Pam Allyn, founder and executive director of LitWorld and LitLife, wrote an excellent blog entry about how books can help both bullies and their victims cope with life’s challenges. Check it out! Here are some of the books she recommends to guide your child through tough times:
- “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon” by Patty Lovell: Molly Lou Melon makes no secret of her unique appearance. The wonderful illustrations, by David Catrow, also reinforce Molly’s quirky yet endearing looks. With the support of her grandmother, Molly exudes confidence and joy, radiating beauty even as her unusual features are emphasized. When Molly moves away from her grandmother and to a new school, she relies on that very confidence as she encounters people who bully her and the way she looks.
- “Enemy Pie” by Derek Munson: A clever parent teaches an important lesson in Enemy Pie. The narrator, a young boy, is certain that the arrival of his enemy, Jeremy Ross, to the neighborhood will make his life miserable. His father offers him some sneaky advice about how to deal with the situation, promising that if his son is nice to Jeremy for a whole day, he will create and serve a pie that will rid the neighborhood of Jeremy forever. Readers will see how kindness can be an effective tool in dealing with difficult peers.
- “The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson: Issues of race and friendship are central to this beautifully written and illustrated book. Jacqueline Woodson tells the tale of the friendship between two young girls, Clover and Annie. Their friendship carries the weight of racial segregation: Clover, who is African-American, lives on the other side of a fence that separates her from Annie, who is white. Woodson emphasizes the power of friendship and connectedness.
- “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi: Unhei has just moved to America from Korea and on her first day of school, she is worried about how her classmates will react to her name. She decides to withhold her name and, instead, plans to pick a new name out of a jar. The growing support of her classmates leads to her own acceptance of her true name.
- “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes: Eleanor Estes’ classic book is both heartbreaking and hopeful. A girl named Wanda Petronski wears the same blue dress to school every day. When her classmates make fun of her, she lies and claims that she has one hundred dresses at home. Her classmates see through her lie and their bullying grows more extreme, ultimately causing Wanda to leave the school. Maddie, another student who has watched these events unfold, feels real empathy for Wanda and for the outcome of the situation, vowing always to stand up to bullying in the future. The beauty of the book is not in a perfectly happy ending, but in the sensitive way these subjects are addressed.
- “Wonder” by RJ Palacio: Auggie, born with a facial deformity, goes to public school for the first time in fifth grade. My absolute favorite book of the year, and maybe one of my new favorites of all time, reading this book can change lives. The parents and sister all play vital roles in the book, too. The author describes the book as a “meditation on kindness.”