Posts Tagged ‘Anti Bullying Books for Children’

I wanted to love this book – The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Posted on July 18th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart

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The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian RobinsonThe Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson
Antibullying Picture Book published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons: An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA)

You’ve really got to love a recording artist who has a very popular kids’ CD titled, Meltdown! and another called Not Naptime. The album titles alone are enough to bring a smile to a weary parent’s face. So, I wanted to think that The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade was terrific.

And, I do think it is a good book but, there are ways it could have been better.

Sally McCabe is both young and small. She is in the lowest grade at her school and she is the smallest child in the class. Kudos to the illustrator for depicting a racially diverse group of children in the classroom and at the playground. It would have been excellent to see similar diversity in terms of mobility (perhaps one child in a wheelchair or using crutches, for example).Illustration from The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Sally is unusually observant. She notices a kite that is tangled in a tree and she notices that the janitor’s ring has twenty-seven keys. Unfortunately, this is where my evaluation of the book begins to drop: one illustration of the janitor’s ring only shows seven keys and another shows five keys. I completely understand that twenty seven may have been essential to the rhyme BUT the illustrations should be true to the story. If the ring has twenty seven keys – the illustration of the ring should show us each one of them! Young children will pick up on this sort of disparity. They will want to know where the other twenty or twenty two keys are and the omission will detract from the important antibullying message the author is attempting to share.

When a bully pushes Sally’s classmate, the story tells us that he begins to cry but in the illustration, he is dry-eyed. These seemingly minor disparities really do make a difference and discerning young readers will notice them.

Adults may understand the (metaphorical) significance of wildflowers tipping toward light and cats meeting together in a parking lot but I doubt that, without guidance, young children will see any connection between the cats or the flowers and Sally’s story.

Essentially, Sally, observes bullying on the playground, in the hallway at school, in the classroom and in the school cafeteria. Eventually, she speaks up. She announces, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!”

This prompts all of Sally’s classmates and school staff members to point their fingers in the air in solidarity. Soon the school is a much more harmonious place. A somewhat “magical solution” to bullying? Yes, but, this is story that could be used to initiate discussions about bullying and social responsibility.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.com

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade at Amazon.ca


Meet Author Aldo Fynn

Posted on July 10th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Aldo Fynn enjoys writing wacky, fantastical stories. Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer is his debut novel. It’s the first book in the Adventures of Prince Iggy Series. He’s also written two wacky, laugh-out-loud picture books. He lives under his desk and promises he won’t come out until Book 3 in the series is complete. Which is a shame because his desk is based in Los Angeles, where it’s sunny and 70 degrees most of the year.

Twitter account – @AldoFynn

Facebook page

Author Website

Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer written by Aldo FynnTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer is an over the top-fantasy adventure where a lost-now-found prince learns that believing in himself pays off when battling evil bullies. It’s a quirky and fast paced story with 30+ black and white illustrations ideal for middle grade readers (ages 8+) and adults looking for a different kind of hero.

Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer (The Adventures of Prince Iggy) at Amazon.com

Prince Iggy and the Kingdom of Naysayer (The Adventures of Prince Iggy) at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Mark Twain. Because he’s one of literature’s greatest humorist.

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

Staying focused and finishing the work.

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?Waldo Battles the Fly by Aldo Fynn

All my books have actually been published electronically first. Since I’ve partnered with a small-indie press, we decided that going digital first would enable the books to get to readers more quickly. BOA Press has internal resources to produce the digital format whereas as print production required working with third parties. The feedback I have received on the e-book format and illustrations has been very positive. Some of my readers still rely on print so we planned for that once digital was completed. There is something special about holding a book in your hands with your name on the cover.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

Again Mark Twain because his life was as colorful as his books.

Does music play a part in your writing/illustrating? If so, what sort of music do you connect with your work?

Music is a big part of my life. I listen to music everyday before and after I start a writing session. I listen to everything from classical to electronica to jazz.

Meet Author Crystal Vaagen

Posted on June 26th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts' Interview with Author Crystal VaagenCrystal Vaagen is an educator and author of the children’s book, Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero. In her free time, she likes to read French poetry, go on nature hikes, and bake cookies. Her latest project includes writing the second book in the Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero series which will be published this year.





Twitter account: @robbiezero
Facebook page:
Website URL

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
Robbie Zero Supergirl Hero written by Crystal VaagenMy latest published book is Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero. It’s an anti-bullying book and the first published book in the “Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero” series. The book is about a girl, Robbie Zero, who gets constantly picked on by a classmate named Tommy, but when Tommy needs help, it is Robbie Zero who ends up saving the day. It’s a book about turning situations that are negative into something positive and about empowerment. It also delves into the psychology of why some people are bullies. Children of all ages should read it and as well as their parents. It is important to start a conversation about issues that children face at school. What I am most proud of is when my book is read to children in classrooms and they can relate with the characters. I’m also pleased when I hear people tell me how much it meant to read it to their families and how it started a discussion that might not have otherwise taken place.

Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero at Amazon.com

Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?
I have a few authors/illustrators that resonated with me. Peggy Parish (author of Amelia Bedelia) was a favorite in my youth. I always thought her stories were funny because of the constant play on words (i.e. draw the draperies where the phrase was taken literally by Amelia). Looking back, her books were very well-written. Misunderstandings are a part of everyday life and her books allow her readers to get involved, something I try to create with “Robbie Zero” books. One illustrator/writer who I have always admired is Charles Schulz. I’d have to say he’s my all-time favorite. I connected with his work because the themes were adult like, characters didn’t have to talk to make a statement, and there were no adults ever shown, to my knowledge, in any of his comic strips.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?
The first time I ever wrote anything was in 2nd grade. I had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Fields, who allowed us to create. She basically told us that we could put on plays for the class when our work was finished. Inspired, I went home and wrote a small play, grabbed a few classmates to help with the characters, and we put on a fabulous play. I thanked her recently for allowing us to use our imagination, when I happened to met her some 30+ years later.

