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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Free Verse, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations, Young Adult Readers

RHYME SCHEMER by K.A. Holt

rhyme schemerRhyme Schemer is the story of 7th grader Kevin Jamison.  And it is not a pretty one.  Kevin is a bully with all the low self-esteem and cruelty toward others that go with it.

Kevin is also a writer.  He carries a notebook and writes in it about his feelings and the events of his life in free verse poems–which why Rhyme Schemer, itself, is written in this form in Kevin’s own words.  Constantly in the Principal Hartwick’s office for physically or verbally bullying another student, Kevin is given detention helping Mrs. Little in the library.  He begins a campaign as the Poetry Bandit in the school, creating poetry out of the pages of other books.  They are clever and funny and popular with the students–although NOT with the teachers, as they are part vandalism and often part disrespect for particular teachers.

One day on the way to school Kevin’s brother Petey throws his notebook out the window of the moving car.  When Kevin goes back to find it that afternoon–walking all the way home from school–he cannot.  He starts a new notebook, but soon discovers that one of the students whom he has picked on mercilessly has found the notebook Petey threw out of the car.

Kevin now finds himself on the other end of the bully spectrum–the victim instead of the perpetrator.  In his new role, being on the receiving end of blackmail, verbal threats and physical assault, Kevin begins to change his perspective on himself and those around him.  at the same time he continues his detention in the library and ultimately finds a surprising ally there.

Reading the beginning of Rhyme Schemer I did not think I was going to like Kevin.  I was appalled at his cruelty to others despite what he was feeling inside.  The brilliance of Rhyme Schemer is the transition Kevin makes in his own life.  His insight into and realizations about his own despicable behavior as well as the dawning recognition about his own true gifts is the crux of the book.  I found myself cheering for Kevin halfway through the book and I would not have predicted that strong a reaction at the beginning.  Rhyme Schemer is a perfect example of how knowing the center of what makes you special and unique and valuable is the key to eradicating bullying from both ends of the spectrum.

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