________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 15 . . . .March 21, 2008



Caroline Pignat.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2008.
173 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-399-4.

Subject Heading:
Bullying-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Bryannie Kirk.

**** /4



william james reid


She isnít like other girls.
She doesnít
or giggle.

She smiles a lot.
She even smiles at me.

She listens.
She hears.
She knows.
She says what no one else will:

"Iíll be your science fair partner."

"Get a grip, Will."

"Leave him alone, Shane."

I donít know if sheís pretty.
But she sure is

Mostly because she is

like other girls.

     Katie Part II

I have seen
a queen

some of her
smallest eggs

just to stay alive.

is a
natural instinct.

I did not realize
I was such a

small egg.


It is the first day of grade nine, and it is survival of the fittest. William James Reid, aka Will, in the middle of a packed gym full of his new classmates, is on his hands and knees on the gym floor, completely captivated by the path of a single struggling ant. Shane and his group of friends, including Devan, immediately pick up on this social blunder and find their new target. Willís new nickname becomes "Egghead," and his life becomes harder with every run-in with Shane. Katie, who knows Will from the days of relative safety in elementary school, steps in and stands up for Will, risking her own friendships. As the pressure to fit in and survive the harsh social realities of the new high school builds, Katie, Devan, and Will all react in different ways. Katie tries to defend Will and help him deal with the bullying, but she ends up as a target herself. Devan is intrigued by her daring to stand up for such an obvious victim and begins to question Shaneís motives and the reasons for following his lead. Will, who recently lost his mother, continues to pursue his interests and walk into awkward social situations caused by his lack of social understanding and fundamental earnestness.

     In Egghead, Pignat explores the sensitive issue of bullying from three different perspectives, weaving the narratives together to give the reader a sense of plot without overdoing any particular scene. Most of the story is told through the eyes of Katie and Devan as the situation escalates from teasing and intimidating to sabotage and physical bullying. Willís contributions are in the form of poetry, expressing both the plot and his emotions in short and succinct form. His love for ants and his and Katieís ongoing ant farm science fair project provides a frame for his interpretations of the high school social situation, as well as an important element of the plot and a symbol of the friendship between Will and Katie.

     At the climax of the story, the bullying escalates to a life-threatening incident, and the impact affects all three of the protagonists. With a sensitive ending that does justice to the characters, the situation, and reality, the issues are supported by Pignatís clear prose and sensitive treatment of the perspectives of three very different characters. For all of them, the transition between elementary and high school can be difficult. Katie mentions:

"Mr. Donlan knew us. He knew our families. It mattered to him whether or not we had done our homework, ate a good breakfast, or felt sad. Grade nine teachers didnít care if we ran out without a hat, left projects until the night before, or ate all of our lunches." (p. 49.)

     Pignat isnít necessary criticizing high school teachers but instead is commenting on the limits of adult attention towards bullying. The social world of high school has limited space for the interferences and attentions of teachers, and the issue of bullying needs to be combated from the level of students as well. As Katie exhibits, individual acts of courage against bullying - whether physical, emotional, or verbal Ė can open the eyes of bystanders and change the course of events.

      Pignat wrote this book as a response to a junior high memory of being a bystander to bullying, and she has worked with youth as an elementary school teacher, mentor and coach. Her familiarity with the nature of teen social structure is evident in her portrayal of the consequences of her charactersí actions. Egghead would be valuable for readers of any age but especially for those in the early years of high school. There is an "Educatorís Guide" available through Pignatís website (www.carolinepignat.com).

Highly Recommended.

Bryannie Kirk is a student in the Master of Arts in Childrenís Literature at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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