Author: Dan Dugi & Bli Marston Dugi
Illustrator: Andrea Vitali
Publisher: Dugi Group LLC
Distributed by: Greenleaf Book Group LLC
[Disclaimer: I was provided an ARC of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. I was given no compensation or otherwise in exchange for the review and was not required to be positive, just honest.]
This is the first in what I assume will be an ongoing series of books published under the The Principal Gang series title. It stars two characters: Bli the Fly and Danny the Wizard Lizard who want to be friends but are separated by the fact that lizards typically eat flies. Bli the Fly's mother is genuinely skeptical of this budding relationship and offers up some preliminary judgments about Danny's intentions without ever having met him. Hence the title of the book.
The story progresses along from there until Bli and Danny finally meet face to face, go to the movies with Mrs. Fly, encounters some bullies, and then the story resolves.
I read this book on my Nook. I think the landscape view was much better than the portrait view because it enabled the pages to be rendered in a way that made the artwork easier to view. On that note, also, I think the artwork was very well done. The lines were clean and the characters were unique–in the sense that I think the intended audience will connect with them.
There is a subtle undertone that lizards eat flies which is a little disturbing. I had trouble understanding how one fly family lives like humans but Danny the Wizard Lizard also keeps a jar full of flies in his room for a snack (10-11).
The story explores in a limited way the nature of friendship (and, ultimately, prejudice), bullying, and, less prominently, kindness (evidenced by the very last question Bli the Fly asks at the end of the book which no one answers). It's a short book so the exploration isn't too deep, and I think that's OK. For the intended audience the connections will be made and a steady, adult guide can help direct the children who read this into deeper waters.
I found the short study guide at the end of the book to be somewhat helpful and there is a link to the authors' website (which I have noted above) which has more features associated with The Principal Gang (there's no indication in the book as to why the characters are referred to as 'The Principal Gang', nor for that matter are they ever actually referred to as The Principal Gang. We are left to wonder why they are somehow more honorable than the Lousy Lizard Gang.)
It's true that 'someone has to take a stand against' bullies, but I wonder about the message this sends to students who may be facing bullies in their daily life. Perhaps a better way to deal with bullies is to involve adults–which caused me to wonder why Mrs. Fly summoned a security guard who stood by helplessly while Danny did all the work. And, to be sure, when we deal with bullies we do not always have magical wizard powers. I get the idea of not being a coward and conveying that message in such a short space. I also wonder if it is always appropriate to stand up to bullies when clearly there are adults around who can help (like Mrs Fly & security guards)?
Two things bugged ( 🙂 ) me about the book. One was the way the author's constantly spelled out the entire name of the characters: it was always Bli the Fly and Danny the Wizard Lizard. I think it would have been fair to simply refer to them as Bli and Danny. The second was how the book started out being a book dealing with prejudice and ended up being a book about bullying. At some point the story shifted and I think perhaps there are two separate stories here. It's a personal thing, but I would have preferred more focus on one or the other of the subjects because the first subject (prejudice) is only subjectively resolved in the story.
I'll recommend this book, but I think it needs to be read with some guidance from adults. This might be a book used as part of a curriculum package dealing with bullying. I sense the authors trying to mitigate some of the issues, but I also sense that they weren't able to do so in a way that this book can be read without appropriate adult guidance. The questions at the end will help that guidance.
It's a good effort and I would use it in my classroom.