by Trudy Ludwig (Author), Beth Adams (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 8-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Tricycle Press (August 24, 2010)
Ten-year old Katie has hung up her bully hat. With gentle nudges from parents, principal and school counselor, she is now sharing her secrets with you and your child so that the bullying can stop.
Katie is a creation of author Trudy Ludwig in her latest offering to tweens, Confessions of a Former Bully. After five books, Ludwig has become much beloved by kids, parents and teachers. This award winning author has truly become an advocate for children in the area of social justice. Her former books deal with a variety of issues helping kids navigate the perils of social situations. In 2005, her first book My Secret Bully, disarmed the frenemy. In Just Kidding, Ludwig tackled teasing. Sorry exposed the insincere apology and Trouble Talk illuminated the problems of gossiping. Her fifth book, Too Perfect (read review), shed light on the problems of perfectionism. The latest book builds on this body of work and offers a new perspective—that of the reformed aggressor. Now with the help of Katie, we can pull the curtain on the bully once and for all.
Confessions of a Former Bully is written in the guise of a journal. The school principal has asked Katie to meet with the school counselor Mrs. Petrowski once a week as consequence for her unkind actions, in order to learn more about bullying behavior and how to be a better friend. Her parents have asked her to keep a journal about what she has learned.
Illustrator Beth Adams’ child-like drawings and margin doodles help create an authentic tween journal feel. While it is written in the voice of a tween, Katie is clearly smart and there is no annoying tween jargon. The handwritten type-face and faux taped-in snippets help create the journal feel. But lest you judge this book by its cover, beware—Katie’s journal is in no way jejune. It is chock-full of helpful information, charts, “Quick Facts”, reflections and revelations. Knowledge comes in many ways, like Mrs. Petrowski’s “Think-About It” cards. These bright yellow quote cards offer gems from the greats: Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Seuss among them. They stress virtues like self-respect, self-reflection, courage and taking responsibility. As Ludwig has said:
“There is always more room for character education in our children’s lives–particularly books that help teach empathy and social skills.”
Katie’s journal is a veritable treasure chest of helpful information, inspiration and tools. I especially love Mrs. Petrowski’s Totally Awesome Empower Tools—eight different strategies for empowering yourself and disarming the bully. I had to quietly smile as they seemed awfully similar to the strategies given in the “Freeing Yourself from the Inner Critic” course I attended not long ago. Hmmm, perhaps bullying is not restricted to the playground. Adult readers may pick up a tip or two to help deflate their Inner Bully.
In the back of the book, after a note from the author, studies are cited to support the “Quick Facts” and resources; and further reading is listed for both parents and kids. Ludwig’s books are considered bibliotherapeutic tools. Bibliotherapy, in her words is “the use of books as an adjunct therapeutic tool to help children understand and cope with emotional /social problems.” Ludwig continues, saying, “It helps to instill critical thinking skills in young readers by allowing them to identify with the characters of a story and acquire greater insight into their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Simply speaking, it paves the way to greater understanding and empathy for oneself and others.”
Confessions of a Former Bully teaches us how to disarm the bully by taking the power and the fun out of bullying. Best of all the reformed bully is not vilified but respected for her courage to change. With the help of Katie and Trudy Ludwig, kids will soon be pulling back the curtain on the bullies—with an empathetic hand. This book will be a sought after resource in both the home and the school library.
by Phillip Walton
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Rising Star Studios, LLC. (March 15, 2010)
Kids who love the Pixar movie Cars and fans of the Auto-B-Good television series can learn a lesson in respect from EJ and the Bully. EJ a little green mini is bullied by his classmate Warren the menacing station wagon as the two cars compete for class president. EJ’s friend Derek tells him the best way to deal with a bully is to talk, walk and tell. First, tell the bully how his actions make you feel, letting him know that you deserve respect. Next, don’t argue or fight, but walk away before things get out of hand and finally if the bully still doesn’t leave you alone report him to a teacher or another adult.
EJ and the Bully is one of six new books in a series which aims to teach character traits. The text is bunched in comic book fashion and the art is computer generated. Personally, I feel that what might work as a frame in a video may not in book format. However, the lesson is one of respect and the pithy talk, walk and tell advice is easy to remember and may be helpful for younger children.
Other lessons in the six book series include fairness, caring, trustworthiness, responsibility and citizenship. Parents who are unfamiliar with the Emmy award winning TV series might first want to preview the books first since they are one medium in a larger campaign which includes videos in three different editions—home, school and church.
Add this book to your collection: Auto-B-Good: EJ and the Bully – A Lesson in Respect
by Sarah Duchess of York (Author), Ian Cunliffe (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 24 pages
Publisher: Sterling (May 27, 2010)
Matthew and the Bullies is the latest in the Helping Hands Book series written by Sarah, Duchess of York and published by Sterling. This tale about bullying tells the story of a boy who is being bullied by classmates and is reluctant to seek help from either parent or teachers. His classmate Amy helps persuade him to share his problem and both his mother and teacher come together to rectify it. The story is simple with a quick resolution—it’s clear, however, it may come a little too easily for some. This book will work best when read aloud by parents of five- to seven-year-old children. The final pages list “Ten Helpful Hints: for parents whose child is being bullied” written by a leading British child psychologist Dr. Richard Woolfson, PhD.
The Duchess’ other Helping Hand books– Ashley Learns About Strangers, Emily’s First Day at School and Michael and His New Baby Brother also offer simple stories illustrated by Mr. Cunliffe and followed by helpful hints from Dr. Woolfson.
Do pick up a copy of the Duchess’ popular Tea for Ruby (read review), illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser of Fancy Nancy fame, to teach courtly manners to your four-year-old princess.
Add this book to your collection: Helping Hand Books: Matthew and the Bullies