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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Bullies, by nature, are an unforgettable lot, usually distinguished by their unreasoning tyranny over the classroom or jungle gym. If you've encountered one -- well, then you know. Author Alexis O'Neill shines her spotlight on one particular tormentor in the playground set: Jean is her name, and being mean is her game. This outstanding picture book sheds new light on the mysterious bully and what can happen when a new kid shows no fear.
Mean Jean is the Recess Queen. No one dares cross the raven-haired intimidator. If they do, she'll surely "hammer 'em, slammer 'em, kitz and kajammer 'em." Illustrator Laura Huliska-Beith shows Jean running amok in the yard, putting classmates in headlocks and chasing down do-gooders, all with a scowly smirk on her freckled face. That is, until a new kid comes to school. The petite Katie Sue looks like a meek little thing -- until she hits the playground. Full of spunk and sass, Katie Sue dares to swing before Mean Jean swings and kick before Mean Jean kicks. The fuming Jean grabs Katie Sue to set her straight. But to everyone's surprise, Katie Sue talks back. "How did you get so bossy?" she asks boldly, before quickly grabbing the ball and bouncing away. The playground is hushed as Mean Jean pursues her new enemy, ready to pounce. But then Katie Sue quickly does the unthinkable -- she asks Jean to jump rope with her. Amazingly, Jean does just that. The girls jump high and fast, and the cheering students know they will be forever bully free.
The simple premise behind this irresistible tale will intrigue youngsters with its affirmative ending. Sure, it may be hard to find this scenario in real life, but we need a little idealism in picture books now and again. This awesome story is matched with exuberant acrylic illustrations and collage. Colors are bright and eclectic, a lot like the characters in this rollicking tale. Facial expressions are wonderfully drawn to elicit the intense emotions of every child, whether scared, happy, anxious, or angry. With this playful look at a familiar school-age plague, Alexis O'Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith have created an amusing exposé of the lonely truth behind the one and only Recess Queen. (Amy Barkat)