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Thirteen-year-old Butterball doesn’t have much going for him. He’s teased mercilessly about his weight. He hates the Long Island suburb his mom moved them to and wishes he still lived with his dad in the city. And now he’s stuck talking to a totally out-of-touch therapist named Liz.

Liz tries to uncover what happened that day on the playground—a day that landed one kid in the hospital and Butterball in detention. Butterball refuses to let her in on the truth, and while he evades her questions, he takes readers on a journey through the moments that made him into the playground bully he is today.

This devastating yet ultimately redemptive story is told in voice-driven prose and accented with drawings and photographs, making it a natural successor to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Loosely inspired by 50 Cent’s own adolescence, and written with his fourteen-year-old son in mind, Playground is sure to captivate wide attention—and spark intense discussion.

314 pages, Hardcover

First published November 11, 2011

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About the author

50 Cent

47 books353 followers
Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975), known professionally as 50 Cent, is an American rapper, songwriter, television producer, actor, and entrepreneur. Known for his impact in the hip hop industry, he has been described as a "master of the nuanced art of lyrical brevity".

Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, Jackson began selling drugs at age 12 during the 1980s crack epidemic. He later began pursuing a musical career and in 2000 he produced Power of the Dollar for Columbia Records, but days before the planned release he was shot and the album was never released. In 2002, after Jackson released the compilation album Guess Who's Back?, he was discovered by Eminem and signed to Shady Records, under the aegis of Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.

With the aid of Eminem and Dr. Dre (who produced his first major-label album Get Rich or Die Tryin'), Jackson became one of the world's best selling rappers and rose to prominence with East Coast hip hop group G-Unit (which he leads de facto). In 2003, he founded G-Unit Records, signing his G-Unit associates Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo. Jackson had similar commercial and critical success with his second album, The Massacre, which was released in 2005. He released his fifth studio album, Animal Ambition, in 2014, and as of 2019, is working on his sixth studio album, Street King Immortal. He executive-produced and stars in the show Power, which aired on Starz from 2014 to 2020.

Jackson has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and won several awards, including a Grammy Award, thirteen Billboard Music Awards, six World Music Awards, three American Music Awards and four BET Awards. He has pursued an acting career, appearing in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005), the Iraq War film Home of the Brave (2006), and Righteous Kill (2008). 50 Cent was ranked the sixth-best artist of the 2000s and the third-best rapper by Billboard. Rolling Stone ranked Get Rich or Die Tryin' and "In da Club" in its lists of "100 Best Albums of the 2000s" and "100 Best Songs of the 2000s" at numbers 37 and 13 respectively.

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5 stars
417 (26%)
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581 (36%)
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450 (28%)
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99 (6%)
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41 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 295 reviews
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,229 reviews464 followers
January 5, 2018
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

One day on the playground, 13 year old Butterball took a sock filled with batteries and beat up one of his closest friends, Maurice, sending him to the hospital. Now, he is being forced to talk to a therapist, Liz, as part of his detention. Butterball doesn't want Liz to uncover what really happened that day on the playground, but as their sessions continue, he begins to trust her with his story.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is very predictable, but I think this book gives a great insight to how bullies are often vulnerable and bullied themselves. I think the book could be very relate able for a lot of people. Butterball is a great character who grows so much through out the story and I really enjoyed reading about him.
Profile Image for Reading Vacation.
524 reviews104 followers
November 5, 2011
I was really surprised when Playground showed up in the mail. Come on now! WHAT could I have in common with a bully named Butterball? I went into the book with really low expectations. I. WAS. WRONG. Playground was a deep thinking type of read for me and Butterball was a sort of hero. I could see a lot of middle school and high school boys liking it.

Butterball was an overweight African American kid from the city with umm… a lot… of issues. At first, Butterball was not an easy character to identify with. He was stuck-up, easily angered, and never happy with what he had. I really did not like him. That is, at first. As I read on, and got farther into Butterball’s crazy world, I saw where his personality and tendencies had come from. He was the end product of his environment.

