer HERE
Meet the author, K. A. Holt, at her website: http://kaholt.com/books/
Find more middle grade books at the Chronicle Books website: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
Also by K. A. Holt
Coming Fall 2015 – House Arrest – Chronicle Books
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
I really like the author information on the back inside book jacket.
“K. A. Holt is a writer
a bad (but fearless) cook.
She has written three
books for kids.
She shelved books
in the library
during grade school.
Ms. Holt claims
she never had a detention.
Believe what you want.”
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Sounds like a good book. I think most bullies are like Kevin; frustrated, picked on, alone; not hateful as they are often portrayed.
I think you are right. Kevin takes a lot of bullying from his mean brother, too. The issue is rarely one-sided, that is for sure. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate a new voice.
This sounds great! Very unique perspective for a bully story!
I think you would like it, being it is all poetry. Kevin is a likable kid even at the beginning when he tells you who he will bully this year and why. He bullied one kid to protect another. You’ll like this one. It may still be at NetGalley, if you ever get digital ARCs from there.
Have you ever heard of Ellen Hopkins. When you are ready to read young adult with heavy, dark themes, like drug addiction, etc. check out Ellen Hopkins. All her work is in poetry, but the poetry takes shapes, some you read down, some are both across and down, some the first letter spells out an important work. I do not know how she does it, but she is the most impressive author I have ever read. I know you will love the genius of her books.
I’d like to read this just to find out more about the teacher. She sounds like everything a teacher should NOT be!
She is bad! A very bad influence.