I wrote my first book when I was nine years old, which I thought was fun. It’s still sitting in a box somewhere. It was about the Lewis and Clark expedition because I was fascinated by how two people could change the face of the nation. It was a small book. In my high school years, I wrote for the school newspaper. After I graduated high school, I ran into my journalism teacher and told her how imperative it is in the real world to know how to write and communicate effectively. She asked me to come back and speak to her class. I never did for some reason. I wish I would have. I kept my writing on the backburner, writing mostly poetry, but decided that there needs to more morally themed children’s books available.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
I have donated Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero to a few schools, especially when I find out that they have limited access and cannot afford them. There was one school in Mobile, AL that received my book. A 5th grade teacher read it to her class and said that some students in her class “wanted to cry because they felt bad” for one of the characters. I didn’t know how to react. The topic of bullying is touchy, but it needs to be discussed. I felt like the story reached her kids, but felt bad that they wanted to cry. It IS a feel good book, after all.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?
I like to share my experiences to help others. When you go through things in life, sometimes you wonder, “Why me? Why is this happening?” But when you look back, you realize that it was a lesson learned. This is what I hope to bring to my books, not to necessarily prevent someone from experiencing the issue, but to help them overcome the issue.

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?
Yes, Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero has been published electronically. The process was easy. Before even writing the book, I watched a video on how to publish it via Amazon, and basically taught myself everything else on other publishing pages. When you have the curiosity to learn, you can do almost anything. The feedback I have received from readers and fans is great. Most people find it easy to download a book on their ipad, iphone or pc. I have been asked by a few people to print my books because there are those who like to actually hold a book. It is something I am still considering, but the demand is not as high as it is for books published digitally, it seems. We’ll see.

Bluebird – Notable Wordless Picture Book Leaves Room for Discussion

Posted on January 6th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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We have a special affection for wordless picture books and books that explore bullying themes. Bluebird does both.

Check out our page about other Wordless and Almost Wordless Picture Books

Bluebird wordless picture book by Bob StaakeBluebird created by Bob Staake
Wordless picture book published by Random House Children’s Books



A small bluebird flies through a city, past an apartment building and toward a school. The bird perches in a tree and watches as a young boy approaches the school. Unlike the other students, he walks alone with his eyes turned downward. Whereas other children chatter happily with their friends, he is slow to walk into his new classroom and take his place. Once he is seated, two classmates laugh and point. For some reason, he is a lonely outcast and the object of ridicule.

The hours tick by and, when the boy leaves school, he is surprised when the friendly bluebird initiates a friendship. The bird chirps at him and follows him through an urban neighborhood. They play hide and seek, they share a cookie, they watch as a group of children play soccer and they arrive at a park where the boy floats a sailboat in a pond. There is time for happy daydreaming and exploring before their adventure takes an ominous turn. The boy and the bird approach a wooded area and are soon met by three miserable bullies. One wants his toy sailboat and, to add force to his threats, he throws a stick, hitting the swooping bluebird. As the violent bullies run from the scene, the bereft boy stands, holding the injured bird.

Highlighted by light blue, grey and white Adobe Photoshop-rendered illustrations, Bluebird is best suited to children aged five and up. With an ending that is open to interpretation, the author-illustrator leaves many questions unanswered. The boy is very much a solitary figure, we don’t know why he is on his own in a large city. We also don’t know why he is ridiculed by his classmates and bullied by the children in the park. This is not a story that satisfactorily resolves bullying rather it is a celebration of friendship. Young readers will have questions and opinions. They will engage in the narrative and, with encouragement, will think about the impact of bullying behavior.

Bluebird at Amazon.com

Bluebird at Amazon.ca

Check out our page about other Wordless and Almost Wordless Picture Books

Starred Reviews from
Booklist, April 15, 2013:
“Staake works out an impressive range of emotion… Without use of a single word, this book raises all kinds of simple profundities for kids to question, ponder, imagine, and discuss.”

Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2013:
“…believers and skeptics alike will find something deeply impressive and moving in this work of a singular, fully committed talent.”
Subsequently named a “Best Book 2013″ by Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2013:
“Like nothing you have seen before.”

Included in the Spring 2013 Great Reads from Indie Next List

Publisher’s Weekly interview with Bob Staake

Bluebird has been nominated for a 2013 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award

Willow Finds a Way, a picture book about dealing with a classroom bully

Posted on December 12th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts looks at Willow Finds a Way, an anti bullying picture bookWillow Finds a Way written by Lana Button and illustrated by Tania Howells
Anti-bullying Picture Book published by Kids Can Press


We originally met Willow in Willow’s Whispers. She is a soft spoken young girl and, in her first picture book, she finds a way to make herself heard.

In Willow Finds a Way she is facing a different challenge. Willow and her classmates are excited when Kristabelle invites them to her birthday party but the invitation has ‘strings attached.’

At snack time, Kristabelle waved the birthday list in the air and said, “If you want to stay on my birthday list, come sit at my table!”

Initially, complying with Kristabelle’s demands seems okay but before long Kristabelle is dictating outdoor play and who gets to stand at the front of the line. Eventually one of the party invitees dares to contradict Kristabelle. His name is crossed off the list of party guests. Willow thinks about standing up for her friend but she can’t quite bring herself to say the words. Before long she is worrying that her name will be crossed off the list too.

It is clear that Kristabelle’s threats and controlling behavior are a problem for Willow. She knows that Kristabells is treating her classmates badly. Eventually Willow finds a way to make her opinion known. She is no longer a bystander – she has taken a stand. When Willow’s classmates decide to take the same approach, Kristabelle rethinks her position.

