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Note: This was first posted over at The Nerdy Book Club, a great sight for fans of children’s books. Recommended.
EVERYBODY ELSE IS ALREADY TAKEN
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
After I wrote the book BYSTANDER (Macmillan, 2009), I began to receive invitations to speak at middle schools. I was wary at first of being perceived as anybody’s “anti-bullying program.”
I wrote a book. Not a pamphlet, not a list of discussion questions, not a nonfiction guide to bullying. I could not offer a handy list of ten ways to make your school a bully-proof zone. I didn’t even believe in it.
I wrote a story –- that was the tool at my disposal.
Stories are essential to our lives. How could we live without them? We watch television, go to movies, tell tales to our friends and neighbors, conjure dreams at night, play complex video games, read books. Humans are storytelling creatures. We seem to need stories. Something inside us craves stories, we hunger for them, ravenous.
Why is that?
Stories function differently than nonfiction. The characters have a way of worming inside our souls. Robert McKee, in his book, STORY, claims that “Stories are equipment for living.”
Equipment for living.
Our lives race past us, a frantic blur, and we move from the next thing, to the next, to the next, with barely a moment’s reflection.
Stories give us pause. They give our lives form and shape. And time. We turn a page. We consider. We piece together the meaning of our days through the stories we hear.
And we ask of these stories the same question, over and over again: What is a good life? How are we to conduct ourselves here on this earth?
Well-told stories, as Harper Lee so beautifully demonstrated in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, allow us to walk in someone’s else’s shoes. Remember that remarkable scene at the end of the book? When Scout walks Boo Radley home, climbs up to his porch, and for a moment turns and looks at the world from his perspective?
Scout concluded: “Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”
It’s also called empathy, understanding, compassion.
Story isn’t an escape from reality. It is a light that shines upon the dark corners of our world, the secret places, the hidden fears and hopes and dreams.
It is why books matter, and why, I now know, some teachers have embraced BYSTANDER –- among other novels — as a way to explore this complex topic.
I’ve stood on a stage in auditoriums in front of 500, 600, 700 middle school-age children. Or as they refer to them in Ireland, “young people.” I like that. Young people. So much more intrinsically respectful than kids, little lambs eat ivy.
Despite my experience visiting places like Oklahoma and South Carolina, Illinois and Connecticut, Florida and Michigan, I’m still in the process of learning how to talk about bullying. Still growing into my own shoes. Still learning to speak above a whisper.
One of the central ideas embedded in the book – an idea I came to understand only through the passage of time – also happens to be one that’s incredibly difficult for me to directly convey to middle school students. So I don’t try to tell it, per say, so much as hope it leaks out over everything, like sunlight through the edges of a drawn blind. But I think it’s worth saying to you, here.
Research shows that bullying peaks in middle school. Why is that?
Let’s recall Emerson’s quote from up top, and agree that one of the greatest achievements in life is to become, simply, one’s true self. It sounds easy enough, but as we know, it is not. I’m a father, I have three children, including a 7th-grader and a 9th-grader. I watch their awkwardness and insecurities and struggles.
To be content in your own skin.
To not look to others for your cues.
To accept and trust who you are, to follow your own inner compass.
These are not easy things.
At no time in life is it tougher than in middle school, when peers begin to replace parents as prime influencers. How to dress, what to talk about, what to watch on television, how to act, where to sit, whom to befriend, whom to avoid. This is how we forge identity, hammering out our awareness of self (which is a created thing after all, the “self” we decide to become). At middle school, many of these daily details are powerfully influenced by the pack.
Yet a primary aspect to becoming a true individual is the casting off of those concerns. It’s a challenge for anybody to stand up against the crowd. For a middle schooler, it’s close to impossible. On a deep level, in terms of self-identity, they see themselves as the group. The group is them, the individual swallowed by the great whale. And we are all Pinocchio, trapped inside the dark belly, fumbling for a light, yearning to become a real boy.
This dynamic is how young people find their place in the world. We watch others to learn about ourselves. We tell stories. We listen. And then when it comes to bullying, the adults in their lives tell these young people to not worry what anybody else thinks.
“Who cares what anyone thinks!”
Well, they care. They care so much.
In my heart, I believe the lasting answer to bullying is to become a genuine, authentic, free-thinking, responsible individual. The best definition of responsibility I’ve heard is “the ability to respond,” to act according to the courage of your convictions.
People are good, I absolutely believe that. And the closer people hone into to their true selves, the better and more moral they become.
Be yourself. In doing so, we all become far more likely to allow others the freedom to be their selves.
Shakespeare: “This above all: To thine own self be true!”