The writing of Playground was definitely unique. There was quite a colorful vocabulary that all of the characters used. It felt like practically every other word was a swear word. Granted, this is not the kind of talk I am used to, but I appreciated that 50 Cent was keeping it real. I get it. These kids are not going to talk like my friends and I talk.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about these characters. Underneath it all, everyone is ultimately the same. We are all affected by our surroundings, we all make mistakes, and we all hope for forgiveness. I’m glad I read Playground after all.
Profile Image for Gina.
1,766 reviews57 followers
September 1, 2020
So 50 Cent wrote a young adult book, and it's good. The blurb compares it to Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Let's not go crazy. It's not that good. Yet, the comparison holds in ways I didn't expect.
Butterball, who's real name is Burton, is an overweight 14 year old when he badly beats up a kid at school. He's sent to Liz, an out of touch white psychologist, to try and figure out the root of his issues. And he has lots of issues - deadbeat dad who is a passive criminal, mother who just came "out", moved to a new area/school, etc. No one in the book is particularly likable, but I did find the harshly drawn characters real in a way sometimes missing from young adult literature. 50 Cent says that some of the book, although fiction, is taken from his own experiences as well as those of his 14 year old son. I'd definitely recommend this to any young teen as a follow on to Alexie's book or who was experiencing bullying/being a bully.
Profile Image for Lectus.
1,029 reviews32 followers
August 1, 2012
Read entire review on my blog http://onlectus.blogspot.com/2012/08/...

Did you know 50 Cent could write? Other than songs, that is. He wrote this novel loosely inspired by his adolescence and with his 14 year old son in mind.
I was very skeptical of this book and was surprised to find a very nicely, straight forward, touching and easy story to read; I was even more surprised when I found myself liking it! Because, yes, I liked it.

I’m not into stories of bullies with a big redemption at the end and thank God this book wasn’t like it. Do kids even need a reason to bully? Hmm…
In Playground ‘Butterball’ is kind of a bully who at the same time is subtly bullied himself. He hates his life and the fact that on top of being fat, he is also black (or is it the other way around?).

50 Cent touches some of the issues that teens have: self-esteem, weight, identity, money, anger, frustration, friendship, etc. But he does so as a whole; that is, rather than ‘Butterball’ telling us that he is the way he is because he’s poor, he shows us how he lives so we come to our own understanding of how the way he lives leads to be how he is.

The story is moving, enjoyable and most of all, believable. Schools and public libraries should have this book out front for display. I think it is great material for a book discussion/club/group because it compels to thoughts, brain storming and ultimately, kids can relate to the story and offer their own solutions.

Solutions, yes, because as much as adults try to prevent and deal with bullying and all that goes “wrong” in a kid’s life, ultimately, kids themselves are the ones who can offer the best inside to address their issues.
Profile Image for Ayala Levinger.
236 reviews27 followers
April 8, 2017
I like the story very much and it was good written. Maybe because I am an adult I already saw the mistakes Burton aka Butterball made, was making and was going to make. How he still didn't have a clue and needed to figure things out and it was very interesting to read how he figures things out. I was only disappointed that the happy end had to contain the fat child becoming not fat anymore. For me it could just be a perfectly happy end even if the writer "allowed" the main character to stay fat.
Profile Image for Jessica.
363 reviews12 followers
January 29, 2012
Ugh. I know that this book will appeal to certain readers. And I know that those are the readers that need more books to appeal to them. But... Well, the book is just so... ugh. But my criticisms of it come from such an old-white-lady perspective. I was annoyed by the fact that his father stole shoes and there was no consequence. I was annoyed that Butterball's "growth" was when he stood up for a little kid by menacing another kid. I was annoyed that the illustration on the cover was of the celebrity author, not the character. And it was so hard to relate to Butterball's shame and anger over his mom being when I see so little shameful about that. I just couldn't find that as a justification for his brutal attack.
Profile Image for Susie.
568 reviews2 followers
July 22, 2021
I went through a short phase where I LOVED 50 Cent. It lasted about three months, but long enough for me to sing “In Da Club” to my friend’s newborn baby girl. After my phase, I lost track of Mr. Cent (except for his role in the genius comedy “Spy,” which was brilliant). Anyway. I don’t know why his writing a YA book surprises me, but it does. And I’m even more shocked because it was amazing. Really compelling plot. Excellent character development. I felt like I was in junior high with Butterball and not reading an adult’s idea of what junior high should be. A really authentic coming of age story I’m glad I read.
Profile Image for Mehsi.
11.9k reviews361 followers
February 13, 2016
Wow, this book was fantastic. I didn't always like Butterball, but after reading this book I can imagine why he did and acted like he did.

Butterball, or let's call him with his real name: Burton. A boy with divorced parents, stuck in a bad school and surroundings. When we first get to know him we have no clue why he suddenly decided to follow the road of a bad guy, but we slowly find it out piece by piece.
I never had the feeling that Burton was a bad guy, he just tried to act tough. His life wasn't the easiest. A dad that is not there (and also encourages bad behaviour), a mom that works/studies all the time (and is also a lesbian), add to that expectations from his peers/friends. I can imagine that one would try to act tough and try to be the man.
His language was horrendous, the numerous times he cursed, wow.
I felt sorry for him, for his weight, for his family, for everything that happened in his life.

