Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean

Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean

by Jane Lynch, Tricia Tusa

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Glee actress Jane Lynch takes a look at bullying head-on in her first picture book.
Marlene is the self-appointed queen of the playground, the sidewalk, and the school. She is small but mighty . . . intimidating! Known for her cruel ways, the little Queen of Mean has kids cowering in fear—until big Freddy stands up to her and says what everyone has


Glee actress Jane Lynch takes a look at bullying head-on in her first picture book.
Marlene is the self-appointed queen of the playground, the sidewalk, and the school. She is small but mighty . . . intimidating! Known for her cruel ways, the little Queen of Mean has kids cowering in fear—until big Freddy stands up to her and says what everyone has been too fearful to say. In Seussian rhyme, actress Jane Lynch, clinical psychologist Lara Embry, and former children’s book editor A. E. Mikesell gently and comically depict the undoing of a bully and her efforts to reform. Tricia Tusa’s charming illustrations make the story an even more accessible conversation starter for all ages.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Glee star Lynch teams up with Embry, a clinical psychologist who is her former spouse, and writer Mikesell for a story about the turnaround of a mean girl. Though the tale’s verse doesn’t always shine (“She’d stand on a chair/ to gloom and to glare,/ making everyone feel really tense”), it has other virtues. Instead of an adult savior, a fellow student named Big Freddy figures out how Marlene’s bullying works: “We cringe and we cower/ and give her our power/ because we all think/ she’s in charge!” United in peaceful resistance, the kids call Marlene’s bluff. And even after her reform, Marlene doesn’t transform overnight: “Her kindness can slide/ and her tone can be snide/ because her change is so recent.” Tusa (It’s Monday, Mrs. Jolly Bones) makes Marlene’s huge pink hair bow a comic symbol of her malice. It sails provocatively above her head as she stares down a group of children, droops as she realizes her classmates are on to her, then wilts altogether. A discussion opener that provides those at the mercy of bullies with a new perspective on their adversaries. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—In this debut into the world of children's picture books, actress and comedian Lynch takes on school bullying. Marlene is intimidating. With her menacing stares, cruel pranks, and habit of pinching and kicking, she has become "queen of the scene." All the kids are afraid of her, until one day, astute Big Freddy asks, "Why?" He tells the playground of kids, "We cringe and we cower and give her our power because we all think that she's in charge!" When he tells Marlene that she is "just a bully," it is all that is needed to break her meanness into "123 pieces." When readers meet a reformed Marlene, she is learning to make friends, and though she's not intimidating anymore, she is still true to her nature and prone to the occasional prank. Tusa's signature watercolor pastel hues and cartoonlike pencil outlines offer a comic lightness and softness to a serious subject. Though the intended audience might not be familiar with Lynch's role as the bully Sue Sylvester on the television show Glee, this is an above-average celebrity picture book whose rhythm and rhyme scheme make for a fantastic read-aloud. It can also serve to open a discussion about bullying. Though similar in message, plot, and rhyme to Alexis O'Neill's The Recess Queen (Scholastic, 2002), libraries and classrooms cannot have too many books that explore the different ways children can be mean and what the bullied can do to stand up for themselves and others.—Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR
Kirkus Reviews
A heartfelt, albeit heavy-handed, treatise against bullying is delivered in plodding rhyming verse. Co-authored by Lynch (who, as Sue Sylvester on television's Glee, is a notorious bully), the rhyming text suffers under the weight of its earnest message and slim characterization. Why is Marlene so mean? Readers don't ever find out—apart from an oblique reference to anger that motivates her random acts of cruelty. Other children cower in her wake, while adults who might step in are pointedly absent from words and pictures. Finally, Big Freddy, "his voice loud and steady," intervenes to stop all the mean. He does so by simply asking Marlene why she is so mean and by pointing out to the others that she is not so scary after all. The children are emboldened by his actions, and they stand up to her too, refusing to flinch when she continues her tirade of bullying. In an odd narrative twist, she ends up sneezing out her meanness and deciding to reform, though the text eagerly points out that she doesn't become an angel overnight. Tusa's comical, lively, watercolor illustrations save the day in what would otherwise be a fairly forgettable addition to the anti-bullying bandwagon. With its heart on its sleeve, this offering falls short of other, better picture books that come out swinging against bullying. (Picture book. 4-6)
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Marlene is good at being bad. Although she is small, she looms large in the classroom and on the playground, wreaking havoc wherever she goes until one day Big Freddy dares to ask, “Why?” His standing up to her he gives everyone else power to do the same and Marlene’s bully identity unravels. Her anger turns to tears and she has to learn to be something different. Sometimes she falls back into to her old ways and habits, but she is slowly progressing and the other kids welcome her new self with open arms. Looking at the lengthy list of authors you might expect something rather heavy-handed, but the lilting rhymes and playful illustrations keep this safely and enjoyably in pre-school read-aloud range. There is still plenty to invite discussion about how to be a friend and how to stand up for yourself or others. Put this in the very short stack of books by celebrity authors that you can actually stand to read. Reviewer: Amy McMillan; Ages 4 to 7.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.40(d)
AD850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

JANE LYNCH is an actress, singer, playwright, and author. She can currently be seen in the TV show Glee on FOX for which she is an Emmy and Golden Globe winner for portraying the iconic bully, Sue Sylvester. LARA EMBRY, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and writer. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her family. A. E. Mikesell teaches writing in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Prior to teaching she was an editor of children's books. She lives in New York City with her family. This is the first picture book for all.

TRICIA TUSA is the illustrator (and author!) of many marvelous books for children, including The New York Times bestseller The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah.

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