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

The Sniffles for Bear

Bill, our BLG reader this week read us the very funny The Sniffles for Bear written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.

Oh, poor, poor Bear! He has a terrible, terrible cold – quite possibly the worst in existence of the world he is convinced! (Bear is quite the “Drama King” we quickly realized). When Mouse arrives at the door ready to help, Bear is suspicious of his cheerful demeanour. Mouse starts to read aloud and Bear insists he stop, “I fear you do not appreciate the gravity of my situation.” Mouse changes tactics and decides to serenade Bear with a soothing version of “She’ll be coming around the Mountain.” Bear complains. No, no, no! He needs mournful songs. Mouse pulls out his banjo. “This is impossible, intolerable!” Bear exclaims.

And on it goes. Mouse tries his best to comfort poor Bear. He drags him up the stairs, tucks him into bed and serves him nettle soup (which Bear thinks tastes like spinach and straw). But Bear is still dreadfully and dramatically ill! There is will dictation (“I leave my red roller skates to . . .”), some dramatic shouting and finally . . . sleep.

When Bear awakes, it is his turn to play nurse. : ) This is a giggle inducing book! We have been learning about different genres and one student pointed out that it should go into the humour basket. “No right to the giggles section!” called out someone else.

Our student reviewers report:

Raymond: It was funny when the mouse sang. “Ooooooh she’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes.” And I liked when the mouse pulled the bear up the stairs.

Truman: I like the part when bear asked mouse (shaking his trembling hand) to get him to bed.

Carmen: I liked the part when mouse went into bear’s house because he was sick. then mouse took out a yellow book and sang, “Ooooh she’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes. She’ll be coming . . ” “Disgraceful!” said Bear.

Catriona: It was REALLY funny when Bill sang the part of the song that the mouse was trying to sing to bear. There was SOOO many giggles that they should have called this book, “The Giggle Book” instead of “Sniffles for Bear.”

Grumpy Bears, Clever Mice and a good night’s sleep

Our BLG reader this week was Sam. He brought in an engrossing story by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. A Bedtime for Bear is all about a very particular Bear who needs everything to be just so in order to get to sleep. His friend Mouse, who comes to spend the night is not very capable of being calm, quiet and quick to settle down. This aggravates Bear just a little (well actually a LOT).

A little bit of irony – this book was all about being quiet and my normally very noisy (in a charming sort of way 🙂 ) class sat silent and focussed during Sam’s reading except to giggle at how disruptive and annoying Mouse was to Bear.  Strangely quiet! But I wasn’t about to complain!

As the evening progresses in the story, we begin to realize that Bear wants Mouse up and about because he is a little nervous about a sound he heard.

Miami was on to him, “He doesn’t want the mouse to go to bed because he is scared!” she shouted.

When Bear told Mouse a story about Brave Strong Bear and the Very Frightened Little Mouse, Jeremiah quietly remarked, “That’s the opposite.”

Not much gets past us!

Our student reviewers report:

Lisa: My favourite part is when the bear asks the mouse to check his closet. I think he did that because he was actually scared there was someone that lived in the closet.

Kevin: My favourite part of the story is when they both fell asleep under the full moon.

Ricky: That was a great book you read Sam! It had good pictures and good characters.