Liz was a fantastic character and I really enjoyed her talks with Burton. She is a wonderful person and I can see why she became a counsellor.

On the cover is a sentence that says: The mostly true story of a former bully.
So when I went in this book, I expected a guy who bullies people... and I didn't really get any of that. Again, Burton does some things, but I wouldn't call him a bully.

I loved the ending part of the book. I am so happy for Burton, that he can finally do all this and that he can finally put his tough guy part in the past.

All in all, this is one book I would highly recommend. Don't be turned off that it is apparently written by 50 Cent. Believe me, this book is awesome and you will like Burton.

Review first posted at http://twirlingbookprincess.com/
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,794 reviews29 followers
May 10, 2016
This would have been four stars for me, but the time-jumping just didn't make sense. I can't figure out why sometimes we're experiencing events chronologically and why sometimes we're doing flashbacks to events while in the counselor's office. It doesn't seem to serve a purpose, and it makes things confusing. And if I find it confusing, I know my students will.

HOWEVER, my students WILL like the real narrative voice and dialogue, and luckily the final third of the book runs pretty much chronologically, making for a good ending. Many of them are going to immediately connect with Butterball--even though he's a bully and pretty unlikable for much of the story. As a middle school teacher, I KNOW kids like Butterball. I've taught kids like Butterball. And to force kids to look at the story behind Butterball is important.

There are also some really important themes and observations made about race and privilege that are important for kids to be exposed to and think about. One that struck me most is when Butterball is talking about his counselor visits:

"In a way, as much as I hated my forty-five minute sessions with Liz, they least gave my Monday and Friday afternoons a nice structure. Like I sorta enjoyed having a certain place to be at a certain time: Math lets out, I get my books, I walk to Liz's, I go home. Done and done. I understood better how all those white kids who went to all their clarinet lessons and Cub Scout crap still managed to get better grades than the rest of us poor assholes who don't have all those extra activities. It's because structure just makes life easier somehow" (p. 161-162).
Profile Image for Chrissey.
3 reviews1 follower
October 11, 2011
Not only has 50 Cent provided a decent resource for young folks and those who support them, but he's written a relatively enjoyable novel besides. He makes a great case for the theory that bullies are often bullied themselves, and provides relatable insight into a "mean kid's" secret thoughts and vulnerabilities. Sure the plot is predictable, and the characters are little more than tired stereotypes, but overall this book is pretty damn a'ight.
February 7, 2014
As soon as I started reading this book, I knew that I was going to like it. I knew this because it starts off with Butterball hitting Maurice in the face with a sock full of batteries, and I don't like it because I like that gruesome stuff a lot because I don't. I like it because it captivated me almost immediately and I wanted to find out why he did this. From then on it remained an interesting book.
2 reviews
December 11, 2014

This book is based on a kid and he was not rich and is mom and dad were not together. He was fat and he would get mad at kids that made fun of him. In one part he had stold up to a and he had hit the kid with a sock with batters and the story grabed you with a fight at the start of the book and that is a good start to the book. I think you should realy this book its a book for a good life lesson to show you to stand up to your bully
Profile Image for Becky.
369 reviews67 followers
June 11, 2020
I'm not even gonna lie, going into this book my expectations were low. I just wanted a quick book to cut down my physical tbr a little. But I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised! Butterball was a captivating character and it was interesting to follow his journey of self discovery.
Profile Image for Erica.
25 reviews
October 20, 2013

Meet Butterball. No, not his real name, but with a name like Burton and an extra 75 some-odd pounds, sure doom would be met in the middle school locker room. Butterball isn’t your average middle school kid; he’s what one might refer to as an anger management problem no middle school principal wants to deal with.

In 50 Cent’s YA novel, Playground, Butterball wants respect, he wants his mom and dad to resume an imperfect marriage to keep him happy, a reminder that he is a very young adult with center of the universe syndrome, and he wants to move back to the city, a city that he always describes as more exciting than its reality, but Butterball ‘can’t get no respect’, he cannot force his recently out of the closet mother to remain in a ‘straight marriage’, nor can he move back to the city from the ‘burbs’. This is quite a lot for our young anti-hero to deal with, so he does the only thing an anti-hero would do: he takes a sock full of batteries and pulverizes the only male student who showed him any kindness in his new school.

