by Glen Huser

Travis is a kid who has been teased since he was in first grade. First, it was words... read more

Travis is a kid who has been teased since he was in first grade. First, it was words like “girlie.” As he grew older, it was “Sissy. Crybaby. Fruitfly. Fagface.” As he enters junior high school, his interests in sewing, puppetry and theater are encouraged, first by an English teacher and then a home economics teacher, but these same interests are part of what mark by some students as a target for their continued bullying. Travis is sustained by his best friend, Chantelle, who helps him navigate the treacheries of school. Like Travis, Chantelle stands out as different. Most people don’t see beyond her disfigured body, crippled since birth. But Chantelle is bright and lively: a kindred spirit to Travis. Travis also is supported at home. His mother is on the road a lot, so it is his aunt Kitaleen and her children who fill his life with love on a daily basis. Overweight Kitaleen is married to a bully herself and has to sustain her own share of verbal abuse. But her ability to embrace those around her and fill their lives with sustenance abounds, and her dignity is undeniable. Glen Huser’s extraordinary book about a boy who is targeted from early childhood on because he doesn’t fit the stereotype of what a “boy” should be is an unprecedented work. His funny, touching story is hard to put down, even as it treads down difficult pathways. As Travis moves through junior high school, what began as mostly verbal bullying leads to acts of severe humiliation, and, eventually, brutality. This thought-provoking, important novel that features one great character after another never overtly addresses Travis’s sexuality, because Travis himself is barely beginning to consider that aspect of his identity. Instead, it focuses on the many facets of Travis’s personality that make him the individual he is. The book doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of bullying and violence, but nonetheless it remains an uplifting story full of warmth, humor, and hope. (Ages 12–15)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2004

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