Bullying has been in the national spotlight for years, but unfortunately incidents don’t seem to be on the decline. The titles below offer opportunities for students of all ages to find support and strategies on counteracting bullying.

 

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry (Grades P-3)

We’ve already mentioned Stick and Stone in a Banter review this year, Stick and Stonebut it carries such a great message that it begs to be written about again. At its heart, Stick and Stone is a charming story about friendship. Stick and Stone are both alone, until they meet at the playground. Then along comes Pinecone, who makes fun of Stone for not being able to work the swing. Stick swiftly comes to Stone’s rescue, and the two become fast friends. Although this book is mostly about the strong friendship that develops between Stick and Stone, it also provides a great example for younger readers on how to stand up to bullies. Stick and Stone makes an appealing classroom read aloud; the crisp and simple images are supplemented with rhyming text, and the two work together to capture the attention of a younger audience. And although the bully Pinecone makes only a short appearance, the subtle anti-bullying message will still be clear to attentive listeners, especially when he shows up again on the last page to apologize for his previous behavior.

*Stick and Stone has been nominated for a Scout Award, Booksource Scout Awardan internal Booksource award. Booksource will nominate books throughout the year and then ask readers to vote on their favorites to determine the winners. The Scout Award is named in honor of the main character of Booksource’s most popular title, To Kill a Mockingbird. Read more about the awards here.

 

A Friend for Lakota: The Incredible True Story of a Wolf Who Braved Bullying by Jim and Jamie Dutcher (Grades P-3)

Jim and Jamie Dutcher are a married team of wildlife documentarians who lived among the Sawtooth wolf pack in Idaho for six years. This gave them an amazing opportunity to observe these young wolves in their natural habitat. LakotA Friend for Lakotaa is a fun-loving wolf pup who enjoys a joyful romp through the woods and a great game of tag with his brother, Kamots. While Lakota likes having fun, he is by nature more timid than his braver brother. When the pack grows and three more brothers join the group, the gentle Lakota finds himself the group’s omega (the wolf at the bottom of the pack—the opposite of the alpha). The other dogs frequently heap on top of Lakota, nipping at his tail and face and pulling at his fur. Lakota’s role as the pack’s omega looks to be a bleak one until his older brother Matsi, the pack’s beta, or second in command, stands up for Lakota, challenging the other wolves. Under Matsi’s watchful eye, Lakota finds new confidence and rediscovers his playful nature. There are lots of important messages in A Friend for Lakota, one being that bullying might happen in any group, but it doesn’t have to be tolerated. Sometimes stepping in to help a friend can make all the difference. Younger students might see themselves in the wolf pack, either as the alpha Kamots or the omega Lakota, or even as the brave Matsi.

This book is filled with beautiful color photos of the wolves, as well as lots of back matter on the gray wolf and more specific information on Lakota and the rest of the Sawtooth pack. More information on the Dutchers’ experiences with the wolf pack can be found at Living with Wolves, a nonprofit started by the Dutchers to support the Sawtooth pack and the rest of North America’s gray wolf population.

 

Red by Jan De Kinder (Grades K-3, Lexile AD140)

Timmy and Lisa are playing on the playground when Lisa notices that Timmy blushes. Her gentle laughter and Red Jan De Kinderteasing is soon joined by others in the play group until everyone is laughing at Timmy, and his blushes change “from tomato to strawberry to cherry red.” One child, Paul, takes things too far, and the interaction becomes physical when Paul pushes Timmy to the ground. When the teacher asks for witnesses, Lisa wants to speak up, but she’s scared of Paul, who’s bigger and stronger than she is. She feels intimidated and powerless. However, she finally finds the bravery to raise her hand, and soon the entire class is joining her in speaking up for Timmy. The kids band together once more on the playground, as Paul seeks revenge on Lisa, but he’s no match for all of them together. This title makes a great choice for a classroom read aloud, and the sparse text perfectly pairs with the graphic illustrations done in shades of black, gray and red. Students can share how they would react in a similar situation and learn how important it is to not be a bystander to bullying. While younger students can feel conflicted about standing up to bullies, especially ones who are older and stronger, Red illustrates how standing together can make a big difference.

 

Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata (Grades 3-7, Lexile 710)

Night of the Zombie Chickens is the first book in a new series about Night Of The Zombie Chickensaspiring filmmaker Kate Walden. Kate is all set to direct her first full-length film featuring the chickens from her parents’ farm as birds who’ve been infected by contaminated chicken feed. And while Kate is sure the hens are plotting against her, she’s not above using free animal labor to film her movie (if only they would act zombie-ish). Kate’s BFF since the first grade, Alyssa, is playing Mallory, the human lead of Kate’s movie. But after Alyssa invites popular girl Lydia to be an extra in Kate’s movie, things quickly take a turn for the worst. Lydia starts teasing Kate about her family’s chickens, and soon Alyssa joins in. After ugly words on both sides, Alyssa is sitting at the popular table at lunch and Kate is forced to join the school outcasts. As Kate continues to work on her film and struggles to finish it without her leading lady, things go from bad to worse at school, as she becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes (and earns the unfortunate nickname “crapcake” in the process). The book is told in the first person, from Kate’s point of view, and hers is an authentic voice, filled with hurt and betrayal. The reader can only commiserate with Kate as the taunts at school become more and more vicious, and she finds herself increasingly isolated. Soon, her mind turns to revenge as she decides to use her film to trash Alyssa’s reputation. Readers will be on the edge of their seats waiting to see if Kate gets back at Alyssa or uses this as an opportunity to forge new friendships.

 

The Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Kid for a Kid by Aija Mayrock (Grades 7-12, Lexile 740)

Aija Mayrock might be a successful actress now, but as a child she was bullied extensively. At age 16 (yes, only 16!) she The Survival Guide to Bullyingdecided to write the type of book she never had, but thought she always needed. Self-published last year as an eBook, The Survival Guide to Bullying was such a success it has recently been rereleased in print. This book is Mayrock’s personal roadmap to surviving bullies. Content is pulled from her own childhood journals, drawings and poetry to create an extremely relatable text, and her inclusion of handwritten passages makes the reader feel like they are part of a heart-to-heart conversation with Mayrock. She gives advice on how to recognize all types of bullying behavior (including cyberbullying) as well as where to turn for help and techniques on handling real-world scenarios. Sprinkled throughout are “Survival Tips,” which range from feel-good mantras to practical advice on ways to get through tough situations. Mayrock admits throughout the book that being bullied isn’t something that one can get over quickly or easily, but her practical advice and shared experiences do offer hope to teens who feel they have nowhere else to turn. The book also contains a great Q&A section, where Mayrock answers tough questions like “What do I do if a teacher is bullying me?” and “How did you learn to trust again?” Students can interact with her directly through her personal website, Instagram and Twitter.

 

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