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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
In The Bully Brigade by T.T. Floyd, as Cokey Michaels' mother arrives at Misfit Elementary, she hopes that this will finally be the school that can help her son thrive and make friends. Cokey has problems socializing, his fingers twitch and the smallest of things can make him explode with frustration. Cokey meets the Bully Brigade and the teacher, Mr. Funkberry, who are intrigued by Cokey's behavior. They decide to do some research and discover Cokey is not dysfunctional or weird; he is autistic. However, not everyone is tolerant or understanding. Cokey has caught the attention of the school's biggest bullies, Andy Pitts and Penny Proudfoot, who are determined to terrorize Cokey until he leaves Misfit Elementary forever. It is left to the Bully Brigade to make everyone aware of the reasons Cokey acts in a certain way before Pitts and Proudfoot can execute their hateful plan.
The author has written about the problems of bullying in schools with much care and consideration but also brought much-needed attention to the disorder of autism. I loved the colorful characters, especially the fiery and courageous Charlie and level-headed Bustah, who leads the Bully Brigade with a great deal of maturity. Cokey made for a fantastic protagonist, and his disorder was well researched. The dialogue between the characters was quite humorous at times but sensitive when needed. I thought the inclusion of how teachers' lack of education and resources can sometimes inhibit the awareness needed to tackle certain behavioral disorders was a great addition to the story. I think this book will make a great addition to any school library and the subject matter will definitely spark discussion between parents, students and teachers about the effects of bullying. The line spoken by Ruthie at the end summarises the story perfectly: “Biases break bonds before they’re even built. And we have to bridge the gap.”