Also Known as Lard Butt, by Ann Herrick is about a young girl’s attempts to flee from her grade school nickname, “lard butt,” and remake her image as she enters junior high school. When Ricky, the progenitor of the “lard butt” moniker moved away, Laura thought she would finally shed the nickname that hangs like an albatross around her neck. But, as the story opens, Laura learns that Ricky is back. Will he revive the name that tormented her for years?
Laura is determined to bloom and that means keeping anyone at her new school from hearing about the nickname. She must figure out how to protect the new image she’s so carefully put together from the one person who could destroy it and decides tutoring Ricky might work. The adage “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” means she will have to put up with being around the person she hates most, but it’s wort it if her new classmates and especially the boy she likes are kept in the dark about “lard butt.”
Laura remains vigilant for any sign that Ricky plans to revive the old name and as she does she realizes that they have much in common. She gradually begins to sympathize with the former bane of her existence and, more importantly, to begin to understand that his bullying of her was his defense against the hurts in his life.
Also Known as Lard Butt is an astute study of tween angst that is, at time, excruciatingly real. If it has been some time since you’ve been 13, you’ll find it impossible not to cringe at the memories this spot-on story evokes. Author Ann Herrick writes from Laura’s point of view and does a commendable job of evoking the pain of being bullied, of wanting to fit in, of being an adolescent. The story is told with humor and charm and holds back from pushing a message too hard. But there is a message here – about empathy and acceptance and growth. In the end, the superficial changes Laura wanted to make seem inconsequential compared to the changes in self acceptance and understanding of others that she winds up making.