Of course punishment is inevitable¬¬¬ enter Liz, middle-aged white social worker looking to make the world a better place. Butterball, in the way that most thugs and delinquents would react, only bares his soul after Liz is able to make a meaningful social-workery connection, thus providing a safe environment for Butterball to come to three realizations: he shouldn’t pick on someone smaller or bigger than himself, his mom is gay and no amount of pouting is going to change it, and he is never moving back to the trouble-filled metropolis.
In the end, Butterball embraces his given name, thus shedding the baggage associated with it, and applies for entrance into a Creative Arts magnet school, courtesy of soul-saving social worker Liz. Burton, it appears is on the straight and narrow.

In terms of complexity of plot, Playground is cliché. It seems as though the writer has followed a recipe with one secret ingredient: Take one angry, overweight city kid who mistakes respect with fear, place him in an unfamiliar setting [a safe environment], then make him beat someone up, add in caring adults who only want the best for said bully, then have bully get a taste of his own medicine. Blend ingredients, and after 165 pages, make bully realize that violence is not the answer. Be sure to include a homosexual mother who will reveal her sexual identity to her family thus creating a deep level of angst for our young-anti-hero thus providing him with a reason to act out. Other than his secret ingredient, the story of the bully getting ‘schooled’ by another larger and faster than himself and then suddenly realizing that maybe he shouldn’t beat up those smaller than himself has been done before. The lack of emotional complexity in the character who has an epiphany moment and changes his entire perspective on how the world works and therefore how he should behave within it creates a shallow story line that is predictable, not to mention unbelievable.

In terms of original, believable, relatable characters, this book provides none. Cringe-worthy character stereotypes are abundant: the angry young African American male who rages against the injustice of having to conform to a set of societal rules; the deadbeat African American dad who teaches his child that stealing is OK and intimidation and violence are ways to earn respect; the hard-working single African American mother trying to put herself through school, a roof over her and her child’s head, food on the table, and a better opportunity for her child who can never seem to get ahead; the bully’s target, a skinny book worm who could never have fought back against his attacker even if he had seen it coming; a Caucasian social worker, the benevolent problem solver, who sees nothing but potential in an African American violent juvenile. The characters are oversimplified, and end up reinforcing some of the uncomfortable beliefs about race that books by influential cultural icons should seek to debunk.

As far as protagonists are concerned, while Butterball is a stereotype he is also completely unlikable from beginning to the end. He is a character worthy of being despised and does not redeem himself throughout the course of the novel. Yes, he is an adolescent who should have some level of naiveté, but the assumption of a certain level of innocence in a young adult character does not make the reader feel empathetic towards this particular youth. Butterball is not a character most readers can identify with and many will find his faulty reasoning and his lack of change at the end of the book unsettling. If we are to become invested in a story, we must feel like that if the protagonist is unlikable, something will happen that changes our perception of him. I do not want to ‘walk’ with Butterball. He is repulsive in his desire to hurt others emotionally and harm others physically because he desires respect, which he never actually realizes is not respect, but fear that causes people to move out of his way. Even after he himself is physically attacked and hurt, I cheer for the Terrence , Butterball’s intended target, because Butterball had it coming. The fact that Butterball is left alone and in pain, strikes no chord of sympathy in the reader. Even after he is assaulted, Butterball only shallowly understands the meaning of what he did to his own victim, Maurice. We want Butterball to apologize, to make amends, to understand how awful his actions were, but he does not. Instead, he is rewarded with an application to a school where he will be able to pursue his filming passion. How can the reader be happy for this outcome, when he has not done what a protagonist must do: leave a reader feeling satisfied?

50 Cent wrote this loosely autobiographical book for his son, and in doing so, identified his audience as the YA set. Being well-aware of this age group, messages should be carefully crafted to leave the reader with something to think about long after the book is shelved. 50 Cent addresses bullying first and foremost in his novel. Considering there is very little consequence for Butterball after seriously injuring another student, very little remorse on his part for what he had done, and so little character change in terms of understanding the effects of his behavior on others, we can loosely construe the message that while bullying is problem, there are little protections available for those who are bullied. And even worse, let the bully be rewarded by potentially being accepted into a fantastic program for gifted students. The lack of empathy and remorse Butterball has is frightening; his lack of redemption unsettling. Sure, Butterball has one moment of tears on Liz’s couch, but that is the extent of his change. 50 Cent’s message is not only superficial and unrealistic, it is also dangerous. The author’s attitude towards the subject is nothing less than cold as he clearly sympathizes with the offender and not the victims- perhaps an unwittingly revealed insight into the rapper and his profanity riddled, misogynistic, violent music.

Some readers may find the graphics included within the pages to be entertaining. They are doodles at best, and do little to lighten the reader’s burden. The profanity in the book seems cleansed; it is neither hard core, nor moderately toned down probably because publishers were aware of the target audience and would not be able to market a book without white-washing it. The writing cannot be described as excellent in terms of its complexity in syntax, structure, or semantics. Dialect may be slightly representative of an inner-city speech pattern, but the protagonist does not stay true to the dialect outside of his old neighborhood, nor does his mother emulate any of the dialect causing the reader to wonder where and when Butterball would have developed and learned to modify his semi-inner city slang speech patterns. Again, the idea of editorial ‘language cleansing’ is apparent.

Overall, I would find say that this book is a rather un-notable contribution to the YA genre. One of the more significant points where this book misses the mark, is that the protagonist should be free from adult moralizing. Butterball makes all of his decisions knowing full-well what he adult world expects of him, ethically (his mom, Liz) and unethically (his dad). He weighs his decisions against adult expectations, defying his mom because he is angry with her decisions and giving into the stereotypical decisions of an African American thug/father figure. Secondly, 50 Cent could have contributed a valuable insight into African American culture, but instead he reinforces stereotypes. As a cultural icon. 50 Cent has credibility. We can all surmise what his struggles were growing up. 50 Cent in his own life found success, probably through some hard learned lessons, yet, when he had a chance to create a character that embodied a positive message, he created one that ‘found an easy way out’ and never had to really own up to his mistakes. Perhaps if Butterball had been portrayed as an individual character not-so-gracefully facing pressures outside of his control, who makes a mistake and finds solace and redemption in a unique skill or passion which is then used to find forgiveness, the reader would find the book more believable or relatable. Additionally, while the book deals with contemporary issues, it does not do so in what could be called a responsible manner. Consequences for bullying should be faced, redemption found, and an understanding of the long reaching effects of one’s actions should be realized- none of which happen in Playground. As a result, the reader is left with a sense of hopelessness instead of hope.

Alas, this is not the story told. In all honesty, if the Playground had been written under a pseudonym or by another author, I highly doubt it would have made it past the editor’s slush pile. But since it has, this story may be a good comparison point for other books that deal with bullying such as Wonder by Patricia Palaccio, Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja, Everyone Sees the Ants by AS King, Send by Patty Blount, and The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake. It may also be a good entry point to books for reluctant readers, but I would caution that this novel not be given to any child who as ever suffered at the hands of a bully lest the emotional damage already inflicted on the child me magnified.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
8 reviews
November 13, 2017
Curtis Jackon III is the reason I picked this book up. Yes, 50 Cent is the author of this book, and yes, he wrote a compelling story I couldn't put down. Unlike many of the other (mostly) autobiographical novels from other artists, 50 cent creates a story here that is uniquely his own venture into the fiction category.

Butterball, an obese young adolescent, struggles with issues that the average reader most likely couldn’t even imagine. Issues bigger than the constant flood of fat jokes like “don’t think you need the extra butter, boy”. The story begins with action a fight scene that readers soon realize is a quintessential part of the life of Butterball. Shortly thereafter, the story continues on a very micro level, focussing in on Butterball’s life in Long Island, meeting with a counselor who does nothing but anger him. The reason for his visits? Butterball filled a sock with D batteries and used it to trash Maurice-- all for popularity and acceptance. And please, don’t forget-- Butterball is also smart when he applies himself and a fantastic cinematographer who gets offers to schools of art.

As ironic as it may seem, with each question from the counselor that probes into the past life of Butterball, it becomes easier and easier to sympathize with Butterball. As the story unravels, Butterball takes us through the lead-up to his seemingly largest fight. Along the way, he encounters skirmishes, theft, and his father's encouragement of the very things that make Butterball this violent individual. Each incident only strengthens his resolve and his lust for his father and New York-- or so it seems. In truth, the reinforcement to his character is nothing more than a thin layer of sealant that fills the holes in his life. When he attempts once again to fit in with society, he gets humiliated-- he becomes the victim of violence and peer pressure. It’s at this point that he realizes that he must turn to the counselor to turn his life around, and shed the persona that follows him of a ‘playground bully’ (hence the name of the story.)

