The Book of Mean People

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Overview

"This is a book about mean people. Some mean people are big. Some little people are mean." In Toni Morrison's second illustrated book collaboration with her son, Slade, she offers a humorous look at how children experience meanness and anger in our world. The world and its language can be confusing to young people. To them, meanness can have many shapes, sizes, and sounds. " My mother is mean when she says I don't listen. She says, "Do you hear me?" I can't hear her when she is screaming. This wise child knows that meanness can be a whisper or a
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Overview

"This is a book about mean people. Some mean people are big. Some little people are mean." In Toni Morrison's second illustrated book collaboration with her son, Slade, she offers a humorous look at how children experience meanness and anger in our world. The world and its language can be confusing to young people. To them, meanness can have many shapes, sizes, and sounds. " My mother is mean when she says I don't listen. She says, "Do you hear me?" I can't hear her when she is screaming. This wise child knows that meanness can be a whisper or a shout, a smile or a frown. Young readers know about meanness, too, and will feel satisfied by having their perspective championed in The Book of Mean People.

A young bunny finds a unique way to cope with the various mean people in his life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Mean people -- who needs 'em? In an observant and good-humored picture book, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison and her son, Slade, lend a voice to youngsters with a telling look at kids' experiences of meanness.

Using a simple but effective message, The Book of Mean People has one little bunny describing his perceptions of anger, along with all the mean people in his life. For example, he notices that "shouting is a favorite thing of mean people," but "some of the meanest people whisper." Words from family, babysitters, or teachers are also confusing and hurtful to him ("My grandparents are mean. My grandmother tells me to sit down. My grandfather tells me to sit up. How can I sit down and sit up at the same time?"), and he also wisely sees that someone's meanness can take the form of a smile, frown, or scream. But despite everyone's efforts to make him feel even smaller, the little guy realizes there's no need for his spirits to sink -- he can stay imaginative and happy, and just keep smiling.

Ideal for any kid who's feeling stung inside, The Book of Mean People speaks for children with certainty and thoughtfulness, without getting sappy. It's an astute book that deals with frequently overlooked emotions, and Pascal Lemaître's innocent bunny illustrations are just the icing on the cake, adding to the Morrisons' words with sweet humor and perspective that will have young readers nodding. A smart complement to discussions about bullying, understanding, or self-esteem, this gentle winner helps pad the hurt. Matt Warner

Publishers Weekly
"This is a book about mean people," opens the mother-son team's second collaboration (after The Big Box). The narrative begins as a series of statements about cruelty, but Lema tre (Emily the Giraffe) cleverly fashions the declaratives as thoughts belonging to an intelligent bunny narrator with a diminutive canine sidekick. For "Some mean people are big. Some little people are mean," a spread shows a huge bunny towering above the overalls-clad hero; in the next, a diapered bunny ties the narrator's long ears in knots. The book soon turns from general truisms about "mean" people into a lament about the incomprehensible demands of grown-ups. Lema tre, however, never ceases to see the humor in the situation. "My grandmother tells me to sit down. My grandfather tells me to sit up," appears on a spread depicting the bunny, one ear down, one ear up, looking torn between the two. The next spread ("How can I sit down and sit up at the same time?") portrays the bunny lying wide-eyed, tipped backwards in his chair, while his dog hides behind a table leg. Others scenarios are chilling, as when the bunny's mother screams ("Do you hear me?"), blasting the hero and his puppy clear across the room. "Frowning people scare me when they smile," the rabbit says at the end, surrounded by his family, all grinning evilly; but he has the last word: "I will smile anyway! How about that!" This bittersweet volume takes meanness in stride and advocates kindness as the antidote. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-Accompanied by whimsical pen-and-ink cartoon illustrations in the style of William Steig or Shel Silverstein, this book catalogs "mean people" from a child's point of view: "Some mean people are big. Some little people are mean.- My mother is mean. She says I don't listen. She says, `DO YOU HEAR ME?'" The illustrations feature a little bunny with big ears and a worried expression as she reacts to various unkind people in her family, before deciding to smile anyway and go play. The bunny's definition of "mean" includes a baby in diapers pulling the narrator's ears, her grandmother telling her to sit down, and her mother trying to get her to eat her peas-not instances of deliberate or intentional meanness. The book could be used as a springboard to discuss anger and shouting, etc., but it does not give any reassurance that any of these people are ever caring and loving.-Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786805402
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 9/30/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 48
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 9.75 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison
Few contemporary novelists have achieved the venerated status of Toni Morrison. She has written adored modern classics like Beloved and Song of Solomon that daringly blend the supernatural and the natural with an uncommonly poetic eloquence. She is a recipient of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Noble Prize for Literature, and is truly one of America’s most gifted storytellers.

