This is not your typical story about a middle school bully. K.A. Holt uses poetry to show the different sides of bullying in an authentic way that will appeal to readers in grades 5 and up.
Novel in verse, 167 pages
Interest level: grades 5 and up; high interest, lower reading level
5 out of 5 stars
The main character in Rhyme Schemer is Kevin, a 7th grader who comes from a large family with four older brothers and absentee parents who are both doctors. Kevin is the narrator, sharing his story in the form of poems that he writes in his journal and through poetry he creates by transforming pages torn from books into messages.
Rhyme Schemer is important because it shows Kevin as both a bully and a victim. Kevin is a likable character because we are allowed to know his inner thoughts through his journal entries. He openly shares his joy at bullying a classmate named Robin, but he also shares the turmoil and loneliness he feels at home. His older brother bullies him and he feels his parents don’t even know he exists.
When Kevin’s older brother throws his journal out the car window one morning, the plot shifts. Robin, the boy who was once bullied by Kevin, finds the journal and uses it to get his revenge. Robin has the upper hand now and begins to bully Kevin by threatening to reveal the poetry in his journal.
Holt has constructed the story and characters in such a way that even though Kevin was bullying kids at school, when the tables are turned, it does not feel like he is getting what he deserves. Robin’s form of bullying is much more personal and as Kevin begins to change how he acts and thinks, Robin is unrelenting. Kevin’s skills as a poet are recognized by the school librarian and she helps him find ways to use his skills in positive ways.
This book is of high interest to middle grade readers, who are looking for a less complex text that is short in length. The story can be used to begin discussions about bullying, and it would make a great text for a poetry unit. The poetry is written in the voice of a middle schooler so it will appeal. Additionally, the marking up of book pages to create poems would be a fun and engaging poetry-writing activity.