The book, published in 2012, is an analysis of psychology, society, and a notice about the struggles kids can face-- wrapped up into the story of a young, up and coming cinematographer whose life is a daily fight. With this book, 50 Cent nails character development and writes a compelling frame narrative that will serve to teach his son lessons for the future.

The takeaway from this book is that 50 Cent is truly gifted-- not only with a mike in his hand. The manner in which he is able to paint a picture in 314 pages that resounds with all people, regardless of age- while still mentioning the horrors present in society- is absolutely brilliant. It seems as though one character is enough, no matter the reader, thanks to the intricacy with which this book was written; Butterball alone carries the weight of the world-- and all of the lessons it offers.
3 reviews
May 16, 2017
This is book is about Curtis Jackson and everything started when he was thirteen years old. He was young and he was trying to take care of this self. He didn't have must going for this self. He thought that if you sells drug's it will help him out. Everything happen when he was living in New York and he got kicked out this daddy house for selling drugs and when he got older he washed that he didn't mess up that changes. He's mom was trying to start her life over again and she was even going to nursing school too.

I didn't like about the book because he's parent couldn't control him at all and they let him to make the biggest mistake of his life. And what i like about the book the book is that he got successful and hes hold attitude change. And he became a great rapper. Because he's mom didn't give up on him because she was determine that he will be successful in life.

I recommend that everybody read this book this book because it got drama and it speak the real of the book. It make you want to be successful in life and it make you don't want to go the wrong path and go the right path.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jessica.
321 reviews30 followers
October 12, 2017
Butterball is an eighth grader recently relocated from New York City to Garden City, Long Island after his parents split. After a year and a half at his new school, he has only one friend, no one to turn to for advice, and zero academic ambition. After he undertakes an act of violence, Butterball hopes to be rewarded with respect...but along with his new reputstion come twice weekly visits with a social worker in order to return to school.
As Butterball's visits with "Liz" - and his eighth grade year - wear on, readers slowly begin to see that the tough personality Butterball works to exude hides a much more complicated personality, and a boy teetering on the edge of decisions that will shape his future and his fate.
Rapper 50 Cent offers the ultimate street cred - and emotional cover - for middle grade students struggling with feelings of loss, anger, betrayal, and confusion. Don't let Butterball's bluster and bad language fool you: the book is surprisingly tender and successfully wrestles with a wide range of issues, from friendship, first romance, and parent-child relationships to self-esteem and the difficulty many young teens face in trying to access their deepest emotions.
Hot topics: a few violent scenes, plenty of swearing, and a gentle foray into homosexual relationships.
Profile Image for Emily Geldmeier.
4 reviews29 followers
February 4, 2017
Guys! 50 Cent wrote a book?!? Sign me up.

And while I originally swiped this from one of my high school students out of skeptical curiosity, it completely fits the bill for my low level/reading resistant readers. Told from the perspective of a bully, mainly through conversations he had with his therapist, I found the character's growth authentic and sympathetic. It has some language that might keep me from suggesting it to younger/sensitive readers, but for me it was part of what made the protagonist endearing and realistic. Plus, he goes by "Butterball" with a straight face and what's not to love about that?!?
Profile Image for Danielle.
2,223 reviews1 follower
March 11, 2022
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would - Burton/Butterball is a frustrating character, but that's the point. He's not easily likable and he puts himself first, but that makes his come-around more rewarding. I also need to note that the sticker from when I bought this says it cost 49 cents, and I do hope that was an intentional joke.
Profile Image for Jake.
8 reviews
April 12, 2019
Playground was a phenomenal book, despite what people say (or at least used to say) about 50 Cent. Curtis Jackson is an amazing author and I would love to read more of his books. Playground was a book based on his childhood but it didn't have himself as the sole character. Butterball was the sole characters name and he was a troublemaker. Although he was a troublemaker, it all worked out for him in the end. I recommend this book if you're really interested in learning more about 50 Cent's life!
March 3, 2020
it was a really good boo, Butterball is a great examples of what happens when a kid is bullied by others. He shows lots of growth by the end of the book as he improves a lot thanks to Liz. 50 Cent does a great job writing the book as his delivery is raw and real. just like his music.
Profile Image for Bibliomama.
320 reviews4 followers
March 6, 2020
I know a lot of kids, boys, who would have enjoyed reading this in the middle school where I was the librarian.

