Jake Drake Bully Buster: Book Review

Jake Drake Bully Buster - Chapter Book Cover
Simon & Schuster

In Jake Drake Bully Buster, author Andrew Clements focuses on a problem too many kids have to cope with: bullies and bullying. What do you do if you're a bully-magnet? That's Jake's problem in the chapter book Jake Drake Bully Buster. Fourth-grader Jake Drake tells the story of how he went from being a bully-magnet starting in preschool to becoming a bully buster in second grade. Jake's experiences not only make an entertaining story for 7 to 10-year-olds, but they also provide a lot of food for thought.

Why Jake Was a Bully-Magnet

Jake begins his story with tales of all of the bullies who bullied him before second grade, starting when he was a 3-year-old and continuing through preschool, kindergarten, and first grade. Jake figures he has these bully-magnet characteristics: He's small but not so small that he doesn't represent a challenge, he doesn’t have an older brother or sister to defend him, he’s not the type to complain, and he looks “brainy.” Interestingly, these don't change as Jake goes from being a bully-magnet to a bully buster. Instead, Jake's experiences in second grade change him.

Jake and the 'Grade A, SuperBully'

Jakes says he didn’t become a bully buster until second grade and then, only after “being picked on by a Certified, Grade A Super Bully.” Second grade starts out wonderfully. Jake likes his teacher, Mrs. Brattle. There are no bullies in his class, although he still has to watch out for bullies on the playground and in the lunchroom.

However, when a new student, Link Baxter, whom Jakes quickly learns is “a Certified, Grade A Super Bully,” joins the class. Link continually picks on Jake at school and on the school bus.

The first time it happens, Jake is so upset that when he gets home he bullies his little sister until his mother stops him, saying, “What’s gotten into you!?” Jake realizes that “It was Link. Link had gotten into me! I was being like Link. I had caught BULLYITIS!” When he apologizes to his little sister, she tells him that Link’s sister is in her class, and she is a bully like her brother.

Jake's Attempts to End the Bullying

Jake decides to try acting like Link’s bullying doesn’t bother him. When Link makes fun of him on the bus, Jake acts like it’s a joke. All day, Jake tries to act cook when Link bothers him, but this only makes Link bully him more. Finally, Link splashes water on Jake so it looks like Jake wet his pants and proceeds to mock him, “Wook, wook! Wittle Jakey had an accident!” Jake gets very mad and can tell Link is pleased about that.

Jake is so mad that he hits Link, who acts like he has a terrible injury. Link gets sent to the nurse’s office for ice and sympathy and Jake was sent to the principal’s office. Afterward, when he and Link meet in the hallway, Jake asks Link why he bullies him and Link doesn’t have an answer. Jake decides, “…if I could figure out that reason – or if I could give him a reason NOT to be a bully – then Link Baxter, SuperBully, would become Link Baxter, Ex-SuperBully.”

From Bad to Worse Leads to New Insights

Things go from bad to worse when Jake’s teacher decides that everyone in the class has to work in pairs on a Thanksgiving project, and she assigns Jake and Link to work together. Their assignment is to do a project about how Native Americans lived. Jake is appalled, but Link thinks it’s funny and tells Jake that he’s going to have to do all the work.

Jake prepares the report but keeps hoping Link will help so they have something to show the class. When the day before the project is due Link tells Jake to do that also, Jake is so mad that he refuses. Link tells him to come over to his house after school so they can make something.

At Link’s house, Jake learns two surprising things about Link: Link is skilled at creating models and dioramas and his older sister bullies him. He also learns that when Link is involved in model making, it’s like he’s one of the kids instead of a SuperBully. In fact, according to Jake, “When he forgot I was there, he had a different face from his bully face, Not mean. Almost nice.” The visit to Link’s house gives Jake a lot to think about, but he’s still not sure how to make Link stop bullying him.

Everything Changes With Jake's Good Choices

Everything changes again when it is time for Jake and Link to give their project report. Jake finds out that Link has stage fright about doing the presentation. Rather than pay Link back for all Link has done to Jake by humiliating Link in front of his classmates, Jake covers for him. He tells Link he will give the report and Link can point out things in the diorama he made. Their project is a big success, but the best outcome is that Link no longer bullies Jake and Jake realizes that by getting to know the real person “behind those mean eyes and that bully-face,” he can be a bully buster rather than a bully-magnet.

Throughout the book, Jake reacts to the bullying in different ways, not all of them appropriate. He quickly learns that bullying others, being mean, and hitting the bully are all not the responses he wants to, or should, make. As time passes and he learns more and more about the bully, Jake begins to make better decisions: standing up to Link and refusing to finish the project by himself, covering for Link when it’s time for their presentation and acknowledging Link’s model-building skills in front of the class. It's the fact that Jake is essentially a good kid who is willing to take the time and thought to look beyond the "bully-face" to the person within that enables him to become a bully buster.

Guide Recommendation

We recommend Jake Drake Bully Buster for independent readers in grades 2-4. It is also an excellent classroom or family read aloud. At under 90 pages, it is a quick and enjoyable read, but it also has some substance and can easily and effectively be used as a bullying discussion prompt. The Jake Drake series includes a total of four books about the fourth grader's experiences st school, and I recommend them all. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster, 2007 reprint edition. ISBN: 9781416939337)