A Boy Named Queen

By Sara Cassidy

Image of the book cover beside a photo of a bookshelf and opened book on a table.

When Queen, the new kid in Mr. Zhang’s grade 5 class, walks into the class with his long flowing hair, oozing confidence, you just know he is going to become the one to be picked on by the self-appointed alpha males of the class. In this small town elementary school, everything points to this precocious and charismatic kid succumbing horribly to the pressure of conforming to the mores of this small rural community. But this story veers away from the formulaic, and before you can say, “Boy named Sue,” we learn that Queen has developed a well thought out strategy for withstanding the bullying he encounters.

He tells his new—and only—friend, Evelyn, that he has a special force field that protects him from taunts and actions that would render most kids into cowering victims. This shield absorbs only good thoughts and actions while deflecting negative and hurtful comments and actions.

This novella (only 77 pages!) packs a light punch. The author has developed Queen into a singular bastion against bullies. Even though he has strong family support, Queen has chosen to use this name as a litmus test; to “…watch how people act when they hear it for the first time. It shows me what kind of people they are.”

The other characters in the book, his tattooed parents: rock star father and artist mother, who have encouraged Queen’s self-sufficiency, serve as colourful background. Evelyn and the other kids play supporting roles in Queen’s life. But this is not because he wants it to be so. His charisma claims that role, and he embraces it easily.

Will this tiny novel become the anti-bullying book of the decade? It could. It has all the right elements: short, easy read, strong main character, and above all, a parable.

What more could you ask for?

About Eunice O’Mahony
Eunice O’Mahony is a teacher in District 12, Toronto and is the chair of the provincial Human Rights Committee.

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