Ms. Button’s depictions of Kristabelle, Willow and their classmates are pitch-perfect. We know children like these – those who make friendship conditional and who threaten exclusion (both forms of ‘relational bullying’) and those who know what is right but have difficulty speaking up. Simple, colorful illustrations are an excellent match for the text and feature a racially diverse classroom.

An excellent discussion-starter for preschool and kindergarten classrooms, highly recommended for children aged four and up.

Willow Finds a Way at Amazon.com

Willow Finds a Way at Amazon.ca

Read our review of Willow’s Whispers

Awards
2013 – Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children’s Book Centre
2012 – Publisher’s Weekly’s Selected Listing for Bullying Resources

Bad Astrid – Antibullying Picture Book

Posted on December 10th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Bad Astrid antibullying picture bookBad Astrid written by Eileen Brennan and illustrated by Regan Dunnick
Antibullying picture book published by Random House


Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

She came into town like five tons of bad luck.
She came into town in a big moving truck.

From the moment Astrid and her family move into a new neighborhood, she is unpleasant. She chases, teases and is destructive. Ignoring her and keeping busy seems to be the best solution until one day Astrid has a bad accident while riding her bike. She needs help. Her victim hesitates to step forward. She asks, “Why are you mean to me?”. Astrid’s explanation surprises her remarkably forgiving neighbor and the two girls discover a way to be friends.

When reviewing antibullying picture books, we prefer stories that resolve the bullying problem realistically. Although Astrid’s bike crash and her victim’s willingness to forgive her past deeds provide a somewhat’magical’ solution to a serious bullying problem, we think there is lots to appreciate about Bad Astrid. Fun cartoon-like illustrations, playful word art and rhyming text will have special appeal for older readers and may make this an excellent discussion-starter about bullying for primary-grade classrooms.

Bad Astrid at Amazon.com

Bad Astrid at Amazon.ca

Chick-O-Saurus Rex Shines in Anti-bullying Picture Book

Posted on September 30th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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anti bullying picture book Chick O Saurus Rex by Lenore and Daniel JenneweinChick-O-Saurus Rex written by Lenore Appelhans and illustrated by Daniel Jennewein
Anti bullying picture book published by Simon and Schuster



Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Donkey, Pig and Sheep have formed an elite group and, to the disappointment of the smaller farm animals, they exclude all others from the tree house.

“This is a club for the brave and mighty. First you have to prove you belong.”

Little Chick does his best to gain entrance to the tree house but the bullies refuse to allow him inside. Little Chick asks his father for advice. He learns that his relatives “invented the chicken-dance craze and even… crossed the road.” Being seen as brave and mighty appears hopeless until Little Chick notices a picture of Grandpa Rooster studying a fossil. He is keen to leave the farmyard in search of evidence of his heritage. illustration from Chick O Saurus Rex  an anti bullying picture book

Before long, Little Chick is shocked to discover that Tyrannosaurus Rex is his distant relative and he rushes to share the news with the bullies. When he arrives at the clubhouse, he discovers a wolf is attacking Little Donkey, Little Sheep and Little Pig. Little Chick is quick to dispatch the wolf and, shortly thereafter, all of the farm animals are allowed to climb the ladder and enjoy the treehouse.

An author’s note explains that the chicken is the Tyrannosaurus’ closest living relative and explains how the determination was made by scientists.

Chick-O-Saurus Rex could be used to prompt a discussion about excluding children in social situations and other forms of bullying, it will be enjoyed by children aged four and up.

Chick-o-Saurus Rex at Amazon.com

Chick-o-Saurus Rex at Amazon.ca

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, shares a simple yet effective antibullying message

Posted on August 29th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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antibullying picture book Bully by Laura Vaccaro SeegerBully written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Antibullying picture book published by Roaring Brook Press


Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Before we reach the title page of Bully, we witness a large bull speaking harshly to a young bull. He tells him to, “GO AWAY”

The young bull does go away. He goes to a different part of the pen where three friends invite him to play. Rabbit, Chicken and Turtle are stunned when he loudly shouts, “NO. Their shock and disappointment is only made worse when the young bull starts name-calling. Spread from Bully an antibullying picture book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Finally a brave billy goat speaks up and correctly labels the young bull a “Bully.” Bull is shocked to realize that he has been bullying the other farm animals. After pausing to reflect, he apologizes to his friends and asks if they will play with him.

There is much to notice and enjoy in Bully. Young readers will certainly note the young bull’s body language and size when bullying the other animals as opposed to when he realizes his mistakes. Ms. Vaccaro Seeger has depicted his blazing eyes and set jaw beautifully. His anger and frustration is clear.

We also see Bull’s remorse when he realizes his mistakes.

Bully invites discussion about what might cause bullying behavior as well as how the decision to speak up can make a difference. highly recommended for children aged four and up.

Bully at Amazon.com

Bully at Amazon.ca

King of the Playground – Problem Solving a Solution to Bullying

Posted on August 26th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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cover art for antibullying picture book King of the PlaygroundKing of the Playground written by Phyllis Renolds Naylor and illustrated by Nola Langner Malone
Antibullying picture book published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers an imprint of Simon and Schuster


Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Kevin is hopeful. Each day he heads to the playground, wanting to go down the slide but knowing that if Sammy is there, he won’t be allowed to do so.

“You can’t come!” Sammy said. “I’m King of the Playground!” And he told Kevin what he would do if he saw him on the slide.

Disappointed, Kevin returns home and confides in his dad. His dad listens to the threat that Sammy has made and he encourages Kevin to ask himself, “And what would you be doing while Sammy was tying you up? Just sitting there?”

