The Weird Series

Weird9781575423982_p0_v1_s260x420Weird!

Erin Frankel, Author

Paula Heaphy, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages:5 and up

Themes: Bullying, Fear, Courage, Self-Confidence,  Accountability

Opening/Synopsis:   “Hi.  My name is Luisa and I have a problem.  There is a girl in my class named Sam who thinks that everything I do is WEIRD!”   When Luisa raises her hand to answer a question, tells a joke to her friends, hugs her mom after school, or wears her favorite polka dot boots, Sam says she’s WEIRD.   Luisa tries to change what she does, but Sam continues to call her WEIRD.  Luisa doesn’t feel like herself anymore.  “Everyone misses  the way I used to be.  Everyone else, including me.”  After talking with her mother, Luisa makes some positive changes and throws Sam a curve ball.

Dare9781575423999_p0_v1_s260x420DARE!

Book 2

Opening/Synopsis: “Hi.  My name is Jayla and I’m scared.  See that girl?  That’s Sam.  She’s tough.   She picked on me a lot last year, but I never stood up for myself.  I didn’t DARE!  No one stood up for me, either.  They didn’t DARE.”   Jayla is relieved when Sam stops bullying her, but feels bad when she sees Luisa the next target.  Jayla remembers too well how it feels when no one dares to stand up for her.  Even though Jayla tries to mind her own business, Sam begins to DARE Jayla to say mean things to Luisa.   Jayla is scared and caves into Sam.  Jayla feels bad for Luisa.  “This isn’t the kind of person I want to be.”   Jayla musters the courage to make her own DARE and reclaims her power from Sam.

Tough9781575424002_p0_v1_s260x420TOUGH!

Book 3

Opening/Synopsis“What are you staring at?  I’m not the weird one.  My name is Sam and I’m TOUGH!  That Luisa.  She’s weird.  She dresses weird.  Acts weird.  She talks weird.  Someone has to tell her, so I do.”  Sam has had a lot of practice learning to be TOUGH.  Her brother bullies her and she’s had to learn to stand up to him.  Sam acts tough so people won’t mess with her.  She discovers that people aren’t following her rules anymore, so things are getting a bit tough for Sam.  Her teachers want to help her, but is she through with being TOUGH?

Why I like this series:  Erin Frankel has written a very powerful series on bullying.  The Weird Series shows kids bullying from three different points of view:  Luisa who is bullied in WEIRD!, Jayla who is the bystander in DARE!, and Sam who is the bully in TOUGH!  The books can stand-alone, or be used as a series.  I recommend that classrooms read the books as a series because the stories are interwoven.   Readers will identify with the name-calling, insults, threats, fear, and anger.  The characters are realistic and the language is simple, but edgy.  These books are going to be hits in the classroom.  Paula Heaphy’s black and white illustrations are highlighted with splashes of color, usually focusing on a specific character.  They are bold, emotive and capture the great body language of the characters.

Resources:  Each book has extensive pages of backmatter for kids, parents and teachers on the topic at hand (i.e. victim, bystander and bully).  There are summaries of lessons learned, discussion points, activities, suggestions for courage, confidence and kindness clubs, and role-playing.  Visit Erin Frankel at her website.  Teachers can download a free  Leader’s Guide  from Free Spirit Publishing.  The following is an interesting interview with both author and illustrator that I believe you will find interesting.

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These books have been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Stand Up!

Stand Up!187008865Stand Up!

Lisa Roth, M.D. & Karen Siris, Ed.D, authors

Marsha Levitin, illustrations

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Fiction,  August 2012

Suitable for: 6 and up

Themes:  Bullying, Standing Up, Friendship, Relational Aggression

Opening/Synopsis: “When I wake up in the morning, I like to think about what fun I am going to have that day.  Today I am happy because one of my friend is coming over after school to play.”  The narrator in this book is lucky to have friends who like and support him at school.  He realizes that this isn’t true for all the kids,  especially Jamie, who wants to play kick ball during recess.  She is teased and called mean names by Alex and other kids.  The narrator observes how Alex knocks Jamie’s sandwich on the floor and stamps on it and shoves her into the locker in the hallway.   He realizes that things need to change, even if he’s afraid of Alex.  He notices the kids at school who are kind, helpful and work together.  He comes up with a plan to stop bullying at the school and writes a note to his caring classmates: “Meet me on the monkey bars during recess to be part of a secret mission.  See you then.”  The Caring Majority is born and there is power in their numbers to “stand up” for themselves and their classmates.

Why I like this book:  Lisa Roth, M.D. and Karen Siris, Ed.D. have written a powerful book about kids solving their own problems in a positive way without asking adults to intervene.  This compelling story gives parents and teachers the opportunity to discuss positive ways of preventing bullying at school.  The artwork is unique and done in muted pastels.  Each page is a picture of feet, which is very symbolic in the story and to the bully’s reaction.   Very creative idea.

Resources:  The authors have provided a back page with a Teacher’s Guide and Discussion Questions.  There is information about starting a Caring Majority in your school.  Write to bullyinterventionexperts@gmail.com.  You may visit Lisa Roth, M.D. at her website, The Magical Journey.  Karen Siris, Ed.D, is a principal and professor dedicated to preventing bullying in her school district.  She is recognized for the work she has done creating a caring majority of “upstanding students in her Long Island school.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work. 

My Secret Bully

My Secret Bully101471089My Secret Bully

Trudy Ludwig, author

Abigail Marble, illustrator

River Wood Books, 2004, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 5-11

Themes:  Bullying, Behavior, Friendship, Relational Aggression

Opening/Synopsis“Katie is my secret bully.  A lot of people would be surprised to know this because they think she’s my friend.  And she does act like my friend…sometimes.”   Monica and Katie have been best friends since kindergarten.  Monica enjoys being around Katie when they have fun together.  But at school, Katie  is just plain mean.  She gossips about Monica, threatens her when she plays with other kids, and stakes a claim on her friends.  Monica’s mother confronts her when she doesn’t want to go to school.  Mom shares her own experience with a bully.  With Mom’s support, Monica musters the strength to stand up to Katie with interesting results.

Why I like this book:  Trudy Ludwig has written a moving story about emotional bullying among girls.   Abigail Marble’s illustrations are emotive, colorful and support the story.   Since  Ludwig wrote this book, bullying continues to increase among girls.  It takes many forms “exclusion, humiliation, manipulation and name-calling.”  There are many reasons why, but social media hasn’t helped the situation.   Trudy has tackled a poignant subject about relational bullying/aggression.  The book is an important read for kids, for teachers and school counselors who have or are creating bullying prevention programs.

I’m featuring Trudy’s books because they are a culmination of what she’s learned about bullying as an author.  She is a member of the International Bullying Prevention Association and is a popular Random House speaker.  On Monday I will review Confessions of a Former Bully, which brings closure between Katie and Monica.  It is written as a journal.  I will end with Trouble Talk next Friday.  Last spring, I featured her book Better Than Youa book for boys about bragging  and hurtful behavior.

Resources:  The book provides a message or parents and teachers, and interesting information for victims.  There is also a guide for classroom discussion and other resources.  Trudy Ludwig is a member of the International Bullying Prevention Association and is a popular speaker.  Visit Trudy Ludwig at her website.  She has recently written  a Wonder Lessons Guide for Random House about bullying.  A great tool for teachers and parents during October’s National Bullying Prevention Month.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.