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13 November 2023 FOUR EYES by Rex Ogle and Dave Valeza, ill., Scholastic Graphix, May 2023, 224p., ISBN: 978-1-338-57497-5


“Bullying is widespread in the nation’s schools, and cases associated with suicide are few by comparison. Even so, The Washington Post identified nearly 200 student suicides since 2016 that were linked to school bullying in news accounts or court records. There are likely many more.”

–  “When bullied students end their lives, parents are suing. And schools are paying.” Washington Post (11/10/23)


“‘It’s not his fault. He doesn’t know any better.’

‘He doesn’t know not to throw a knife in the air? I could have lost my whole arm! What if it fell on my head?’

‘I’m glad that didn’t happen, but you should have been watching him in the kitchen. Didn’t you see he picked up a knife?’

‘I was watching. But I couldn’t see what he was doing, okay? I couldn’t see!!! Oh, God. I can’t see like I used to.’”


We’ll never know whether Rex’s vision was negatively impacted by his looking at the solar eclipse without protection (a very poor choice, and a great warning to young readers). But it’s a fact that needing glasses runs in his family and now, in sixth grade, Rex seriously needs glasses.


“You may think that glasses are just glasses, but they are so much more than just metal or plastic frames that sit on your face to help you see better. Like any article of clothing, glasses give people a glimpse of your personality, of who you are. Are you conservative or flashy? Are you clean and neat? Or are your lenses greasy with fingerprint marks?

These surface-level impressions can give way to more subconscious evaluations. This is where things get complicated. The advantage of looking intelligent weighed against the cost of looking less attractive. This notion was popularized by the ‘nerd’ stereotype in Hollywood, where people with glasses were type-cast as goody-two-shoes and losers who only cared about doing well in school.

Only when the girl-next-door decides to take off her glasses do people finally realize how beautiful she was all this while. The geek becomes Prince Charming, and Clark Kent becomes Superman.

Then, glasses suddenly became cool. It moved from being an aid for poor vision to becoming a staple fashion accessory. People could choose from a variety of glasses that came in different shapes, colors and sizes. Even people with perfect vision started to wear glasses with clear plastic lenses.

With so many types of glasses to choose from, people could control the impression others had of them. If they were going to be judged for wearing glasses, they were going to be judged on the basis of their choice.

Several studies have found that simple things like the type of frame affect the way people perceive you. One experiment found that people who wore full-rim glasses gave off less attractive, but more intelligent vibes compared to rimless glasses or those who don’t wear spectacles at all. Glasses reinforced the notion that the person wearing them was more honest, trustworthy and even innocent.

Glasses now also display brand logos on the temples. Like handbags or wallets, glasses can now be used as a way to reflect social or financial status.”

– sales pitch from Nanyang Optical, “The Hidden Psychology of Wearing Glasses (2017)


Rex has already had a rocky start to middle school. Because of a redrawing of school district maps, most of his former elementary schoolmates are attending a different middle school. His close friend Drew is there with him, but that doesn’t help a whole lot when kids bully and harass Rex. Rex hasn’t yet gotten his growth spurt. His mom is a waitress, and his family qualifies for free school lunches. That means he cannot choose the cool frames that he likes. 


Like a bunch of hungry flies, the bullies find him a great target for their malice. Then Drew totally betrays Rex in order to fit in with the bullies. Rock-bottom, here we come.


More than half a century after my middle school years, I still struggle a bit, emotionally, to read these bullying-related books. At one point in this moving graphic novel, which is based on the author’s own middle school years, we witness some creep slamming Rex into a line of hallway lockers. Seeing that, I actually flinched. I can still recall the shock of being similarly and repeatedly blindsided by some random big kid or other who didn’t even know my name, nor the first thing about me. It still hurts.


FOUR EYES is a great coming-of-age tale that will help enlighten and console victims of bullying, and will engender empathy in some readers who can well see what is going on in the hallways, play yard, and cafeteria at school.  


Rex will eventually experience an epiphany, thanks to his beloved abuela, whose tough backstory is jaw-dropping, but all-too-common amongst those not born in the USA. It’s true that, despite the challenges, Rex has a lot for which to be grateful. He can learn to rise above the abuse.


But it is also true that so many kids are impacted by bullying to the degree that it leaves lasting scars. Some young people are actually driven to end their own lives. I was lucky in so many ways. Above all, I had a grandfather who made me feel like I was something special. Not every kid is as fortunate. And that is why bullying in school must be addressed and discussed and curbed. 


FOUR EYES is an easy and engaging graphic read for middle grade students. It’s one that can change lives with its positive message. It’ll be a valuable addition for middle grade collections.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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