Or, if you prefer, Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”
Trudy Ludwig's The Invisible Boy is about a quiet little boy named Brian. Brian is not overtly bullied, but he is made to feel invisible because he is ignored by his classmates. When he reaches out to a new classmate, however, things begin to change, and the invisible boy begins to be seen. I'm not normally a fan of overt issue books, but The Invisible Boy worked for me. Part of this was because I love Patrice Barton's gentle illustrations.
But also, I think, The Invisible Boy worked because I so empathized with (ached for) Brian. He's a real character, not a prop for an issue book. He spends his free time "doing what he loves to do best", drawing. He remains hopeful, even in the presence of the other children's indifference (when they don't pick him for a team, or talk right in front of him about a party he wasn't invited to). And when the other kids make fun of the new boy's Korean lunch, Brian "sits there wondering which is worse--being laughed at or feeling invisible." And he takes action. A small, believable, true-to-his-nature action. It's lovely.
Barton's digitally painted pencil sketches are simply perfect for this story. She shows Brian in gray tones, next to the brighter colors of the other kids. As the new boy responds to Brian's gesture, appreciating him for his art, Brian starts to bloom with a hint of color. And by the end of the book, he's "not so invisible after all."
The other kids form a realistically diverse palette, with Brian's eventual two friends Korean and African American. The kids are all rosy-cheeked and in slightly soft focus, in the same style as the baby in Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale, which Barton also illustrated. Brian's drawings are also realistically rendered - they look like the work of an elementary school boy, with imaginative characters and stereotypical adventure trappings (dragons and pirates).
The Invisible Boy is both heartbreaking and hearwarming. It takes on the situation of quiet kids who are overshadowed by their more attention-seeking peers, and personalizes this via Brian. And what I like best is that Brian takes the first step himself to find a solution, rather than being helped by any external forces. (Teachers may not appreciate the complete lack of help the teacher provides here, but I like to see kids solving the problem in children's books.)
The Invisible Boy will resonate with kids who feel lost in the crowd. And isn't that most of them, sometimes. It might even make the chatty kids who are the ones doing the ignoring think twice about the kids on the fringes. Quite a powerful thing from a picture book. Recommended for school and library purchase.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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The Invisible Boy, a new book that deals with the isolation quiet children can feel, is the kind of book that serves multiple purposes in an elementary school classroom (e.g., interactive read aloud book, teaching demonstration text, mentor text for strategy lessons). Previews of the book and giveaway information come at the bottom of the post.
On Friday the 20th, I traveled to Wolcott, Connecticut, where I spoke to 650 students, grades 6-8, at Tyrrell Middle School. They had all read Bystander as part of their summer reading program and, I’m sure, as part of their school-wide anti-bullying initiative. The feeling in that school was very impressive. Thank you for all your hard work to make this happen, Sara Tedesco. I’ve been wearing the shirt!
Wait. What shirt?
That’s the design on the back of the long sleeve shirt created and sold (I think) at the school. I was presented one as a gift. The design, created by the librarian, Sara Tedesco, was a variation of the Bystander book cover, with a more positive, local spin. Brilliant.
Come to think of it, those students said they read Bystander. But I’ll admit it, some of those kids looked pretty tan. When I see young people under these circumstances, I often apologize, explaining that in all my hopes and wild dreams, I never intended to become somebody’s homework.
On Sunday, I flew from Albany, NY, to Chicago, and then on to Oklahoma City for four full days of visits in the Yukon school district.
Maybe you’ve heard of it.
Garth Brooks was born and raised there.
The main school I visited — it had a big auditorium, so several neighboring schools bused their students to us — was located on Garth Brooks Drive, because of course it was.
My first morning I stopped into a 7-11, still groggy & desperate for caffeine. After I completed the purchase of one cold Starbucks Mocha something, the cashier asked:
“Would you like a sack with that?”
“Would you like a sack?”
My brain was still fuzzy. The flight had been delayed. I had slept less than four hours. “A sock?”
(Yes, in my pre-caffinated state, I silently wondered if, perhaps, in Oklahoma cashiers offered people socks. Maybe this is what they do here? “Why, yes! I’ll take argyle!”)
(Next comes helpless staring, where wonderment meets bewilderment. At last a light bulb goes on.)
“A sack!” I say. “Like a bag!”
“Yes, sack, bag. I call ‘em sacks.”
At that moment, I knew that I had fully arrived in Oklahoma. The land of sacks, not bags, far from the standard question of, “Paper or plastic?”
Across four days in the Sooner state, I gave thirteen presentations to 5,600 students, grades 2-8. And I can honestly say that they all loved me, every single one of them.
