The Other Felix by Keir Graff

  Do you ever have nightmares?  Felix has nightmares every night.  They are always the same.  He is in a wooded area strewn with boulders and stone steps.   At some point a huge monster shows up and gives chase to him through the dark forest.

Things aren’t necessarily better in the real world either.  He often hears his parents arguing over the status of his father’s job.  The project that his dad is working on isn’t going well and he may lose his job and they would have to move to another city.

There’s also a new boy in school named Chase.  He is big and gruff and it isn’t long before Felix watches him steal a class calculator.  That same calculator later shows up in Felix’s backpack and the teacher understandably blames Felix for the theft.

With all of this stress, his dreams at night are only getting weirder.  In the dreamland of the monsters, he meets his doppelganger.  This “Other Felix,” as he calls him, looks just like him, except he is dirtier, has survival skills and knows how to scare off the monsters.  Because of this, he enjoys the Other Felix’s company and learns a lot from him.

But the relationship between the two Felixes begins to shift over time.  As the real Felix begins to spend more time in the dreamland, the Other Felix loses his power over the monsters.  He also grows increasingly surly as he hears more about the real Felix’s life at home with his family.  The Other Felix knows that he will never enjoy such comforts and only have a life spent in the woods with the monsters.

Can Felix reconcile his real world and dreamland problems?  Can he find a way to deal with the bully at school?

I enjoyed this book because it tackles typical Juvenile Fiction themes without being sentimental or maudlin.  I was mostly captured by the relationships between the two Felixes and how they struggled to defeat the dreamland monsters.

I recommend for ages 8-10.

Shredderman: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen

   Nolan is in 5th grade now and sick of Bubba Bixby picking on everyone in the school.  Bubba lies, steals, cheats and has a pejorative name for all of his classmates.  Nolan is half the size of Bubba, so a physical confrontation is out of the question.  How can he stop Bubba’s bullying without getting pounded into the ground?

His answer comes when his hippie teacher Mr. Greene assigns them a project of creating a newspaper page on a topic affecting the community.  Nolan realizes that there is no greater issue to address than Bubba’s bullying.  He also decides that he’ll take the project one step forward by creating a website rather than just a newspaper.  Mr. Green has once written on his homework, “You shred, man!”  He decided that this was seriously high praise from a cool guy like Mr. Green.  In that vein, Nolan decides to adapt the appellation “Shredderman” for his online alter ego.

Nolan builds the website and begins posting pictures and videos of Bubba’s bullying.  All goes well until Nolan advertises his website a little too effectively.  Suddenly everyone is looking at his site and wondering who this Shredderman is.  He even receives an e-mail from Bubba: “I know who you are…You’re gonna wish that you were never born!”  Has Nolan suddenly taken his school project too far?

Fans of such titles as as Oggie Cooder by Sarah Weeks and Hank Zipzer by Harry Winkler will appreciate the Shredderman series.  Secret Identity is also a great pick for readers that want to read about turning the tables on a bully.  Recommended ages 9+  138 pages