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. 

Trouble Talk

Trouble Talk102508207Trouble Talk

Trudy Ludwig, author

Mikela Prevost, illustrator

Random House, 2008

Suitable for:  Ages 7-9

Themes: Gossip, Lies, Rumors, Relational Aggression, Trust

Opening/Brief Synopsis:  “I know a girl who has a really big mouth.  Her name is Bailey.  Big Mouth Bailey.  She doesn’t know I’ve called  her that because I’ve never said it out loud.  But that’s what I think.”  Maya and Bailey are friends until they attend a sleepover at Keisha’s house and Bailey makes a hurtful and embarrassing comment to Keisha.  Over weeks Maya observes Bailey spreading rumors, interfering and causing trouble for many other children.  Things get out of hand when Bailey spreads a false rumor that Maya’s parents are getting a divorce.  Maya is hurt and talks with her school counselor.   As Maya learns first hand, spreading rumors, saying hurtful things and sharing someone’s private information only leads to trouble.

Why I like this book:  Trudy Ludwig has written an important book that older elementary kids will easily relate to.  Mikela Prevost’s colorful  illustrations show a lot of emotion, expression and enhance the story.  Gossiping and spreading rumors is a big problem among kids.  Although the ending is optimistic, Maya isn’t sure she will be able to trust Bailey.  I was pleased that Ludwig shows that Bailey’s actions has consequences, and she has to learn how to respect others.  I especially like her use of words “trouble talk” and “‘friendship-tug-of-war.”  Kids get stuck in the middle with bullying or relational aggression.  I highly recommend this book to teachers, school counselors and parents.

Resources:  There is a wonderful Forward in the beginning of the book from a psychologist.  And, there is an Author’s Note, Questions for Discussion and more resources at the end.  There is plenty of information for a classroom discussion.  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 to use during National Bullying Prevention Month.  You may also want to check out the National Bullying Prevention Center.

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.

Confessions of a Former Bully

Confessions of a bully137404387Confessions of a Former Bully

Trudy Ludwig, author

Beth Adams, illustrator

Random House Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for ages: 8 – 12

Themes: Bullying, Behavior, Relational Aggression

Opening/Synopsis“A few months ago, I got sent to the principal’s office again.  Only this time, my parents were there waiting for me.  Mom looked like she’d just sucked a lemon.  Dad had steam coming out of her his ears.”  Students reported Katie’s mean behavior towards Monica to a teacher.   It was hard for Katie to hear the principal refer to her as a bully.  She hadn’t thought of herself as a bully, after all she hadn’t hit Monica.  What Katie hadn’t realized was that hurtful words and behavior are also forms of relational bullying.   Katie had to deal with the tough consequences of her behavior with a counselor.  She had to learn about being a better friend, and find a way to make up for the hurt she had caused.  Katie decided to write a journal and turn it into a special book to help kids learn about hurtful behavior from a former bully.

Why I like this book:  Trudy Ludwig wrote this unique book for her readers who wanted to know what happened to Katie after she bullied her friend Monica in  My Secret Bully.   In Confessions of a Former Bully, I liked that the school had an anti-bullying program in place to work with Katie and help her understand how her behavior affected others.  Katie apologized to Monica and all the kids, but they didn’t trust her.  I like that Trudy left no tidy ending.   Katie’s consequences will stay with her until she changes and becomes a better friend.  This is a great classroom book that children will relate to as they will be able to talk about the subject from both perspectives.   Beth Adams illustrated the book like a journal.  It is full of illustrations and very appealing to this age group.

Resources :  The book provides interesting discussion material for the classroom about bullying.  Trudy Ludwig is a member of the International Bullying Prevention Association and is a popular Random House 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 to use during October’s National Bullying Prevention Month.  You may also want to check out the National Bullying Prevention Center.