Actually, well, there was one kid . . .
The truth is, everyone treated me wonderfully throughout the visit. Respectfully, kindly. I felt blessed and fortunate. I can’t thank everyone enough, and won’t really try to here (I tried to there, in person).
Wednesday night I made it over to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
The museum was incredibly moving, artistic and powerfully effective. I was, at times, a blubbering mess, but in a good way.
If you ever get the chance, by all means, yes, get yourself over to the museum — and prepare to feel the power of that experience right down to the soles of your shoes.
Then I walked over to Bricktown and treated myself to a “cowboy steak” at Mantle’s restaurant, just across from the ballpark. It was a peaceful, reflective, delicious meal, and I was happy to be exactly where I was.
Thank you, Yukon, OK. It was really terrific for me to gain a first-hand experience of Sooner Pride. To meet all those kids. And try, in my own limited way, to leave each school a slightly better place where together we value reading, thinking, and basic human kindness.
Most especially, thank you Jenah Hamilton, middle school librarian, the force of nature who made my visit possible.
A new Guinness ad and discussions of the forthcoming "Anti-Bullying Week" have collided to dust off the trusty blog. Blog, I've missed you. I have some things to say.
First of all, if you haven't seen the now-viral Guinness ad, take a moment to watch. Go on. I'll still be here on the other side:
A good deal of praise has circulated for this ad on the trusty Interwebtm, and rightfully so. It departs from traditional beer ads--yes, these are big, tough, men, but they aren't acting stupid or belligerent or sexist. There are no bikini-clad models here. Just dudes playing ball and enjoying beers afterwards.
Now some have suggested it isn't an appropriate or sensitive portrayal of a disabled person using a wheelchair. (See "Just One of the Guys" on Emily Ladau's blog, Words I Wheel By, as an example.) Here's the thing--and this is my opinion based on my life experience--this ad wasn't about disability or wheelchair users. Its intent is to sell beer. Even the famous Nike ad featuring NWBA star Matt Scott from a few years back was designed to sell Nike apparel. Neither of these companies can surely believe they are advocates for disabled rights, can they? Both use a man in a wheelchair to foster emotional appeal because emotional appeal works. Ads sell products--but sometimes they do so with dignity and respect and make us feel good.
I love an ad which can make me feel positive without deriding anyone. Nothing in the Guinness ad puts down the man in the wheelchair--in fact, he says "You guys are getting better at this," before the others step out of their wheelchairs. It's a beer commercial which shows guys being guys without negative stereotypes, oafish behavior, sexism, or other negative "guy" stereotypes. In fact, it promotes something I wish could become a "guy" stereotype: camaraderie. Friendship. Being good to each other--not pity for the guy in the wheelchair (I didn't read pity in the ad at all), but genuinely being good to each other.
Bullying has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It's a large part of my job as guidance counselor and a large part of life for too many kids, boys and girls alike. Beer ads are often bully ads, the cool kids (usually oafish, over-muscled men) drinking the right beer and landing the hot chicks. Beer ads often encourage the worst in us. Beer ads are notorious for being "generally pretty juvenile" as Aaron Taube at Business Insider explains in his discussion of the Guinness ad. I don't celebrate the Guinness ad because it includes a man in a wheelchair. I applaud it because it is about positive stuff--the good stuff--friendship, loyalty, hard work...
For me, the ad isn't about the disability; it's nice to see men who don't have to be ignorant, insensitive, sexist jerks enjoying beer. That is all.
*Rating: Karmack by J. C. Whyte (MuseItUp Publishing) is a good novel about a bully who learns a bit about karma through the creature pictured here. Filled with humor, interesting characters, plenty of pranks, adventure, and a subtle lesson, children will enjoy this book immensely.
Short, short summary: Sully is the Big Cheese of the 5th grade. He got that way by being tough (a bully) and playing pranks on everyone from classmates to his teachers. He has a gang, and he has enemies. . .until one day, when he sees a little creature, Karmack (stands for Karma) playing pranks on him and his friends. He’s able to catch Karmack and question him about what he’s doing. Karmack’s basically there to even out all the bad things that Sully and his friends are doing. If Karmack doesn’t do his job, all of their bad deeds will add up, and some doom will happen to them. In the end, Sully figures out how to beat bad Karma, and he changes as a result of it. Although it sounds like this novel could be preachy, I don’t feel like it is. The lesson is there, but the characters and situations are interesting enough to get kids into the novel and discuss the lesson afterwards.
1. This is a great book to work on reading skills, such as character arc, character emotions, and character motivation. Sully goes through amazing changes in the book–you can discuss why with kids–and also list characteristics he has BEFORE he meets Karmack that might have led to him being able to make these changes.
