Hicksville elementary schoolteacher Scott Starkey has launched the second book in his Rodney Rathbone series, hoping to lure 8- to 12-year-olds who loved Jeff Kinney's "Diary of Wimpy Kid" series.

Starkey calls main character Rodney Rathbone a "cowardly hero" who keeps accidentally thwarting the school bully. For instance, in the first chapter of the just-released book -- "The Call of the Bully" (Paula Wiseman / Simon & Schuster, $15.99) -- Rodney is being taunted on the van ride to summer camp by his nemesis, Josh. The van swerves, knocking Josh to the floor, where he bangs his head. Josh thinks Rodney decked him. "No more, no more," he whimpers. "I'll behave, Rodney, I promise."

Starkey said he wanted to write all-prose books filled with humor and fast-paced action that will engage reluctant readers in a novel of 250 pages or more. But, like his accidental hero, Rodney, Starkey also has become an accidental voice against bullying. He's spoken on bullying panels and has grown into that role. "Whether or not it was my original intention, I'm proud of that," he says.

Starkey, 41, lives in Centerport and has three children -- Brooke, 11, Jake, 9, and Brent, 7. He teaches fifth grade at the East Street School in Hicksville and coaches boys' varsity soccer at Hicksville High.

His first book was called "How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying"; the third in the series is scheduled for next January.

Book signing on Saturday

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WHAT "The Call of the Bully" reading and signing

WHEN WHERE 3 p.m. Saturday at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington

INFO Free; 631-271-1442; bookrevue.com