EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken! (review)
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Reviewed by
Warner, Sally. EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken!; illus. by Jamie Harper. Viking, 2011. [108p]. ISBN 978-0-670-06243-0 $14.99 AD Gr. 2-4.

EllRay is the smallest kid in his third-grade class, girls included, which has made him the target of bully Jared Matthews. However, EllRay’s habit of in-class disruption has led his father to promise a trip to Disneyland if EllRay can go an entire week without getting into any trouble at school. EllRay therefore decides it’s best to get through the “war” with Jared without any adult’s noticing and simply to suffer through the abuse. Warner has a lively voice and a sympathetic understanding of kid viewpoints; EllRay’s perspective on his school issues is sincerely presented, and his narration clearly details the unsettling feeling of being at the rough end of the bullying relationship (the book also addresses the possibility that Ellray’s minority status, as one of the class, few African Americans, is making him a target but accepts Ellray’s view that the problem is sheer kid-to-kid friction). The book’s treatment of the bullying issue, however, is dated and questionable: EllRay is essentially encouraged to hide the fact that he is being regularly bullied so as to win the much-desired reward, even to the point of resisting the demonstrated concern of several adults (“I don’t like lying to my dad, but in this case, it’s for his own good. Also, it’s for the good of Disneyland”). In a convenient and implausible ending, [End Page 546] EllRay’s father invites Jared along on the outing and the two boys have a wonderful day together, despite the fact that the previous afternoon found them beating on each other. Harper’s monochromatic watercolor illustrations have a clever graphic sharpness and offer comic interpretations of textual moments; the facial expressions in particular add to the presentation of EllRay’s growing frustration. While this isn’t the most thoughtful exploration of bullying, EllRay is an appealing character whom readers may wish to follow in future outings.

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