2. Give students a journal writing prompt: If you could have a conversation with Karmack about your good and bad deeds, what would you say? Write a one-page conversation between you and Karmack OR a letter to Karmack. Are you “balanced”? Could you get “balanced”? What if you are leaning in a good way–more good than bad?
3. Before you read the end of the book with children, stop at the part where Sully says he put the mustache on the photo. Ask: Do you think he really did it? Why or why not? How did it get there? Why is it there? What’s going to happen now that Sully admitted it, but maybe didn’t do it? Ask students to use their knowledge of the story world to make some predictions. Then after reading the ending, see who predicted correctly. (As long as a prediction is logical, even if not correct, it works for this activity.)
Guardian Angel Kids September 2013 Bullying issue - www.guardian-angel-kids.com.
Unfortunately, bullying is an every day occurrence that needs to be stopped. Especially with the advances of technology, there are people that use it to their advantage. Taunting others from behind their keyboard.
Share this month's issue with your children and young adults in your life today and help stop bullying.
Benjamin Jay was a Bully by Emma Glover Art by KC Snider
Chy’s Guys by Donna J. Shepherd
Finding Frankenfeet by Jennifer Buchet
Saving Hercules by Debbie Allard
Shrimp by Felicity Nisbet
Frank and the Forever Flute by Elizabeth Glann
Hen Pecked by Shari L. Klase
PARENT TEACHER ARTICLE
Cyber Bullying: Its Prevalence and What to do about it? by Irene S. Roth
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
Back-to-school is here! Summer is coming to a close and classrooms are prepping to welcome new students to take the long journey through the next grade. The first day of school can be scary for many children, especially as they enter a new school, or are beginning school for the first time. So, in honor of the first day of school we have compiled a list of Sylvan Dell books that are great reads to prepare for that first day.
The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights – Imagine if the one thing that keeps you safe is what you fear the most. This enchanting story tells of a giraffe who suffers from the fear of heights. His parents worry about his safety and send him to the village doctor for treatment. Along the way he befriends a monkey who is afraid of climbing trees and a hippo that is afraid of water. A life-threatening event causes the three friends to face and overcome each of their fears.
Home in the Cave – Baby Bat loves his cave home and never wants to leave it. While practicing flapping his wings one night, he falls, and Pluribus Packrat rescues him. They then explore the deepest, darkest corners of the cave where they meet amazing animals—animals that don’t need eyes to see or colors to hide from enemies. Baby Bat learns how important bats are to the cave habitat and how other cave-living critters rely on them for their food. Will Baby Bat finally venture out of the cave to help the other animals?
Henry the Impatient Heron – Henry the Heron couldn’t stand still! He was always moving, and it drove everyone crazy! His brother and sister yelled at him for stepping on their heads, and Mom and Dad could barely get food into his little baby mouth. But herons have to stand still to catch their food, so how would Henry ever be able to eat on his own? In Henry, the Impatient Heron, Donna Love takes readers along with Henry as he learns a valuable lesson from the King of Camouflage! Hilarious and lighthearted illustrations by Christina Wald complement the important lesson in the text. It is a meaningful lesson for both herons and kids alike, which teaches the importance of just being still!
How the Moon Regained Her Shape – This fascinating story influenced by Native American folktales explains why the moon changes shape and helps children deal with bullies. After the sun insults and bullies her, the moon feels so badly hurt that she shrinks and leaves the sky. The moon turns to a comet and her many friends on earth to comfort her. Her friends include rabbits and Native Americans. Then she regains her full shape, happiness, and self-esteem. The moon also returns to her orbit.
And for the younger siblings just beginning counting and ABC’s
ABC Safari - Let’s search for adventure above in the sky. We’ll scout through the mountains and hills, and then try exploring the forests, the meadows and plains, across the dry desert and through jungle rains. We’ll trek through a swamp, a puddle, a pond, in lakes and the river, the ocean beyond. But, what are we looking for? Who will we see? Find animals on this Safari with me! Once you’ve discovered all the animals, turn to the “For Creative Minds” educational section for sorting cards and animal fun facts.
Count Down to Fall - The summer days get a little colder; the leaves turn from green to orange and red. Fall must be on the way, and while you unpack sweaters and scarves, the animals frolic outside in the crisp autumn air beneath a wide blue sky. In Fran Hawk’s Count Down to Fall, watch the falling leaves tumble all around. The vibrant and detailed illustrations of Sherry Neidigh capture the majesty of the maple, the oak, the linden, and more. Critters play in the time of changing seasons, and remind us that the changes of the earth affect us all-animals and humans alike!