Biography

Toni Morrison has been called "black America's best novelist," and her incredible string of imaginative contemporary classics would suggest that she is actually one of America's best novelists regardless of race. Be that as it may, it is indeed difficult to disconnect Morrison's work from racial issues, as they lie at the heart of her most enduring novels.

Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, a milieu Jet magazine described as "mixed and sometimes hostile," Morrison experienced racism firsthand. (When she was still a toddler, her home was set on fire with her family inside.) Yet, her father instilled in her a great sense of dignity, a cultural pride that would permeate her writing. She distinguished herself in school, graduating from Howard and Cornell Universities with bachelor's and master's degrees in English; in addition to her career as a writer, she has taught at several colleges and universities, lectured widely, and worked in publishing.

Morrison made her literary debut in 1970 with The Bluest Eye, the story of a lonely 11-year-old black girl who prays that God will turn her eyes blue, in the naïve belief that this transformation will change her miserable life. As the tale unfolds, her life does change, but in ways almost too tragic and devastating to contemplate. On its publication, the book received mixed reviews; but John Leonard of The New York Times recognized the brilliance of Morrison's writing, describing her prose as "...so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry."

Over time, Morrison's talent became self-evident, and her reputation grew with each successive book. Her second novel, Sula, was nominated for a National Book Award; her third, 1977's Song of Solomon, established her as a true literary force. Shot through with the mythology and African-American folklore that informed Morrison's childhood in Ohio, this contemporary folktale is notable for its blending of supernatural and realistic elements. It was reviewed rapturously and went on win a National Book Critics Circle Award.

The culmination of Morrison's storytelling skills, and the book most often considered her masterpiece, is Beloved. Published in 1987 and inspired by an incident from history, this post-Civil War ghost story tells the story of Sethe, a former runaway slave who murdered her baby daughter rather than condemn her to a life of slavery. Now, 18 years later, Sethe and her family are haunted by the spirit of the dead child. Heartbreaking and harrowing, Beloved grapples with mythic themes of love and loss, family and freedom, grief and guilt, while excavating the tragic, shameful legacy of slavery. The novel so moved Morrison's literary peers that 48 of them signed an open letter published in The New York Times, demanding that she be recognized for this towering achievement. The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize; and in 2006, it was selected by The New York Times as the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.

In addition to her extraordinary novels, Morrison has also written a play, short stories, a children's book, and copious nonfiction, including essays, reviews, and literary and social criticism. While she has made her name by addressing important African-American themes, her narrative power and epic sweep have won her a wide and diverse audience. She cannot be dismissed as a "black writer" any more than we can shoehorn Faulkner's fiction into "southern literature." Fittingly, she received the Nobel Prize in 1993; perhaps the true power of her impressive body of work is best summed up in the Swedish Academy's citation, which reads: "To Toni Morrison, who, in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality."

Good To Know

Chloe Anthony Wofford chose to publish her first novel under the name Toni Morrison because she believed that Toni was easier to pronounce than Chloe. Morrison later regretted assuming the nom de plume.

In 1986, the first production of Morrison's sole play Dreaming Emmett was staged. The play was based on the story of Emmett Till, a black teen murdered by racists in 1955.

Morrison's prestigious status is not limited to her revered novels or her multitude of awards. She also holds a chair at Princeton University.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Chloe Anthony Wofford (real name)
      Toni Morrison
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 18, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lorain, Ohio
    1. Education:
      Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2003

    If you are thoughtful, you will love this story.

    If you are thoughtful, you will love this story. I've read it to upper-elementary school kids with great success. The kids love to discuss any story that seems to be on their side, and perhaps in the face of the adult world. Take the time to think through the story from the child's perspective. The story's initially jarring impression makes its ulimate message much more powerful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2003

    A Terrible Message for Kids

    This book lumps people who nurture a child by helping the child learn the rules (of spelling, of promptness, of good nutrition, of chess) right in with those who yell and scream in order to hurt feelings. This is an immature view coming from a grown man who should know better. Don't read this book with your kids. Our job as parents is to help children discern the difference between meanness and kindness. We all know how literal preschoolers can be, and this book, while written for them, is harmful to them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

    A must read for all parents of children with AD/HD

    This book brought tears to my eyes! It's simple, I know, but if you have a child with ADD or AD/HD you'll understand where I'm coming from and you will see what their entire life feels like from the inside out and they still have a smile on their face regardless!

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