by Wendelin Van Draanen
Alfred A. Knopf, 2004
I was lucky enough to be seated at the same table as Wendelin Van Draanen at the Random House dinner at NCTE back in November. She's an author who's been in my peripheral vision for a long time (Sammy Keyes mysteries were a favorite of a former colleague; Franki has talked about Shredderman) and it was good to meet her and hear about her books. The Random House crew set aside arcs for me of her new spin off (from Shredderman) series (on the "to be reviewed" pile, I promise), and, being the reader that I am, I went out and bought all four of the Shredderman books so that I would a) check out some books that will likely be perfect for a handful of readers in my 4th grade classroom, and b) understand the origins of The Gecko and Sticky.
In case you don't know Shredderman, it's about a geeky kid named Nolan who, along with his classmates, is tortured by a bully named Alvin (nickname, "Bubba"). Nolan creates a superhero named Shredderman and builds a website devoted to "truth and justice." On the website, he "gives bullies what they deserve."
Nolan is clearly the good guy and Bubba is bad to the bone (mostly, but it takes most of the series to discover this). Nolan is clearly doing what he does on his website to make the world a better place. Nolan is a self-proclaimed cyber-superhero, via Shredderman. And I keep having this little niggling thought that the tactics Nolan has used boil down to cyber-bullying. Maybe I'm being too left-brained about this. I'll chat with my students after they've met Nolan and Bubba and Shredderman and see what they think.
In the meantime, there are some powerfully good messages about believing in yourself, playing to your strengths, following your dreams, and the power of niceness over meanness.
Shredderman's website, including a webquest and activities to download for each of the four books in the series.