The following day, Kevin tries again and, again, Sammy is at the playground. When Kevin wants to use one of the swings, Sammy announces,

“You can’t play here!” yelled Sammy, running over. “I’m King of the Swings.” And he told Kevin what he would do if he saw him on the swings.

Once again Kevin shares his problem with his dad and once again his dad challenges him to problem solve.

Kevin’s dad’s approach to bullying is perfect. He remains calm, he doesn’t intervene, he encourages Kevin to think logically and he empowers Kevin to solve the bullying problem himself.

With Dad’s guidance, Kevin realizes that there may be a different way to deal with Sammy and his threats. On his next visit to the playground, Kevin is just a little bit braver. He uses his imagination to counter Sammy’s threats and together the boys find middle ground.

Recommended for children aged four years and up.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor on reading aloud

King of the Playground at Amazon.com

King of the Playground at Amazon.ca

Bully by Patricia Polacco – A Terrific Anti Bullying Picture Book for Older Readers

Posted on August 2nd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts recommends Bully by Patricia Polacco, a thoughtful examination of middle grade bullying and cyber bullying. Bully is an excellent anti bullying picture book for older readers and a valuable resource for middle grade classrooms.

image of Bully cover art an anti bullying picture book for older readersBully – written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco 
anti bullying picture book for older readers published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

When Lyla’s family moves house, she and her brother each switch to new schools. Lyla feels anxious about the transition but soon meets a new friend and is very happy to discover that he is in her homeroom class. Jamie and Lyla get along well so Lyla is not isolated but before long she discovers the many cliques at her new school: Geeks and Nerds, Toughs, Skateboarders, Athletes and the Celebrities.

As Lyla gains confidence at her new school, she starts to earn some very good grades and a spot on the cheerleading team. Jamie warns her, “That’s Gage, Maeve and Kenyon’s territory, Lyla. Be careful!”

Lyla settles in to her new class and appears content but she does notice that almost all of her classmates have cell phones. Jamie urges her to get a cell phone, a laptop and a Facebook account. Soon Lyla and her brother are trying to convince their parents to allow them to have phones. Their parents agree but warn that, if not used properly, the online privileges will be lost.image of Bully spread an anti bullying picture book for older readers

Jamie helps Lyla and her brother to set up their Facebook accounts and Lyla takes pride in their friendship and his position of trust at school.

Gage, Maeve and Kenyon were actually starting to be nice to me. I wasn’t good enough to sit at the celebrity table, though, until the Mid-Year Awards Assembly…Gage usually got this award, but she seemed really happy that I got it. That’s when she invited me to sit with them at the celebrity table at lunch..

Initially, Lyla finds the attention from the coolest girls exciting – she so wants to enjoy their popularity. The friendship sours, however, when the girls spend time surfing Facebook and commenting on classmates’ pages. They call this “scum dumping.” Lyla knows the bullying behavior is wrong and is especially upset when horrible comments are made on Jamie’s Facebook page. Lyla’s friendship with the Celebrities ends when she stands up for Jamie but the girls warn her, “No one dumps us, Lyla. We do the dumping.”

Sadly for Lyla the bullying does not end there. When an important test is compromised at school, Lyla is wrongly accused of stealing it and she becomes a victim of cyberbullying.

Bully is an excellent anti bullying picture book for older readers and a valuable resource for middle grade classrooms. Ms. Polacco’s depicts a racially diverse student population. As well, she presents a realistic and complex social situation without lecturing. She invites her readers to consider the question, “What would you do?”

Bully at Amazon.com

Bully at Amazon.ca

PDF Curriculum Guide to Ms. Polacco’s books (does not include Bully)

Bully 101 – Asking Some Tough Questions

Posted on July 11th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for Bully 101Bully 101 written and illustrated by Doretta Groenendyk
Anti bullying picture book published by Acorn Press


Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children.

Want to ensure you get your way?
Just mess up another kid’s day.
Push them and shove them and give them a scare.
Our bullies love fear and thrive on a dare.

Students who attend a class called Bully 101 learn that the best solution to feeling poorly about themselves is to make another child feel terrible. Bullies steal notebooks on the school bus, damage clothing, ostracize good students, spread rumors and make jokes. Sometimes they even resort to physical violence. For those who feel badly about their ‘course selection,’ there is an alternative class: Kindness 202.

Suited to primary and middle grade students, Bully 101 includes rich language: demoralize, humiliate, thrive and striking collage illustrations that will appeal to older readers.

Best at identifying bullying behaviors, Bully 101 implies that Kindness 202 is a happier, more inclusive choice. It does not problem-solve suggestions for victims or bystanders. Essentially the story suggests that choosing kindness will have a happier outcome for all – including those who are currently making poor choices.

Bully 101 takes a simplistic approach to the terrible problem of bullying that will not be appropriate in every circumstance but there are good reasons to use it as a discussion-starter in a primary or middle grade classroom. As well, Ms. Groenendyk’s fascinating illustrations could be used as a jumping off point for exploring this timely theme with young artists.

Bully 101 at Amazon.com

Bully 101 at Amazon.ca

The same but different: Sixth Grade Secrets

Posted on June 11th, 2013 by Jody

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image of cover art for Sixth Grade SecretsSixth Grade Secrets written by Louis Sachar

Chapter book for middle grade readers republished by Scholastic

One of my favourite read alouds is Louis Sachar’s Sixth Grade Secrets. The main character, Laura, starts a secret club. This leads to a variety of themes including: inclusion, exclusion, friendship, crushes, and cliques. To sum it up: it’s sixth grade as all of us knew it. The thing about Louis Sachar’s writing is that it is laugh out loud funny. The things his characters say and do make you laugh because you can imagine yourself doing them. This is true of adults and kids. When you can see yourself in characters or their situations, you connect.

