Book Review by Kevin Wolf
Moose is a tale of a bullied high school student, Joe. The story begins on a winter’s day outdoors with a slow zoom in on a house, a window, a child eating breakfast and not wanting to take the school bus. He’s consistently late for school because he refuses to take the bus and instead climbs a fence and trudges through a woods where he sometimes encounters a moose. The moose towers over Joe, but leaves him alone and walks away. Nature, and not among people, is where Joe feels most safe. I recommend this graphic novel. The drawings are excellent; the end of the story leaves enough for the reader to keep thinking about Moose’s characters’ futures and would make for great discussion.
Joe won’t take the bus to avoid a relentless bully, Jason. Jason acts compliant toward authority to hide his torturing and bullying of his weaker classmates. The constant bullying wrecks Joe’s school life. His English teacher tries to get Joe to explain the reason for his tardiness, but Joe refuses. Between classes Joe hides in a utility closet and creates a mock-Jason out of supplies that he can conquer. While in math class his teacher, Mr. Mint, asks Joe to take the empty seat in front of Jason where he ends up falling “again” from his chair that’s pulled out from under him. And Jason volunteers to take him to the nurse. In the hall Joe tries to get away, but is tripped by Jason who now towers over Joe. He’s prevented from being beaten up only because his English teacher steps into the hall because of the noise they are making. She sends Jason back to Math class and Joe to the nurse. The nurse is the only adult who knows about the bullying, cleans up his bloodied scalp, and tells Joe, “If you keep coming in like this, you know I’ll have to tell … I don’t know how you manage to hide it from your parents and teachers. It’s written on your face that you’re bullied.” Joe gets the nurse to not tell by implying he’ll tell on her—that she smokes in her office.
In the meantime, an example of Joe’s teacher’s obliviousness, or at worst enabling, occurs while Joe is with the nurse and Mr. Mint gives Joe’s backpack to Jason to return. Every encounter between Jason and Joe get worse and worse, until the tables are turned by the Moose. This creates a dilemma of what Joe should do—rescue or not?
This book begs to be used as a teaching tool in school to create a class discussion about many questions related to bullying. What is bullying? Why does a bully bully? What might parents, teachers, and school nurses impact be in stopping the bully or looking the other way or just not knowing? How can one stop the bullying? Can one be bullied too far? Who should one tell about bullying? How do you get a child to talk about being bullied? What should the adults do with the information? What happens when the tables are turned? Can someone be pushed too far to not rescue a bully? Can a bullied person become a bully? What might the effects be of not helping the bully? Can one think ahead, beyond the next hours,’ days,’ and weeks’ events toward the impact to a lifetime? This reader would be fascinated by such a classroom discussion that could come out of reading this very worthy graphic novel.