We hope that you have a wonderful first day of school!
If you haven't yet heard of the Less Than <3 event, I hope to shed some light on it and here. encourage you to attend. It will be held this Fall on October 19th. It will run from 9am-2pm in St. Peters Missouri and it will be held at the Spencer Hill branch of the St. Charles City-County Library. For even better directions go
This event is to have authors, librarians, bloggers, book lovers, book sellers, teens, tweens, parents, teachers, and whoever else that would love to attend and join together.
This is a YA Lit event focused on bullying. There are several bestselling authors currently on the list and the list is still having authors added to it. The authors will host their own panels and each will specialize in different strategies and positive approaches. To see the list of authors, visit here.
The Less Than Three event was created by Heather Brewer in hopes to rally against and help put a stop to bullying. This event does have limited availability and tickets are being sold for a mere $10 each. For more information and to purchase your tickets, check it out here. As of now, only 202 tickets are still available. Hope to see you there!
Chris Rylander delivers a funny Ferris Bueler-style middle grade novel with The Fourth Stall.
Do you need something? Mac can get it for you. It's what he does—he and his best friend and business manager, Vince. Their methods might sometimes run afoul of the law, or at least the school code of conduct, but if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can pay him, Mac is on your side. His office is located in the East Wing boys' bathroom, fourth stall from the high window. And business is booming.
Or at least it was, until one particular Monday. It starts with a third grader in need of protection. And before this ordeal is over, it's going to involve a legendary high school crime boss named Staples, an intramural gambling ring, a graffiti ninja, the nine most dangerous bullies in school, and the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in almost seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Mac and Vince soon realize that the trouble with solving everyone else's problems is that there's no one left to solve yours.
Review: The Fourth Stall is a hilarious play on The Godfather set in an elementary school. The Godfather in question is Mac, short for MacGuyver because he’s the guy that can get you anything. And the fourth stall is and empty bathroom stall where he conducts his business. The empire is run by a small sixth grader and his best friend who loan out their services helping solve the problems of their fellow classmates for a small fee. Their business is threatened when the mysterious kingpin, Staples, starts a gambling ring at their school. Using tough high school kids and bully tactics, Staples plans on taking Mac and his friends down. Loyalties are tested when Mac finds out that there’s a mole in his organization. Can Mac hold the business together and flush out the rat at the same time or is this the end of his career? And will the Cubs make it to the World series this year?
Each person in Mac’s crew had a distinct personality and I loved reading the bios of the various school bullies. I am partial to Kitten, the small and polite sociopath, who is ruthless and more than a little scary. I definitely don’t want to get on his bad side. And it was cool to see Mac band the bullies together in order to deal with Staples. I had some mixed feelings the violence in this book. On one hand, it was pretty graphic (especially for the middle grade reader that I think this book is aimed at) but on the other hand, I think there had to be real consequences to their actions in order to make the story work. And though Mac ends up using strong arm tactics to aid his own cause, he doesn't feel good about it. While the book doesn't glorify violence in the schoolyard, it doesn't shy away from it either.
What drew me in though was the friendship between Mac and his best friend Vince. Their easy rapport and camaraderie seemed genuine. They were a bit like an old married couple and I was really worried when their friendship was threatened. Ultimately this is a story about friendship and family. And though I am not a sports fan, I found their dedication and obsession with The Cubs to be funny and endearing. It almost made to me want to watch a baseball game. ;)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012, 320 pp, ISBN: 0375869026
Recap: August Pullman doesn't look like anyone else. Born with a severe facial deformity that is still dramatic even after years of plastic surgery, Auggie tells readers "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." At the beginning of August's 5th grade year, he starts attending public school for the first time in his life. Not surprisingly, the transition is anything but easy. But August's life is like real life - nothing can be all good or all bad, people will always surprise you, there is always hope. Review: Book lovers, I am woefully late to the party that is Wonder. Admittedly, I skipped it on purpose. I knew the gist of the story, and just didn't feel like being depressed. But it's one of the Contenders for the 2013 BOB so off to the library I went. Two nights ago I posted on my sister's facebook wall "Please give me some encouragement to start Wonder..." Within 30 minutes there was a LIST of different people telling me to read it immediately, and they all used lots of exclamation points. I couldn't avoid it any longer. And I am kicking myself for waiting so long. Wonder is 100% about one boy's face, and how it affects the people around him. But you know what? It's also not really about his face at all. Wonder is about all of us. It's about how we choose to treat each