I think it was cathartic for 50 Cent to write this book, based in part on things that happened in his own life and his own community. Maybe a way of giving back or lending a hand.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Heidi Hopf.
6 reviews
January 5, 2021
I am so surprised at how great this book was! Very sad at times, but just positively brilliant.
Be ready for a few tears but definitely worth a read!
Profile Image for kelly.
678 reviews23 followers
October 12, 2018
I had no idea that rapper 50 Cent dabbled in fiction. There is a co-author here, so it will probably never be known how much was actually written by his hand. A blurb by him in the beginning, however, tells us it is based on his life.

"Playground" is the story of a 7th grader nicknamed Butterball. He receives this name as a result of bullying from his peers because he is obese. He lives with his single mother in Garden City, Long Island, a town that he hates, after a recent divorce from his father. At the beginning of the story, Butterball is required to undergo counseling for assaulting a classmate on the school's playground. Butterball's therapy sessions with his counselor, Liz, make up the majority of the book, with Butterball recalling episodes in his life before and after the assault that got him into trouble. He is resistant to talking to her at first, but gradually warms up as the novel progresses.

Essentially, "Playground" is the story of a child we don't like to talk about--a child who bullies other children. As a former teacher, I've seen dozens of these boys and girls who simply do not work or play well with others. Often I've wondered what makes these kids tick, and this book really gets into the 'why' of a bully through the life of Butterball. As is usually the case, Butterball is also a victim of the same aggression that he perpetuates. The issues of his obesity and lack of self esteem cause pent up rage, and violence is a way for him to save face and gain the respect of peers.

I found this book very relatable and well written. I could see this in a YA book club or being read by teens who are reluctant to read, or people like myself whose curiosity about 50 Cent's writing ability gets the best of them.

Definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Lucy.
241 reviews149 followers
November 7, 2011
Playground is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s debut young adult novel about teen bullying. He explores this topical issue by sharing some of his own experiences in this fictionalized story. He hopes to reach out to kids to show how bullies are created and that there is hope to overcome it. As a parent, I’m very interested in this topic and was curious to read a story written from the bully’s perspective as a fresh change of pace.

The story is narrated by thirteen-year-old Butterball, nicknamed because of his weight, who lives with his over-worked mother post-split in a Long Island suburb. His father remains in the city where he seems to have more time for his girlfriends than for him. Butterball gets in trouble at school for hitting a kid, his only friend, with D batteries wrapped inside a sock. After that incident, he must attend weekly sessions with a psychologist to get to the bottom of his behavioral issues. The details of what set Butterball off are revealed through the weekly sessions with Liz.

Butterball is a sympathetic character that I think many teens will relate to. After his parent’s split he has to start again in a new neighborhood and school where he is the outsider. The only time he does get respect and positive attention from his peers is when he attacks a fellow student. Even his father seems to like the new bullying ways of his son. The dialogue is realistic and edgy with an uncondescending tone that gets the message across. The language is explicit at times but appropriate to the story and since it is not toned down it is more relatable to the intended audience.

There are many issues presented in the book that go hand in hand with the bullying behavior such as divorce, consumerism, diet and more. I thought these issues were handled with sensitivity and not in a preachy way. It’s interesting to see the circumstances that lead to Butterball’s acting out and it made me more sympathetic to those who exhibit the same behavior. The therapy session storytelling device works well and gives a healing quality to the story.

Dwayne Clark effectively handles the narration and kept the audiobook entertaining throughout. The reading is very lively and the character voices are distinct and believable. At only four hours long, the audiobook is the perfect length for the story and the time flies by.

