Our “First Day of School” stories are flying off the shelves. Preschoolers to second-graders can use the reassurance of these books. But older kids need to know they have power, as well, over bullies, impulses and their destinies. Two funny books about serious struggles and the transformative power of art, kindness and self-confidence, will be especially appealing to boys.
In Warp Speed by Lisa Yee, Marley Sandelsky is a Star Trek fan, a member of the AV Club and a magnet to “The Gorn,” a couple of bullies. Otherwise, he feels invisible – to the girls in his class, to the principal who starts a new initiative around bullying, to all the kids who see what’s happening and turn away. His only defense is running and he gets so good at it the track coach notices. His speed can make him more popular but will he give up what he values most for popularity?
Doug Swieteck’s bully is closer to home: his abusive father. When his family abruptly moves to Marysville, New York, Doug calls his new house, “The Dump.” He follows Lil, a local girl, into the library and stumbles onto a book of Audubon bird plates. As an unorthodox librarian helps him recreate the plates, he learns something new and important from each.
Delivering for Lil’s father’s deli, Doug earns the regard of his customers. But then, old demons catch up with him. His brother, Christopher, is accused of robbing stores in their neighborhood, just as Doug starts his new school. Teachers and even customers are wary of him. A secret is revealed in gym and Doug ends up fighting his way through his days. His oldest brother, Lucas, comes back from Vietnam changed dramatically. And although Doug is sure of Christopher’s innocence, he wrestles with negative public opinion.