What surprised me this year, was how aware I became of language, tone, and subject matter. I read the book for the first time about six years ago. I didn’t read it last year or the year before so when I went back to it this year, I just remembered that it’s this funny book about two clubs that get started in a school where no clubs are allowed. The characters are quirky and endearing and draw you in. All of this still holds true. The book has not changed. This means that we, or I, have.

There are parts in the book that I now won’t read out loud that I’m sure I would have before. I don’t know if that is because of my teaching, my audience, the parents of my audience, or a societal change. When the girls start talking about being “flat-chested”, I omitted it. When they collect insurance for the secret club so no one will talk, I found myself uncertain if I wanted to say the word “underpants” (which is what they make one girl give to insure she keeps quiet. What really hit home I think, is the hands on bullying behavior that I worried about reading out loud. At one point in the novel, they “mustardize” Gabriel, the main boy and the Laura’s nemisis/crush. In the past, certainly when I first read it, I found it quite amusing. This time, however, I used that moment to talk about the bullying that was happening in the scene. How did they feel? How did the characters feel? What would be the result of actions like that?

I realized that times have really changed. The book came out when I was in grade seven. At that time, you probably could have ‘mustardized’ someone and feared only the retaliation of a similar sort. Perhaps getting egged or ‘nicky-nine-doored’. Whether it’s kids growing up faster, technology, increasing levels of bullying and awareness, and/or school violence, I couldn’t just read this funny book and glaze over the deeper issues. Where in the past, the book was about reading a light and easy end of year book before sending my students to grade six, it has become a teaching tool.

There’s actually an ongoing issue in the book where Laura says she never tells a lie. Laura has very unique and creative ways of looking at the definition of ‘lying’. Gabriel sees Laura as a chronic liar. This was an excellent opportunity to talk to my students about things like lying by omission, telling the truth, and how others perceive you. Big themes from a book that I’d always kept light. But as time changes, so do the needs of our students. We need to communicate with them and connect with them. What an interesting opportunity to get to know my students in a new way, just by asking who considers Laura to be a liar and who does not.

In closing, it’s a great book. I no longer feel comfortable with some of the language, though it’s not necessarily bad, but I just skip or adlib what I don’t want to read. Regardless of those few spots, it is an engaging tale that the kids love, laugh at, and listen to. If it sparks conversation and debate, that’s a bonus.

Sixth Grade Secrets at Amazon.com

Sixth Grade Secrets at Amazon.ca

Sixth Grade Secrets was published as Pig City in the UK.

Pig City at Amazon.ca

Picture book about Acceptance: My Princess Boy

Posted on April 3rd, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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A picture book about acceptance My Princess BoyMy Princess boy written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
Picture book about acceptance, tolerance, bullying and gender identity published by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

Please have a look at our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

My Princess Boy is a non fiction picture book about acceptance, written by Dyson Kildavis’ mom, Cheryl. Dyson is a young boy who likes to wear pink, sparkly clothing including dresses. He also likes to dance like a ballerina. Dyson’s mom worried that her four year old son would be teased and bullied by classmates and that he would encounter intolerant people who would not respect his preferences, so she wrote this book in an effort to encourage acceptance and compassion.
spread from My Princess Boy, a picture book about acceptance
After introducing us to “My Princess Boy” and his preference for pretty pink clothing, we meet his brother and his father. Both are very accepting of Princess Boy. We also learn that Princess Boy has playdates with both boys and girls. We discover that he especially enjoys playing dress up and he wears a tiera when he climbs a tree.

Not everything is rosy for Princess Boy, however. When he shops with his mom, if he buys something that would typically be worn by a girl, people around them notice and laugh. When Princess Boy dresses up for Halloween, a lady reacts badly to the princess dress he is wearing.

My Princess Boy shares a message of acceptance and encourages tolerance. The reader is reassured that if Princess Boy wears a dress to school, his classmates won’t laugh. Friends will play with him even when he wears “girl clothes.”

The book then encourages readers to consider their own behaviour -

If you see a Princess Boy…
Will you laugh at him?
Will you call him a name?
Will you play with him?
Will you like him for who he is?
Our Princess Boy is happy because we love him for who he is.

I must admit to having somewhat mixed emotions about My Princess Boy. At one time, my nephew wanted to dress up at preschool. He preferred the “feminine” costumes. He wanted to wear high heels. My sister was quite disappointed that the preschool teachers did not want him to put on the “feminine” clothes. They wanted him to choose “male” costumes – fire fighter jackets and police officer helmets. My nephew is now eighteen and, as far as I know, has outgrown his desire to wear “feminine” clothes. I don’t think it was just societal pressure that did this, my sense is that some things that are very appealing at age four, lose their luster as a child grows older. I can’t help but wonder, what might have happened if my sister had written a book about my nephew’s fondness for “feminine” clothing. How would he feel about it ten or fifteen years later? Might it seem to be an invasion of privacy? I support Cheryl Kilodavis’ unconditional love for her son but I wonder how he will feel about being a poster child for gender identity (possibly for the rest of his life) based on his preferences at age four.

As a picture book about acceptance, My Princess Boy “works” to some extent. It most certainly will encourage discussion about individuality and respecting differences. Having said that, when Princess Boy is laughed at, there is no attempt to problem solve or deal with the issue head on. Princess Boy is not provided any means of coping when people laugh at him other than asking, “Why did she laugh at me?My Princess Boy will only work as an antibullying resource if readers are encouraged to problem solve ways he might cope with the bullying that he is sure to encounter.

