Score: 90/100 (9 out of 10)
This is a book for every black sheep.
This is a book for everyone who has ever been called “troubled” or a “problem child.”
This is a book for every child who has been bullied.
This is a book for every child that has avoided or has wanted to avoid school and/or social interactions because of the fear of bullying.
In Watch Out! It's Nolan! author Dark Joseph Ravine, a Guinness World Record Holder, explores one of the darker and more unpleasant aspects common to many childhoods: being picked on for being different.
All of our judges/reviewers have experienced many of the same things that the main character, Nolan, experiences in this book. We've been afraid—downright petrified—to go to school. Some of us fought are bullies, others just grit and bore it. The fact of the matter is this: bullying exists, and it's a serious problem that impacts many kids and their families. It can even impact the individual throughout their life and into adulthood, nurturing such things as a fear of social settings, a fear of speaking out, and a fear of forming relationships. Many serial-killers, mass shooters, and genocidal leaders were bullied and/or abused as children. So, it says a lot about why we should champion kindness, compassion, and interpersonal connections. It says a lot about why we should fight bullying by reporting and confronting it rather than ignoring it and hoping that it goes away.
On a psychological level, the author gets it. Nolan is a character who is so hurt and impacted by the bullying he experiences that he comes up with every excuse to not want to go to school. Specifically, he tries to make the case to his mom that the weather is too bad to go to school as it is snowing heavily. In truth, it's not the weather that bothers Nolan, it's the fact that he'll be confronted with mistreatment by his classmates and teacher when he gets to school. They constantly treat him like a failure, pointing out all of his mistakes.
Unfortunately, even his mom fails to read between the lines and see the signs of a bullied individual or someone who may be experiencing mental health issues due to bullying. His mom chalks up his behavior to a bad/worsening attitude or laziness.
His teacher, Mrs. Kramer, is even worse, compounding the criticism of Nolan.
Perhaps the main “villain” in this book, if you want to call her that, is Edy, the most prominent bully. It is strongly implied that Edy does not fully realize the consequences of her actions and how terrible she is to Nolan every day. In other words, she is someone who—much like Nolan's mom and Mrs. Kramer—hasn't developed an understanding or empathy for what Nolan is going through.
In the fantastical angle of the story, a magical little green imp named Bolton intervenes on Nolan's behalf with the goal of making things right. He is able to open Edy's eyes to the meanness of her actions, and in turn opens the eyes of the other characters to Nolan's plight.
This is a really touching children's book. It is weak in certain areas, mainly the formatting. This book lacks indentations that help to distinguish between lines of dialogue and separate paragraphs. This book could've used one more rewrite and edit, perhaps. Thankfully, it really isn't that bad. This book is still a swift and easy read. It reads almost like a “warm-up” or “practice book” when a student is working their way up to chapter books.
The double-spacing between lines might actually help those who suffer from dyslexia to read the text. The language itself is very simple and understandable. This reminds of the kind of reading that students do for SRA or other standardized reading programs. It's actually good practice.
Another thing we liked were the illustrations. They aren't outstanding by any means, but they do convey the message and the associated emotions. They're colorful and the characters are easily distinguishable.
All in all, this seems like a solid book with a great message for children, perhaps 9 and older.
Check it out on Amazon!