other - how much effort we are willing to make to reach out, to love, to empathize with one another, whether we know each other or not. Wonder is about living life courageously, and with a sense of humor. It is about doing the right thing, not because we will be applauded or appreciated - but doing the right thing, even when others may laugh or turn their backs, simply because it is right. As I read, I couldn't help but think of my son, Lincoln. He has the sweetest spirit and the kindest heart, and I just pray that his dad and I can help him to nurture and guard those qualities as he grows up. I hope that Lincoln grows up to be like Auggie, or Via, or Jack, or Summer. I never buy books, but there is no doubt that I will be adding a copy of Wonder to Linc's bookshelf. One note about the format: I've read some reviews where the reader really didn't care for the way the narrators switched around to include a variety of different people in August's life. While I thought some choices were surprising (his sister's boyfriend for one), the changing narrators never once pulled me out of the story. In fact, I felt like they added so much more dimension. Because of the multiple first-person perspectives, we were able to witness a variety of personal transformations on a very intimate level. I loved that. But I just really wished Mr. Browne had had his own chapters; his precepts were one of my favorite parts of the book! Recommendation: Read it. Read it to your children. Read it in your book club. Read it with your students, or your spouse, or your best friend. Wonder is literally a must-read. BOB Prediction: Oh man, this is a tough one. A huge part of me wants to predict that Wonder will go all the way to the Big Kahuna Round. However... it's up against Bomb in the first round. Potentially life-changing fiction vs. absolutely brilliant nonfiction. This one is too close for me to call; I'd be happy either way! Quotable Quotes: "Shall we make a new rule of life... always try to be a little kinder than necessary." - J.M. Barrie "Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world." - August Pullman "If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God." - Mr. Tushman
. The Odd Squad, Book 1: Bully Bait Written & Illustrated by Michael Fry Hyperion Books 5 Stars . From Website: Nick is the shortest seventh-grader in the history of the world (he’s pretty sure), doesn’t fit in with any groups or clubs (who needs ’em?), and spends more time inside than outside his locker …
. Manner-Man by Sherrill S. Cannon Illustrated by Kalpart Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co. 4 Stars From Website: This dynamic superhero helps children learn to cope with bullies and teaches them ways to be considerate of others. Manner-Man incorporates messages and characters found within some of Cannon’s earlier books – and shows children how …
Are you eager to embrace your goals in 2013? Many people around you might be talking about their desires to get closer to fulfilling certain accomplishments. What about you? What will you plan on changing this year? How do you want to make 2013 better than 2012? Think about it. Close your eyes and picture yourself graduating from college, starting a new job or making that special dream come true. In 2008-I had a goal of being published. It took hard work, dedication and support from some of the closest people in my life and it finally happened. I remember how I felt when I got to see my name in print. I loved being at a bookstore signing out copies of my own writings for children and teachers. I felt elated that my goal was now a reality. As you begin to think of your next big goal being met-don't forget the ones that you already have been able to fulfill. What was hard for you last year? What made you work extra hard? Did you get to see it through to completion? Before starting your new goal list...write down the things that you already made happen. Mindfulness builds awareness of our strengths and gratitude to those who helped out along the way. You can do it. Next year is next week but you don't have to wait to embrace all that you can do right now. -Read something great
Spinelli, Jerry. 2013. Hokey Pokey. New York: Knopf. Advance reader copy provided by NetGalley In the world of Hokey Pokey, populated by Snotsnipppers, Newbies, and Gappergums, and others, The Kid is king. In fact, kids are its only human inhabitants. For Big Kid, Jack, days pass in a comfortable rhythm of regularity - hanging out with his Amigos, LaJo and Dusty, and riding his bike Scramjet, the envy of every kid in Hokey Pokey. The rules are simple. Just remember the Four Nevers:
Never pass a puddle without stomping in it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl.
It's a simple life, a good life. Until one morning, when things are not the same. His bike is gone, and
Hokey Pokey is unusual fare for Jerry Spinelli. It's an allegorical story of childhood delivered by a narrator following the escapades of several different children, and focusing primarily on Jack and his rival and antagonist - the girl, Jubilee. It's recommended for ages 10 and up, but the beauty of Hokey Pokey is that it may be read on several levels. Though the symbolism may be somewhat obvious for older readers, younger readers may simply enjoy Hokey Pokey as a fantasy adventure in an alternate universe. Older readers will see beyond the obvious symbolism of the approaching train and will ponder the relationships between older kids and younger, boys and girls. Short and thought-provoking. Recommended reading. Hokey Pokey received starred reviews in School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews.
Preview the book here:
Interesting note: This is the second book that I've read that features living bicycles. Anyone know the other one?