Finally, as evidenced by both the cover art and the spread from My Princess Boy, the illustrations for this book are somewhat unusual in that they are devoid of facial features. There are no eyes, noses, mouths or ears on any of the faces in the book. Some readers find this problematic, even creepy. It seems to me that seeing Princess Boy’s happiness ought to be a goal of the illustrator. Body language is one thing but, My Princess Boy is a book about emotions (happiness, contentedness, disappointment, hurt, joy and love), one would think that showing us those emotions would serve to enhance the message conveyed by the text.

My Princess Boy at Amazon.com

My Princess Boy at Amazon.ca

You may also be interested in our post about (chapter book) The Boy in the Dress.


Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

Posted on March 22nd, 2013 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Looks at Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
Young adult fiction published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House

I swear, I’m not the Paula Abdul of book reviews; I do not think that every book I read is amazing and moving and captivating. It just so happens that, this year, I have been incredibly fortunate to choose book after book that is amazing, moving, and captivating. Eight Keys, by Suzanne LaFleur, is beautiful. It weaves together the themes of finding yourself, knowing yourself, experiencing loss, friendship, bullying, acceptance, and family. Elise is a young girl who lost both her parents. She lives with her aunt and uncle, who I wish I lived with because they’re real and tangible characters. She has a best friend who she thinks she may have outgrown. She gets bullied mercilessly by the popular girl at school.

In the midst of all this, she is turning 12, which in itself can be life changing. She discovers a key and eight doors in her uncle’s workshop. The key opens one of the doors. The book follows her journey, as she unlocks each of the doors and discovers something about who she was, who she is, and who she could be. Each room also gives her insight into where she comes from. The most touching and heartwrenching part, for me from my parenting perspective, was that, knowing he was going to die, her father spent his final days putting each of these rooms together for her. As she explores all of them, she gets to know the mother and father she doesn’t remember. She also gets to learn about the people who have raised her.

Elise is such an honest and real character. There are parts of the book where we didn’t like her very much (my class and I) but the honest part comes from the fact that we know Elise doesn’t like herself very much at those moments either. The class had great discussions around different topics, such as: what do you do if you think a friendship is over? Do you always have to get along with a friend? What do you do when you are bullied? Has a friend ever changed on you so that you felt like you didn’t know them anymore? These are real things that I can remember dealing with in my teen years and I think they are things we still deal with as adults. Life is about change and it isn’t easy. People come into your life for different periods of time. We don’t always know if they’re in our lives for the long term. Even as adults, we can struggle to make and keep friends because we change.

I love how Elise came to her own conclusions. Her aunt and uncle guided her and supported her. They didn’t like some of her choices, but they were firm and fair with her and, as a result, she saw herself more clearly.

Eight Keys is a beautiful book. It is the kind of book that an author should aspire to write. It held the audience captive, created discussion, allowed for introspection, and connected us to the main characters. At the end of the book, I found myself wanting to know Elise ten years from now. I didn’t want to say goodbye to her and neither did the kids. When I read the last line of the book, one of the students said, “What? There’s no more?” I felt exactly the same.

Eight Keys at Amazon.com

Eight Keys at Amazon.ca


Anti bullying; different approaches for different ages

Posted on February 25th, 2013 by Jody

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image of album cover for Mean by Taylor SwiftAs an avid lover of picture books, and a writer of them as well, I have to remind myself that this isn’t the only way to connect with kids, especially as they approach that pre-teen stage. I tend to lean toward using picture books as a way to teach reading skills, such as inferring, predicting, connecting, and visualizing because I find them very powerful. Also, when you pull out picture books in grade five, the students think the lesson isn’t going to be as difficult. They love listening to stories and books that they would no longer pick out on their own in the library.

So while it may be a go-to strategy for me, I know that I have to reach out in other ways too. Especially when the message we need to convey becomes more and more important with every day. We talk about bullying frequently in the classroom because it’s an always present subject. The discussions take many forms: ignoring, taunting, teasing, standing up, bystanding, taking action, cyber bullying, verbal vs physical, and how to deal with the different types.

This week, we made a group poster that we hoped would appeal to the victims of bullying. All of the slogans and catch phrases offered encouragement and support: “stand up”, “believe”, “brave”, “don’t give up”, “strong”, and many more. The kids did a great job coming up with things they could say to other students that would help them feel better about themselves and the situation they might find themselves in. Sadly, many of them have likely been in that situation and they need to know that how they feel is important.

Another very powerful resource that we don’t turn to as often, is music. Lyrics are an incredibly powerful way to connect with students and help them explore issues that are current and real. Just like they enjoyed the nursery rhymes and songs when they were little, contemporary music can also leave a lasting impression. There are a wide range of artists that deal with issues like isolation, being different, standing up for yourself, not being alone, and believing in yourself. Of course, there are many with inappropriate lyrics that can’t be shared at school, but there are also others that can help you connect your students to the issues at hand. Think: Mean by Taylor Swift, Firework by Katy Perry, Who Says by Saleena Gomez, and even Loser Like Me by the Glee Cast. It is yet another avenue to explore that offers us the opportunity to connect with kids at their level, with something they already feel strongly about; music. In addition to the lyrics, the students appreciate the artists that sing them. These artists write about being different and unaccepted, making the kids realize that even people they admire may have felt this way too.

The truth is, bullying happens in every walk of life, at every age. Teaching compassion, acceptance, empathy, and understanding at every age is essential. It needs to be something that continues to be emphasized throughout all stages, both at home and at school. Kids, and many adults, need to know that the choices they make, whether in words or actions, affect the people around them. This never stops being true. Sometimes I worry that we get lost in all of the details without remembering what’s most important: people. We are teaching more than Math or Language Arts. We are teaching students how to engage and intereact and resolve conflict, how to accept differences and celebrate being unique.

The connection between home and school is an important one because these types of things cannot be taught in a 45 minute Personal Planning lesson. It has to be part of us so we can encourage it to be part of them. So next time you are listening to your favourite artist, think about the message that they’re sending. Better yet, put on Taylor Swift and sing along with them; ask your kids why they think she would write a song like Mean. Ask them what they think it means, do they see bullying at school, how do they deal with it? We need to talk to our kids and communicate with them. We use resources like books and lyrics, but in the end, it is us sending them the message of what is important by what we choose to share with them, by how we act and interact.

Wear pink on Wednesday, read some of the great books out there on bullying (Enemy Pie, Juice Box Bully, Eight Keys, Slob, The Recess Queen- I could go on and on), or listen to music that empowers your kids to find their voice. Talk to your kids about why you’re doing it and what it all means. Even if they know the reason behind why we wear pink on February 27th, talk to them, read with them, sing with them. Just find a way to let them know that we are all in this together.

Mean at Amazon.com

Mean at Amazon.ca

Out of my Mind – Sharon Draper’ Compelling Young Adult Fiction

Posted on February 3rd, 2013 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Writes About Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperOut of my Mind written by Sharon M. Draper
Young Adult Fiction published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Sharon Draper’s Out of my Mind is one of the best young adult fiction books I have read. For weeks, I have been reading blogs, websites, and articles about young adult fiction. The key words that keep popping up are ‘high stakes.’ In today’s fast-paced, socia media driven society, it is hard to capture attention. Your book has to be different; it has to stand out, or reach out and grab you. I thought I understood what was meant by the term ‘high stakes’ because I’ve read many YA novels and countless adult novels. It means you care about what happens next and you are connected to the characters.

When I got to the third to last chapter of this novel, that my class and I were already hooked on, I truly understood what high stakes means. It meant that, even though the bell had rang, even though they wanted lunch and so did I, even though everyone looks forward to the break in the school day, not one of us wanted to stop. We were frozen by the words on the page; we were so actively involved that no one wanted to move. But we had to. Kids had committments to help in classes, I had a meeting, and other kids were helping in the library. High stakes means that I was late for my meeting, because even though I couldn’t keep reading to them, neither could I walk away. I had to finish it. So I did.

This book already had the readers’ attention at page one. A young girl, Melody, talks about how she’s got all these words floating in her head and they’re this beautiful, abstract thing, that anchor her. She describes them as snowflakes, each one different and delicate. What a beautiful description. But the kicker, is when she says that, at 11 years old, she’s never said even one of those words. Melody has cerebral palsy. She cannot talk, walk, feed herself, or take herself to the bathroom. Sharon truly gets inside, not only the mind of this extremely, physically challenged girl, but the average grade five mind as well. Melody has all of the same challenges that regular grade fives have; what to wear, do I have friends? did I get the answer right? why don’t my parents understand? my little sister bugs me. What we see, in Out of my Mind, is how she connects with that world with extreme limitations. Her ability to do this connects us to her, it invests us in the story, and it makes us part of Melody’s world.

We spend a lot of time discussing bullying and how to treat others in elementary school. More and more, it has become a focus. We try to teach kids the different types of bullying, how to stop it, and how to recognize it. We try to make them empathetic by imagining how the victim feels, how the bystander feels, and even what the bully feels. This book gives us such a unique view of bullying. What if you could never respond to the bully? Never stand up for yourself? Never defend your friends? What if you were bullied and people didn’t even realize that you fully understood their cruelty? It’s one thing for a child to ‘not be seen’ but Melody’s circumstances take this to an entirely different level. It made my students more aware of the fact that how a person looks does not define who they are inside. The book stopped being about a girl in the same grade as they are with physical challenges; it became about Melody, this kid like them who was fighting not to get left out and fighting to be heard. She just had to fight harder than any of them have ever had to.

For me, it showed me what high stakes really mean. It means when you’re so invested in the character that you forget they’re not real. You see those characters in the people around you and the lessons you learn from them make you better. My students loved this book. I loved this book. What amazed me most was how, I started reading it to them, thinking it would never be okay for Melody because she was so physically and verbally limited. But in the end, that was not what mattered at all. I stopped seeing her limitations and was amazed by the strenth and courage and sense of character that she possessed. Sharon Draper was able to do all the things an author should do: she drew me in, she made me feel both Melody’s triumphs and heartaches. She made me part of Melody’s world and in turn, that beautiful strength of character, will hopefully, be part of my world and my students the next time any of us begin to judge a book by its cover.

Out of my Mind at Amazon.com

Out of my Mind at Amazon.ca

Sharon M. Draper’s website answers thirteen questions about Out of my Mind.

Out of my Mind was awared the Josette Frank Award by the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education and was chosen as a 2011 IRA Teachers’ Choice Book and a 2011 IRA Young Adult’s Choice. It was the Best Book of the Year from KIRKUS and an Outstanding Children’s book of 2011 by Bank Street College. It won the Buckeye Children’s Book Award from Ohio, the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award in both the middle school and elementary categories, the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award from Maryland, the Beehive Book Award from Utah, and the Virginia Reader’s Choice Award. It received the SAKURA Medal - English Chapter Book category .

Lion’s Lunch? A yummy anti bullying picture book

Posted on January 5th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for Lion's Lunch?Lion’s Lunch? written by Fiona Tierney and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain
Anti bullying picture book published by Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic

Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

When Sarah goes for a walk in the jungle, she sings a happy song. Before long, a ferocious lion jumps from behind a bush and demands to know why she is in his jungle. When Sarah explains that she is walking, the lion asserts that jungle creatures “Run, sprint, prowl, creep, swing, lumber, slither, swoop, gallop and scuttle.”

When Sarah says that she was singing, the lion states that jungle creatures “Roar, yowl, grunt, chatter, buzz, trumpet, hiss, growl, pant, and harrumph.”

Lion decides that Sarah would make a tasty lunch especially since she can’t stalk like Tiger or leap like Gazelle.

Sarah suggests that she can do something that no jungle creature can do. She can draw. When, at last, she shows Lion her picture, he is not impressed with the angry lion face he sees and, when the other animals agree that he is a bully, Lion decides to change his ways.

Wonderful descriptive language and bright, bold drawn and computer-generated illustrations enhance this examination of bullying behavior and leave readers with a sense of optimism about one’s ability to speak up, enlist help and ultimately encourage a bully to change for the better.

Lion’s Lunch is best suited to children aged four and up.

Add this anti bullying picture book to your bookshelf –

Lion’s Lunch? at Amazon.com

Lion’s Lunch? at Amazon.ca

Bullies Never Win – an anti bullying picture book by Margery Cuyler

Posted on December 11th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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cover art for Bullies Never Win, an anti bullying picture book
Bullies Never Win written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Arthur Howard
Anti bullying picture book published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Jessia and Brenda are in the same first-grade class. In Jessica’s eyes, Brenda is perfect. Her hair is perfect, her homework is perfect and her clothes are perfect. Jessica is a worrier. She is frustrated by her clothing, her knees, her barrettes and making mistakes at school but mostly she is frustrated by Brenda’s bullying.

If Jessica got all her homework right, Brenda would say, “I bet you cheated.” So Jessica hid her homework.
If Jessica wore a new skirt to school, Brenda would say, “Your legs look like toothpicks.” So Jessica started wearing pants.
If Jessica scored at kickball, Brenda would say, “You were just lucky.” So Jessica stopped playing kickball.

Finally Jessica reaches the breaking point and she tells her mom about the bullying she is enduring at school. Mom encourages Jessica to tell her teacher about the bullying. Jessica is not sure that is the solution. She spends a sleepless night, trying to decide on the best strategy. Finally, Jessica decides to tell Brenda that Bullies Never Win!”

At last, Jessica can stop worrying and relax. She has spoken her mind and silenced her bully.

Mr. Howard’s illustrations, especially those of the characters’ facial expressions are a highlight of this excellent anti bullying picture book.

Written from the perspective of the victim, this resource is recommended for kindergarten and older children.

Add this anti bullying picture book to your bookshelf –

Bullies Never Win at Amazon.com

Bullies Never Win at Amazon.ca

Lesson plans for Bullies Never WIn

Literature unit from edHelper.com

Lesson plan from Spoken Arts Media

Bully vs Friend activity from Scholastic

Anti bullying story for beginning readers – Justin and the Bully

Posted on December 5th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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cover art for Justin and the BullyJustin and the Bully written by Tony and Lauren Dungy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Anti bullying story for beginning readers published by Simon Spotlight

Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

Justin loves to play soccer and he is very excited when his mom agrees to sign him up for a team. His family shares his excitement and all is well until he goes to his first practice. When he gets to practice, he likes his coach and most of his teammates. He is disappointed when one of his teammates, Taylor calls him “Shorty” and criticizes his playing ability.

After practice, Justin is quiet and at dinnertime he announces that he doesn’t want to continue playing soccer. After a family discussion, Justin explains that Taylor told him he was too short to play.

At bedtime, Justin’s parents encourage him to try again. The following day, Justin’s mom accompanies him to practice and she speaks with the coach about the situation.

The coach called the team together. “We are a team,” he said. “Right?”
Everyone said, “Right, Coach!”
“And on a good team there are no bullies. Right?”
“Right, Coach!” everybody said.

Coach Harris goes on to ask “What is a bully?” and the children provide examples of bullying behavior.

The next weekend, the team plays its first game. The children work together and are successful until an unpleasant comment is made by Taylor. One of Justin’s teammates speaks up and tells Taylor that she is behaving like a bully.

Justin and the Bully is part of Simon Spotlight’s Ready to Read series. It is rated Level Two and includes both sight words and words that children will sound out. The story itself is compelling and the solution is realistic. It is noteable that the child who is being bullied is assisted by his parents and his coach. The situation is resolved when a bystander notices the bullying and speaks up about the bullying behavior.

Add this anti bullying book for beginning readers to your bookshelf –

Justin and the Bully (Ready-to-Read. Level 2) at Amazon.com

Justin and the Bully (Ready-to-Read, Level 2) at Amazon.ca


Bullying Stopped by Tiny Katie Sue – Alexis O’Neill’s The Recess Queen

Posted on November 20th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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anti bullying picture book cover The Recess QueenThe Recess Queen written by Alexis O’Neill and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
Anti bullying picture book published by Scholastic Canada

Be sure to check out our page about anti-bullying picture books for children, our page about anti bullying chapter books, graphic novels and novels for children , and our Pinterest anti bullying board

MEAN JEAN was Recess Queen and nobody said any different.
Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung.
Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked.
Nobody bounced until Mean Jean bounced.

Mean Jean is a playground bully. At recess, she commands all those around her. She controls the swings, the soccer ball and the basketball.

One day, a new girl arrives at school. Tiny Katie Sue is completely unaware of Mean Jean’s position of authority at the playground. Katie Sue does not wait to be told what to do. She swings and she kicks and she bounces. When challenged by Mean Jean, Katie Sue asks, “How DID you get so bossy?”

Before long, there is a showdown between Mean Jean and Katie Sue. When Katie Sue pulls a jump rope from her pocket, she invites Mean Jean to skip with her.

Repetitious text, delicious wordplay and bright, energetic illustrations highlight a terrific anti bullying book that begs to be read aloud. Recommended for children aged four and up.

Add this anti bullying picture book to your bookshelf –

The Recess Queen at Amazon.com

The Recess Queen at Amazon.ca



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