Picture Books to help us explore the complexity of bullying

Division 5 is currently exploring the theme of bully, bullied, bystander through picture books. We also share books on this topic during our weekly Social Responsibility gatherings. Here are some of the titles we have been reading.

Jungle Bullies written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Vincent Nguyen

This book has a simple repetetive message important to help children understand that bossy, mean behaviour isn’t okay especially when someone is using their bigger size to be intimidating. As each jungle animal nudges another out of a napping spot, the trend seems like it will never stop until a little monkey decides with the help of his Mama that he wants to stand up to a bully. Children learn: Being a bully isn’t okay. I can stand up to it with some help from others. Let’s focus on sharing and maybe even being friends. Perfect for Pre-K-2. 

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Bullies written by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison.

This is one of my favourite Howard B. Wigglebottom books and one that never fails to engage listeners. This book teaches us about the importance of asking for help when bullying doesn’t stop. Howard has a little voice inside his head that tells him Be brave, Be bold, A teacher must be told. But it isn’t always easy to trust our intuition and Howard suffers many unpleasant interactions with the Snorton twins before he finally decides to report their behaviour. Finally, he can sleep easily, knowing that he was brave, he was bold when his teacher was finally told. “I am okay. I am safe.” he assures himself at the end.  Such an important book!

Great for K-3

You’re Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 

 This is a “could be”, “might be”, “kinda is” a bully book but the social dynamics between the children allow it to be a book that is more about making firm expectations for play. Lily Jean is definitely some kind of bossy and quite quite mean. She shows off constantly, says “No!” when asked “Can I play too?” and bosses everyone around when she does allow them to be part of the game. (“You be the cow and I’ll be the cowgirl” kind of thing) But when sisters Sandy and Carly are assertive with Lily Jean and set some limits, Lily Jean is basicallly put in her place with the question, “Can you be nice?” When she agrees, playtime continues and is happy for all involved. A great book to illustrate that children can often solve their own social problems without involving an adult. It also shows us that the power of a bully dissolves quickly when nobody will go along with it.

Ideal for K-3

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun written by Maria Dismondy and illustrated by Kimberly Shaw-Peterson.

The message of this book is all about courage – courage to stand up for yourself but also courage to forgive and reach out to others. Lucy has been bullied by Ralph in some truly nasty ways. When he gets stuck on the monkey bars, she has the opportunity to get back at him. Instead she realizes, looking at him so full of fear, that just like her Papa Gino told her, Ralph has a heart with feelings. Lucy offers her help, demonstrating courage to do the right thing – treat others the way she wants to be treated. Students learn that sometimes the hard shell of a bully can be softened with a little bit of kindness.

Suitable for Grades 2-4

Say Something written by Peggy Moss and illustrated by Lea Lyon.

What happens when you see bullying all around you? Pushing. Teasing. Name calling. But you don’t participate? You don’t say anything. What happens when one day the bullying happens to you? Those other kids sitting near, the ones saying nothing . . . suddenly the silence feels like something. It feels like it should be different. Saying nothing is the opposite of saying something. Of standing by instead of standing up. A very powerful book that shows us the importance of speaking up.

Suitable for Grades 2-5

Little holiday reads

I purchased these books from Scholastic and shared them with my class in the last week of school. Some were quick reads, others warranted more discussion. All were enjoyed.

It’s Christmas David by David Shannon

Everyone always says No David at Christmas . . .

One can only imagine what David gets up to at Christmas! Yes it involves peeking at hidden gifts and trying to sneak off with baked treats. The favourite in our room? Well David wrote his name in the snow. It was yellow . . . Yes, yuck!

Merry Christmas, Splat by Rob Scotton

Who doesn’t love Splat the Cat?

Earlier this week we read this book and we shared our discussion in a blog post. Can Splat be too helpful? Was he really good all year? Worries keep him awake as does waiting up for a certain man in red. . .

The Greatest Snowman in the World by Peter Hannan

Did you know a chinchilla and his friends could build a snowman?