While Adele was regaling us with stories from her American visit, I was intrigued by one of the talks she went to titled ‘Literary Friendships’. I was struck anew by the regard authors hold for other authors. The following is a list of books that are interconnected in different ways.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Speak is one of those novels that really sticks with the reader – and authors are readers too. Some Girls Are pays homage to Speak, and the scene where Miranda is sexually assaulted, by mirroring it in the first scene of the book. That scene is used as the spark for the rest of the plot. Just Listen has a similar sexual assault scene at a party. Much more muted than Speak and Some Girls Are, it still manages to retain Speak’s message and tone.
I think it speaks to how moving and essential Speak (especially that scene) is. It’s been brought back to life in all of these literary variations. I’m so glad the message is still being talked about and that each of the above titles offers a slightly different tone and reaction by the characters. It’s also interesting to see the many variations of the social fallout from such an attack. In Some Girls Are the sexual assault against the main character is used as a platform to begin an extreme and escalating bullying campaign.
Tithe Series by Holly Black and The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
These two literary friends cheekily wrote in scenes containing characters from the others’ work. The band Clary listens to ‘Stepping Razor’ appears in Tithe as a secondary character’s (Ellen) band. Clary and Jace also meet the Unseelie Queen, while Kaylee in Tithe catches glimpses of Jace and Clary throughout the series.
Sarah Dessen often has previous main characters make cameos in her later books, due to her setting. Dessen has her stories centered in the fictional town of Lakeview, and her characters will often vacation in Colby. They aren’t always known to our main protagonist of the moment, so sometimes it’s just a description or the way the character thinks and you are left with an ‘I know that voice’ feeling.
Melina tricks me every time. Don’t get me wrong, I knew The Piper’s Son was a companion to Saving Francesca, but did you know that Ben (the violinist) from Jellicoe features in Piper’s? (He is Justine’s crush). One of the mullet brothers ends up dating the kitchen hand who Tom works with at the pub. Jonah’s little brother, Danny (Jellicoe), is the protagonist of The Gorgon In The Gully.
………………. Today we have a Special Guest Douglas Harris from the new book Millicent Marie is NOT My Name. Douglas is “Millie” Millicent Marie’s ten-year-old younger brother. Douglas is at Kid Lit Reviews to explain his part in the Notorious Springside Elementary School’s Internet Deblogcle, written by “new girl” Amanda. He assures us that he [...]
I was reading your book called BYSTANDER. In the chapter called ” repairs”. I was reading page 198 and It said “Cody pulled a dirty bandanna from his back pocket to wipe the grease from his hands.” I thought it said cody pulled a dirty banana out of his back pocket. I was reading it in a group and every one laughed when i said ” dirty banana” instead of “dirty bandanna.”
I read your book BYSTANDER and to be honest it was outstanding! You really know how to use all types of figurative language. Like when you described the buses as being “enormous Twinkies.” It really made our class laugh out loud. I liked how you titled the chapters, like how you made them important in that section of the book. You are a truly talented author and I look forward to reading more of your books. Thank you for your time Mr. Preller.
A local 12-year-old boy was found by a passing motorist, tied up and pleading for help. He told investigators that two older teens who had already bullied him in the past had tied his hands and feet with his own shoelaces and rolled him down a hill. Two hours later he managed to make his way back up and flag down help. He worked with a police sketch artist to help identify his tormentors.
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Fiction Keywords: Slovakia, folklore, prejudice, bullying Format: Hardcover Source: Sent for review by Lee & Low
When Tomas was six, someone — something — tried to drown him. And burn him to a crisp. Tomas survived, but whatever was trying to kill him freaked out his parents enough to convince them to move from Slovakia to the United States.
Now sixteen-year-old Tomas and his family are back in Slovakia, and that something still lurks somewhere. Nearby. It wants to drown him again and put his soul in a teacup. And that’s not all. There’s also the fire víla, the water ghost, pitchfork-happy city folk, and Death herself who are after him.
If Tomas wants to survive, he'll have to embrace the meaning behind the Slovak proverb, So smrťou ešte nik zmluvu neurobil. With Death, nobody makes a pact.
I will admit, I was a little sidetracked by the cover when I first received this book. There's just something too unreal about Tomas's face and the cutesy reaper logo on his shirt. He's a little too smirky. When I finally started the book, there were all these references to movies and American culture that I felt were a bit gratuitous and designed to draw in the reluctant reader. I put the book down for a while.
When I started it a second time (months later), I couldn't put it down! I could understand the culture shock that Tomas was going through, having gone back to my homeland to live (permanently, or so I thought at the time) after spending a few years in America. I found myself trying to sound out the Slovak as I went along. Vodník definitely gets points for originality--this is pretty uncommon territory for mainstream young adult novels.
