As we continue to promote anti-bullying this month, we’ve decided to curate a brief list of some books that may be helpful to parents. Some of them will be quite obvious choices while others may give readers pause to consider the larger problems surrounding bullying and what it looks like on a national and global scale.
Please share, in the comments, other titles that could be added to the list!
Pre-School and Elementary Age Resources
The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby
When the new boy in his 2nd grade class tries to get the other students to play a game that involves saying the meanest thing possible to one another, Little Bill finds himself in a predicament. Kids’ games aren’t always innocent and this highlights that for young readers as they partake in them. Little Bill begins to adopt his father’s expression of “So?” which turns it around for those doing the teasing. A simple response to a complex problem.
Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna
Yes, that Madonna. This was her second book and it takes place in Happville, USA where Mr. Peabody is the beloved school teacher and baseball coach. One day, due to a simple error and assumption, Mr. Peabody finds himself on the bad end of a rumor that spreads quickly through town. A book that puts a simple spin on what “gossip” is and what it can do, our protagonist Mr. Peabody silences the nasty rumor with an unforgettable and poignant lesson. His humble actions are commendable and easy for young readers to understand.
Ripple’s Effect by Shawn Achor, illustrated by Amy Blankson
Happiness has a ripple effect and sometimes our bullies are thwarted when we return kindness for meanness. Shawn Achor published this book through us at Little Pickle Press, but he is also the author author of the bestseller The Happiness Advantage and spends his time researching happiness and teaching positive psychology at Harvard University. This children’s book shows children that they can face their fears by making friends of their bullies and that attitude is everything in our outlook on life.
How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson
Amazon lists this book as a Pre-K or grade 1 book that uses “reverse etiquette” to “advise readers to never smile or share; to be a bully and whine; to tattle and be a poor sport. Each “rule” offers specific examples and is illustrated with brightly colored pictures.”
Examples for children are simple for young, emerging readers and it gives parents the opportunity to have deeper, complex conversations later to discuss things such as tattling which, at older ages, can be a difficult issue.
Blubber by Judy Blume
I couldn’t possibly leave one of my favorite middle school reads from my own youth off this list and Judy Blume fits the bill with Blubber. Not only does she take on the cruel teasing that happens in childhood, she also takes on the issue of race as an African-American family moves into a neighborhood, thus juxtaposing bullying on multiple levels.
Jill, the protagonist, joins in the teasing of the overweight Linda because she wants to fit in with the rest of the students. Vicious cycles are repeated and yet we don’t see the bully earn her due which is, sadly, representative of real life.
Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig
Better Than You shows children how adopting a “better than you” attitude can ruin friendships rather than build them and takes on the issue of bragging. Jake’s incessant bragging gets on Tyler’s nerves by always “one-upping” him and working hard to prove he knows better and can do everything better. Great conversation starters with kids to discuss “puffing yourself up”.
Illustrations from Adam Gustavson
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August Pullman, nicknamed Auggie, is a 10-year-old boy who loves Star Wars and Xbox and is completely normal in that sense. However, he has facial anomalies which has kept him homeschooled until he goes to school in 5th grade. A lovely book fully of August’s internal dialogue delight readers as well as Auggie’s incredible courage in facing that which could have been avoided if he remained at home for school. Middle school children adore this book.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee might have lived a normal life if a freak accident hadn’t made him an orphan and put him on the run. After living an unhappy existence with his quarreling aunt and uncle for 8 years, he decides to run. Except, he doesn’t just run away. He runs, a metaphor that weaves throughout the entire novel. His adventures help create the myth of legendary feats surrounding him with memorable characters in a racially divided small town.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Clay Jensen, a high school student, finds a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch one day and discovers multiple cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker. Hannah is the girl Clay has had a crush on but has recently committed suicide. Listening to Hannah’s haunting and recorded voice, Jay learns that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life and, even more shocking, that Clay is one of them. As he hears her tell her story in her own voice it gives power to the events and unfolds as a mystery that he may not want to solve. Clay is not only a witness but is party to the bullying she experienced and he’s forced to face truths that are painful to accept.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Cris Crutcher
This mature subject matter novel is about two high school social outcasts, Eric and Sarah, who help one another to stand up against the cruelty they witness among their peers and a few bullying adults. Eric and Sarah both have terrible, but different “scars” made them standouts as outcasts. As Eric’s fat “scar” is diminished by the highly physical activity of swimming, he remains close to Sarah as she ends up in the hospital. He learns more about her scars and the secrets she has been hiding in a highly delicate novel that mirrors life too well.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book is about much more than just the Holocaust and WWII and gives voice to the larger issues of bullying that make humans turn on one another. Set in 1939 Nazi Germany with Death as the narrator, Liesel Meminger is our powerful protagonist. Liesel is a foster girl living outside of Munich who, upon learning to read, steals the books that Nazis want to burn. She shares her learning with a Jewish man hiding in the basement and we see bullying through her eyes in multiple forms.
We are CERTAIN to have left off your favorites to read with children or recommend to older readers. What titles would you suggest for anti-bullying?