With bullying now such an epidemic, I appreciate what 50 Cent set out to do with this story. With understanding and respect for the target audience, the thoughtful story has a hopeful tone that may inspire others like Butterball. Recommended for middle schooler’s, parents and educators looking for insight into the mind of a bully.
November 5, 2013
Curtis Jackson, or more commonly known as 50 Cent’s purpose in writing his book, Playground, is to share his personal experiences in his adolescence stage of life. 50 Cent shows through this novel that it’s possible to make it out of the hood or the ghetto and become successful in life. This book gives you an insight to 50 Cent’s troubled teen years. Playground gives hope to all the readers that no matter how much people discourage you, whether it be friends or family, never give up on your dreams. There are a lot books that write about a young African American’s journey out of the projects but Playground will be one of the more memorable ones.
This book was well written. The story is easy to follow and has many different sentence structures. Playground teaches the audience that bullies often have bullies of their own. 50 Cent also touches some of the issues that teens have like self-esteem, weight, identity, money, anger, girls, friendship, and more. For example, 50 Cent aka “Butterball” is having weight problems, “the only reason nobody respects me is because I’m fat” (Jackson 117). For a teenager the entire book is relatable.
Playground is as captivating as a book can get. I’m rarely interested in the books that I read but this one was especially captivating. The story keeps you one the edge of your seat waiting to find out what Butterball will get into next. You can easily relate to the main character of the story as he makes all the boneheaded decisions you made as in middle school, like “I wrote on all over my arm with what I thought was a marker but it turned out to be a sharpie” (Jackson 19). 50 Cent will have you laughing throughout the whole book.
One of the many strength of the book, Playground, is that by the end of the book you feel like you Butterball is someone you actually know. Throughout the book you really start feeling for the main character. The fact that the book was extremely relatable made it that much better. One of the weaknesses that I noticed is that the book really gives out too much detail on unimportant facts that aren’t relevant to the story. For example, “I left the house with my camera and recorded my shadow on my way to the park” (Jackson 53). He was heading to the park but the part with the camera is irrelevant, it’s almost like it’s there just take up lines on the page.
I would definitely recommend this book to some of my friends. This is a book that most kids my age could relate to. This book is easy to read but will introduce you to some works you may not know. Overall this was a great book and I think you should read it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sandra Stiles.
Author 1 book69 followers
December 20, 2011
When I was given the opportunity to possibly win a copy of this book I signed up only because I loved the premise of the book. I honestly knew nothing about the author except I believed he was a rapper. After getting the book and reading it I decided to look up the author. I read several articles on him and his reasons for writing the book. I could not say I expected him to say he was a bully at some point in his life as I knew nothing about him or his music. I was pleased to realize that the book came about because of a conversation with his son. That in itself put him high on my list of parents. We need more parents willing to have conversations with their children about tough topics. I was glad that he chose to approach this from the bully’s perspective. It gave me a better look at some of the reasons children bully others. As a teacher I see bullying many times a week. Most of it is not the violent type we saw in the book where the main character Butterball bashes in the face of his ex-friend with a sock full of batteries. The type of bullying I see at school is just as dangerous and harmful. Physical wounds can often heal. It is the psychological ones that take time. Healing has to happen not only for the victim but also for the bully. I’ve seen a couple of those students who were “thugs” do a complete turn-around. This book gives hope to those who know they are bullies. I think in our society we often look at the bully and write them off. I applaud the author for his work on this issue. I hope we see more from him regarding tough topics. I will not only put this on my shelves at school I will make sure our guidance department knows about this book.
1 review1 follower
January 24, 2012
This book was about a young teenager named Butterball. Buterball isn't the perfect teenager, he makes very por decisions. He fights because he has no other way to express his anger.Now, that Butterball goes to see a psycholgist his anger level has decreased and he's learning to control his anger. Butterball does what he sees others do that's why he acts like a tough kid all the time.

This book teaches you hoe to treat others the way youb want to be treated. If you want to be treated with respect then you need to respect others. This book also teaches you that vioence isn't the way to go. Violence doesn't solve any of your problems and it makes you angrier which will cause consequences. Fight fire with water to put out the flames.

The book is great becauses it teaches you the values of life. It also teaches you that in order to live a good life you have to make the best of your life. Fighting won't get you you anywhere in life but it will hurt you. This book was also good because you learn about how you should cherish the valuble things in life. You only have one life to live so live it well.

I recommend this book to bullies and fighters. i do this because it might be able to change their bullying ways of thinking and to solving their conflicts without using anger. Throughout the book Butterball was able to change his ways of bullying and became a better person. So this book might encourage other bullies to change their ways.
32 reviews
June 9, 2012
Playground is about a kid nick named Butterball because he is overweight. One day he gets tried of it and beats up his friend Maurice. This incident shocks his mom and the school. They force him to see a therapist. Being this "tuff" guy he is unwilling to talk to her. Slowly he sees that she isn't horrible and answers a few questions. One day while he was in her office her starts telling her more than he really wanted to. He starts to see that his problems are at home. His mom is never around and his dad isn't the best example. He still loves his dad though because he gets to spend time with him.

He feels neglected by his mother. This story shows that even bullies are human. Butterball is not a friendly guy on the outside, but deep down you get to see that he is troubled. He bullies others because he is frustrated with his own life. Sometimes when there is so much built up anger it's hard to control it. There is good inside everyone it's just hard to uncover it sometimes. There are bullies everywhere, especially in schools but those bullies might be good people if they were given the chance. It's hard to change your ways when your used to something, butterball was used to a home that never felt like home. He could have acted poorly because no one ever taught him how to act.
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