I really enjoyed the storytelling and characterization in this novel. After a few chapters it became apparent to me that this was much more than an attempt to be different--Moore really engages the reader not just with geek references and creepy folktales, but also with family dynamics. The way Tomas interacts with his parents, his cousin Katka, and Uncle Lubos grounds this fantastic story and made him relatable despite the far-out mythology surrounding him.
Kudos to Rachel Crow! Recognize her from The X-Factor? This powerful 14-year-old singer released her first EP earlier this summer. We're really digging the first track, Mean Girls, which Rachel co-wrote. Check out the video, and let us know what you think in the comments!
Have you ever been bullied? How did you deal with it?
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It becomes quickly apparent to the reader that Conor is drowning. His mother is on her third round of chemotherapy and she is dying. In fact she has barely days to live. It is also apparent that the monster wants the most dangerous thing of all; Conor’s secret shame.
What is absolutely heartbreaking about this novel is the yearning Conor experiences. He’s whole world is about to open up and disappear before him. His mother will leave him, just as his father left him for a new family. He will be cared for by an emotionally cold grandmother. He has no friends (having found himself alienated from everyone after his mother’s sickness became public knowledge), he is being physically and emotionally bullied by a boy in his class, and he is unraveling in the face of his, and his mother’s, reality.
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried during a majority of A Monster Calls. Around page 100 I gave up the gig and just sobbed (opposed to the don’tlookatme crying I was originally attempting). The strength of the novel is in Ness’ ability to create voice. Conor feels as real as you and I. He is a character that you willingly emotionally tie yourself to. He compels your compassion and sympathy, despite knowing that there is only heart break around the corner.
A Monster Calls is a simple story. There are no surprises of plot or miracle cures, it is just the sad tale of Conor in the last days of his mother’s life. The complexity of Conor’s emotions -anger, shame, abandonment, hate, love, sadness - all wrapped up in Patrick Ness’ accessible writing style, and it is Ness who is the conduit here, ties us deftly and (so very) easily to Conor.
Complimenting the text is the illustrations by Jim Kay. I cannot imagine one without the other; they are two parts of a whole. It was an extremely interesting partnership as Ness’ writing is often very visual. Accompanied by the illustrations, this novel felt like a silent movie. The impressions of the drawings follow you while you’re reading; the monster fills your conscience, large and imposing.
Another brilliant performance by Patrick Ness, after his success with the Chaos Walking Trilogy.
…………………………………….. Peter Goodman We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats website: kittycatsbook.com ……………. Today, Kid Lit Reviews is honored to have with us the author of a fascinating new picture book series called We’re All Different But We’re All Kitty Cats. Tomorrow, the first book in that series, titled First Day of School, will be reviewed [...]
After downsizing and moving to an apartment with his family, Georges (yes with an "s") and his dad are in the basement throwing out garbage when they see a sign posted on a door. "Spy Club Meeting -- TODAY!". Much to Georges' chagrin, his dad writes "What time?" on the sign, setting off a series of events that will occupy Georges' days for the next while.
Georges himself, is a big of an awkward kid. He puts up with the daily microbullying that his mom says aren't part of the big picture. The big picture of life is kind of like the Seurat print they have in their living room. If you look at it close up, it's just a bunch of dots, but back away to see the big picture and everything comes into focus. Thinking about the big picture doesn't make school any easier, however. The sarcastic clapping at his volleyball moves, the renaming him Gorgeous, the fact that his friend Jason came back from camp completely different -- these things all pepper Georges days. Add onto this the fact that his nurse mom is always at the hospital, and his dad works plenty as well, and you get a sense of what Georges is going through.
So when somebody answers on the Spy Club sign that there is a meeting at 1:30 and Georges' dad encourages him to go, nobody is more surprised than Georges to find a kid waiting in the basement room. He first meets Candy, then Safer and their family from the 6th floor. Safer says that he's a spy and that he's got his eye on one of the building's tenants. He's creepy -- always wears black and is constantly hauling big suitcases in and out of the building. Safer teaches Georges some of the art of being a spy, and before he knows it, he is in over his head.
Rebecca Stead has written what could be called the perfect tween/middle grade novel. She gets kids, and the situations the characters get into as well as their voices are spot on. Each setting rings true, and the slow simmer and reveal are plotted precisely and perfectly. Stead manages to pay close attention to detail without slowing the pace of the story. There is a message in Liar & Spy about empathy and bullying and being an ally, but it doesn't feel the least bit didactic. Liar & Spy has quickly risen into my top five for the year.