- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Middle school can be a difficult time for kids, especially those who become the targets of bullies. Girls often join cliques and practice the art of victimizing their peers. Boys seek out the weak and vulnerable to harass in the classroom, hallway or locker room. And technology ups the ante with online meanness, where cruelty can be anonymous and difficult to trace. In this lively presentation, victims of bullying tell their own stories, each account accompanied by a full-page color photograph of the narrator. Jean, burned as an infant, is taunted because of his appearance; Jaevon has seizures and is hit, spit upon and called "seizure boy" and "mental"; Emily, the new girl, tries to join a clique but is ever the outsider. Each of the 13 middle schoolers here experienced bullying and learned to deal with it. Advice from Dorothy Espelage, an expert on adolescent bullying, is offered on each page, and the volume concludes with "Tips on Dealing with Bullies." Given the topic, it's an upbeat approach offering realistic and down-to-earth advice, though the picture-book look may limit its reach. (Nonfiction. 8-12)
Posted May 12, 2012
Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories by Ousie Shapiro opens with a letter to the reader that addresses bullying broadly and sends the message to anyone who has ever been bullied that you are not alone and it is not your fault. Thirteen personal accounts follow. Eleven come from school-age children and teenagers talking about their experiences with bullying in grades 5 – 12, while two come from adults who recall being bullied when they were younger. Every story includes a photograph of the narrator by Steven Vote and a comment from bullying expert Dorothy Espelage (“Dr. Dorothy”). The book concludes with six tips on dealing with bullies: Ignore the bully, don’t fight back, tell someone you trust, find your real friends, steer clear of bullies, and don’t stand by and do nothing.
Excellent photography makes the book visually appealing, but its concept is stronger than its execution for two reasons: Shapiro never really defines what bullying is, and Dr. Dorothy’s advice seems confusing or inconsistent in light of the stories selected. Dr. Dorothy sidesteps the issue of self-defense and when, if ever, it’s appropriate to respond to violence with violence. She tells one boy who fights back physically it is not his fault. She tells another boy who beats up his bully and threatens someone who was bullying a friend that he was brave and kind to help his friend, but that it’s dangerous to stand up to bullies.
As a picture book designed for ages 9-12, Bullying and Me focuses on raising awareness and does create an opportunity for meaningful discussion with children in this age group. Unfortunately, it does not move beyond the standard bullying advice for children to avoid it if you can, ignore it if you cannot avoid it, and ultimately just tell an adult.
Laurie A. Gray
Reprinted from the Christian Library Journal (Vol. XV, No. 4, August 2011); used with permission.