I shared this funny little book by Peter Hannan with our K-3 primary gathering. Last week of school and excitement was high but this book definitely held the attention of close to 60 kids. Lots of giggles as Charles Chinchilla, Elvis Wormly and Babs McBoid attempted to build an amazing snowman. Even as problem after problem happens, Charles remains optimistic and full of ideas. We were pretty impressed by his idea in the freezer at the end! (Hint more to do with ice cream than snow. . . )

Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story by Howard Binkow and Susan F Cornelison

Howard learns about the power of giving.

My students always adore the character of Howard B Wigglebottom. As he learns, we learn and there is always much discussion as the story unfolds. In this story, Howard is forced to confront that his stuff brings him more harm than good. In the end, he realizes that he hasn’t valued what is most important after all – his family. My students realized that stuff made Howard lost and that family is more important than all of the toys in the world. There was sure a lot of discussion about whether or not T.V. commercials that gave you ideas for toys you wanted were a good thing or a bad thing. . . More discussion needed!

Picture Books we read this week

While searching through the library for interesting picture books, I came across Oma’s Quilt. I pulled it off the shelf because it is illustrated by Stephane Jorisch (who also illustrated Suki’s Kimono – one of my favourite books). Then I noticed it was written by Canadian author, Paulette Bourgeois (author of the Franklin books and Big Sarah’s Little Boots) This book was bound to be a good one!  I tried it out with our reading group.  The story:  Emily’s Oma (grandmother) has to move to a retirement home and she is very reluctant to do so.  What about her precious things? Her neighbours? Cooking apple strudel? Even the bowling alley at the home doesn’t change her mind (smelly shoes!) While Emily and her mother are sorting through Oma’s possessions, Emily has a wonderful idea. Why not make a memory quilt for Oma!? Some students made text to text connections to Eve Bunting‘s The Memory String.  This book received a big round of applause.  Look for it in the library!

We have been reading a lot of Howard B Wigglebottom books to help us learn about ourselves and our relationships. Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Bullies teaches us about the importance of asking for help when bullying doesn’t stop. Howard has a little voice inside his head that tells him Be brave, Be bold, A teacher must be told. But it isn’t always easy to trust our intuition and Howard suffers many unpleasant interactions with the Snorton twins before he finally decides to report their behaviour. Finally, he can sleep easily, knowing that he was brave, he was bold when his teacher was finally told. “I am okay. I am safe.” he assures himself at the end.  Such an important book!

This book tells us about Winston, the bear from Churchill, Manitoba who decides to mobolize a group of polar bears to teach the tourists who come to see the polar bears about the effects of global warming on the melting ice in the Arctic.  “Ice is nice!” the bears chant during their protest march. We learn that we must all do our part to protect the Earth. “Recycle!”  “Walk, Bike, Ride!” “Solar Power!”  “Turn down the furnace!” Winston of Churchill by Jean Davies Okimoto was the winner of the Green Earth Book Award. This book is also in Seymour’s library.

Happy Reading!

Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart

Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart written by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison definitely spoke to us.


In this story, Howard learns to do what makes him feel good about himself even though his friends made fun of him at first. Howard loves to dance and finds out from his grandfather that he comes from a long line of dancing Wigglebottoms. He practices and practices and wows all of his friends at the Sock Hop!

When Howard does what he loves – it makes his heart sing!

Students wrote responses to this story – writing about the message of the book and/or about an activity that makes them feel really happy and why.  From Howard, we learned that we can celebrate and be proud of who we are!

Jena: I think that the message of this book is that you should do what you want to do and it doesn’t matter what other people say. Just do what you want to do. I’m good at reading because when I read I start to fall into the book like I’m with the character. I feel great when I’m reading.

Alyson: The message in this book is do not listen to other people’s opinion. Listen to your own. My favourite sport is hockey and soccer when I’m playing with me Dad. And swimming!

Annie: I’m good at running and when I run, I feel like I can run around the world. When I was little I kept on practicing at running. Last year I got a little fast. Then I got faster and faster. Now I’m the third fastest runner.