Children’s books take on the problem of bullying by providing an opportunity for children to learn by living through the experiences of others.
“Bully” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, 2013, Roaring Book Press, ages 3-7.
The barnyard friends want Bull to join in, but he only responds with unkind words. When Bull is called “bully”, he repents and apologizes. From the bright red cover to the almost wordless text, this book relies on visual images to convey meanness, disappointment, hurt, anger, and regret.
“Ben Rides On” by Matt Davies, 2013, Roaring Book Press, ages 4-7.
Ben’s new bike is his prized possession, so when Adrian Underbite, the school bully, takes the bike, Ben is devastated. When Adrian finds himself in a bit of trouble, Ben must decide if wants to help this bully or not. Author and illustrator, Matt Davies, received the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons, and his amusing style continues in watercolor and ink portrayals of a boy, a bully, and a bike.
“Bully” by Patricia Polacco, 2012, Putnam, ages 7 and up.
Patricia Polacco, beloved author and illustrator, takes on the subject of bullying in this fictional story about cliques and online bullying. Polacco’s other titles include “Thank You Mr. Falker” and “The Blessing Cup”, along with other favorites. She takes sensitive topics such as illiteracy or poverty, and now bullying, with grace. In “Bully”, Lyla stands up to a group of girls who are unkind to her friend Jamie. Such unconforming behavior is not to be tolerated, and the girls seek to make Lyla pay for her mistake. Lyla’s strong personality and dedicated friendship serves as an inspiration.
“The Odd Squad: Bully Bait” by Michael Fry, 2013, Hyperion Books, 214 pages, ages 8 and up.
Nick is routinely stuffed into his locker at middle school by the school bully. The guidance counselor tries to help by assigning Nick to the Safety Patrol, with two other socially-challenged students. Together the three form the Odd-Squad and they hatch a plan to save themselves and rid the school of bullies. Told in a humorous style, the author includes small, cartoon-type sketches on each page creating an inviting text for everyone, but especially reluctant readers. Although the story is a bit silly, Nick and his friends take charge of the bullying problem, with the help of a caring adult.
“How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying” by Scott Starkey, 2012, Paula Wiseman Books, 258 pages, ages 8-12.
“The Call of the Bully” by Scott Starkey, 2013, Paula Wiseman Books, 264 pages, ages 8-12.
Both of these children’s novels feature Rodney Rathbone and his encounters with two bullies at school in “How to Beat a Bully Without Really Trying” and then continued tension at summer camp in “The Call of the Bully”. Rodney must be the luckiest kid around because he develops a legendary reputation for beating various bullies, but he actually does very little to earn this reputation. His perceived skill impresses his friends and frustrates his enemies.
These books about bullies and those who stand up to them can serve as an inspiration to a child who has been bullied, has watched others be bullied, has intentions of reforming bullying ways.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler