Hi everyone, this is not your average extra post. I want to bring to your attention something quite important in schools all over the world, an issue that we still battle to this day. I’m talking about bullying.
When I started my primary education all those years ago, a young classmate of mine chose to mistreat me. That person bullied me for a number of years. Although this was a few decades ago, those incidents haven’t left my memories and neither has the hurt I felt. As I grew older, became an older sibling, and basically grew up, I chose to use those incidents as springboards to move onto the next phase of my life. I was lucky in the sense that my bully and I parted ways as we moved into high school. As time has passed and I started this journey into reading tween books, I realised that bullying in schools between kids has morphed into something quite serious now. I do not claim to be an expert on this issue or have any solutions. What I know is that from reading all sorts of books, I learned to observe and understand the behaviour of bullies and the dynamics that come to play between them and their victims. It is from these books that I too learned to heal and grow. The books I have chosen to review here in this post are ones I have read over the last few years that highlight some form of bullying. The authors, are all awesome storytellers and able to convey some strong messages of kindness, compassion, tolerance and acceptance in their tales. I hope my readers, whether you are a parent or teacher, can help any children in your life open up a dialogue about the forms of bullying with these reads.
Author: R.J. Palacio
What this book is about: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school – until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? R.J. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and writing that shines with spare emotional power.
My review: An amazing story of courage, strength and middle school!! One of the best children’s books of this new century!! Auggie is such an inspirational young person and what I loved the most about this book was the multiple voices this story was told in!! If I wasn’t crying over the chapters, I was laughing at the dialogue!! This is such an awesome story for all ages about the power of kindness and finding your place among your peers. The amazing movie adaptation has been perfectly crafted paying homage to the novel and all it’s little nuances and quirks.
My rating: 5 ⭐
Additional notes: This title is the Recipient of the Josette Frank Award in 2013, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award in 2014, the Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature in 2013, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2013. These are only some of the many more awards this book has won and nominated!!
Title: Just a drop of water
Author: Kerry O’Malley Cerra
What this book is about: Choosing to do what’s right isn’t always easy. Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died saving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart the rival cross country team. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens, and it’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hotspot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who is allies are anymore. In the end, Jake must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.
My review: A truly inspirational read for this debut writer. Kerry O’Malley Cerra captures the mood of America right after 9/11 in a way that’s not frightening or sensationalized, but seen and felt through the eyes of a middle grade boy. She hits on some very important issues that people still to this day go through. I really like how she ended the story. For me, it’s about Jake’s friendship with Sam, and how it evolved during this period in time in America that has been written into the history books. A poignant novel, that hits you right at the core with it’s clear language and imagery. Recommended for all ages. The characters are very memorable and I really admire the way they confront the darker side of their community, their families and their hearts. An author to watch out for!!
My rating: 5 ⭐
Additional notes: This title has won the Bronze Florida Book Award for Children’s Literature in 2014, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice Award for Southeast in 2015, and nominated for the Missouri Truman Readers Award in 2017.
Title: Being Miss Nobody
Author: Tamsin Winter
What this book is about: Rosalind hates her new secondary school. She’s the weird girl who doesn’t talk. The Mute-ant. And it’s easy to pick on someone who can’t fight back. So Rosalind starts a blog – Miss Nobody; a place to speak up, a place where she has a voice. But there’s a problem… Is Miss Nobody becoming a bully herself?
My review: A lovely and sad story!! The tears poured out from the start until the last page!! I loved the whole family; mom, dad, Rosalind, little Seb, Mrs Quinney, Ros’s best friend Ailsa, and especially the librarian and the library monitors. The whole Selective Mutism and the words exploding inside Ros’s head; these things that Winter has described, I’ve experienced when I was young. Although I was labelled as shy myself, I don’t think I was that bad! I did speak when I needed to. I liked how Rosalind started the blog and gained some confidence from it. I really loved the relationship described between the siblings. The ending, well, I’m still crying inside. This is one book where the author has explored the issues arising in cyber-bullying along with bullying within a school environment and woven it expertly into a story such as this one. A great read for all ages!
My rating: 4½⭐
Title: New Boy
Author: Nick Earls
What this book is about: Adjusting to a new country and a new school was never going to be easy for Herschelle. The food is strange, it’s so different from South Africa and, worst of all, no one understands the Aussie slang he’s learnt on the web. But it’s the similarities that make things really hard. Herschelle will have to confront racism, bullying and his own past before Australia can feel like home. A moving and funny new novel by one of Australia’s best-loved authors.
My review: A great read!! Loved this story. The whole Aussie slang vs Aussie normal speak was quite hilarious. And that ‘bring a plate’ thing, so classic and yet familiar here in New Zealand as well. I really like these kinds of stories of fitting into a new school environment with all sorts of different kids and the different dynamics it brings. The whole bullying, and racism, although a bit downplayed for one, was very well written out and it was the consequences that were powerful. For me, glimpsing into what life must have been like in South Africa, and Herschelle’s comparison with that of the way Australians react, was quite eye-opening and overwhelming. This was a great read with some expertly described school scenes!!
My rating: 4 ⭐
Title: Larger-than-life Lara
Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
What this book is about: “This isn’t about me. The story, I mean. So already you got a reason to hang it up. At least there’s what Mrs Smith, my teacher says”. But the story is about 10-year-old Laney Grafton and the new girl in her class – Lara Phelps – whom everyone bullies from the minute she shows up. But instead of acting the way a bullied kid normally acts, this new girl returns kindness for a meanness that intensifies – until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader. In a unique and multi layered story, with equal parts humour and angst, Laney communicated the art of storytelling as it happens, with chapter titles such as “Character”, “Setting”, and “Conflict”. She weaves an unforgettable tale of a new girl who transforms an entire class and, in the process, reveals the best and worst in all of us.
My review: What an amazingly powerful book on the message of bullying and its consequences!! The author has used an exquisite way of delivering this story with the use of language and plot!! I really enjoyed this story despite the poignant scenes and eventual ending. I would recommend this for all ages.
My rating: 5 ⭐
Title: All the things that could go wrong
Author: Stewart Foster
What this book is about: There are two sides to every story. Dan is angry. Nothing has been the same since his big brother left and he’s taking it out on the nearest and weakest target: Alex. Alex is struggling. His OCD makes it hard for him to leave the house, especially when Dan and his gang are waiting for him at school. Then the boys’ mothers arrange for them to meet up and finish building the raft that Dan started with his brother. Two enemies stuck together for the whole of the school holidays – what could possibly go wrong? A deeply moving and hopeful story from Stewart Foster, author of award-winning The Bubble Boy.
My review: A poignant story of gaining control of one’s fears and worries. This is the first book I’ve read where the bully himself speaks and we get to see exactly what his thoughts and feelings are like. A really moving story of an eventful friendship. I thought this was a well written story with strong characters and a good storyline. I didn’t realise that girls could be the ones bullying to weaker boys until I read this!! Despite the subject this was a great read!!
My rating: 4 ⭐
Title: Lost in the sun
Author: Lisa Graff
What this book is about: Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be more awful than the year he had in fifth grade, when he accidentally hit Jared Richards in the chest with a hockey puck out on Cedar Lake. (Who knew that Jared had a heart defect? And that one little hockey puck could be deadly?) Trent’s pretty positive his entire town hates him now, and he can’t blame them. So for Trent, middle school feels like a fresh start. He may even join the baseball team, if he wants to. If only Trent could make that fresh start happen. It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little – the girl with the mysterious scar across her face – that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it. In her newest novel, National Book Award nominee Lisa Graff crafts a story of true friendship that will stay with readers for a long time to come.
My review: A good read!! Although it took me two attempts to get stuck in, once I did, it took off like a whirlwind!! Just like Fallon did to Trent. I really enjoyed these characters of Fallon and Trent, and how Lisa Graff dealt with a whole range of issues from grief, bullying and friendship. Lisa Graff has an ability to just tell a story but also connect with you and get you to think about things deeply. I hadn’t read any of her books before this one and now I feel like finding her others and delving into her unique style of writing. This title is better suited for slightly older kids.
My rating: 4 ⭐
A small note: Please feel free to comment with your take on this topic and any other suggested titles you might have so I can add to my list.