Nodelman, Perry. Behaving Bradley. Rebound by Sagebrush, 2000. ISBN 978-0613229685 242 pp. $
Brad Gold loves to wear a hat to school–in fact, few people have seen him without it. When the school board decides to create a code of conduct with student input, Brad gets roped into assisting, and when the project gets dumped entirely into his lap, he struggles to create something the students and the faculty can be happy with, making sure to include his own clause that hats should be permissible. His formerly low-key life becomes high profile as he circles the halls, clipboard in hand, asking kids for their input. Bullies, crank phone calls, and meeting after meeting are just the start of his ordeal. The title of this book is very clever play on words; Nodelman also cleverly manipulates the plot to create a story with humor and mystery. Who is stalking Brad? And why won’t he take off his hat?
Brad’s voice is authentic; Nodelman writes the way teens talk, and this is the biggest strength of the book. His first person narrative reveals the insults, beatings and discreditings that result from the project, make the reader very sympathetic and curious. The supporting characters are amusing, like the boy who has stayed back for 4 years in a row and spouts of words of wisdom from famous people, and the girl in the wheelchair who has a peeve with the girl’s gym teacher. Still, the pacing of this well-written novel is a little slow, and although the book has a clear voice and is funny, I am not sure the plot will make teens want to pick up the book. And the cover, a boy with a clipboard and some students in the background, isn’t thrilling either. If you like Rob Thomas, Ron Koertge and Gordon Korman, this is a book for you, but wait for the paperback.