The topic of bullying is one I’ve discussed briefly here before, in my review of Invisible Inkling, which prompted me to look for other books that discuss the topic of bullying. Certainly there are no end to picture books and chapter books for teens and children about bullying, there are even reference books to help librarians find a fictional book to help kids with specific types of bullying (Bullies in Books and More Bullies in More Books, both by C.J. Bott). There are also books that are written to offer advice on how to deal with a bully like: Where Slim Goodbody shows kids how to deal with bullies (rule one, don’t tell anyone you took advice from someone named Slim Goodbody).
But what about books where real kids talk about what it really is like out there? Well that is what Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories attempts to do, through profiles of kids who have been bullied or were bullies. While not as frank or honest as I could of wished, this book does offer some perspective on the circumstances of real kids and how hopeless many of them are. Each profile is followed by a short discussion of what the child did right and what they could have done, which are actually not very useful and take away some of the power of the experiences described.
These accounts really shine where the authentic voice and experience come through, where kids acknowledge that there sometimes isn’t a good solution. I worry about so many books saying do these things and your bully problem will be over, even fiction books where the bully ends up defeated or changed, never reflect many kid’s experiences of persistent bullying. Instead, here there are accounts of kids who are still being bullied, even after doing what they are supposed to do to, even after all that teachers and parents can do. But one thing that I think most of these stories reflect, which is SO important in dealing with bullies is that the kids profiled have gained confidence in themselves. So that even as they fail to stop the bullies taunts, they don’t fall victim to the insidious doubt and cruelty. In part this is probably due to selecting people for the collection who are not depressed and are actively battling bullies, but I also think it is because the kids were asked to put their experiences in words. I think that when children have to explore their feelings and circumstances in words it can help them to gain self confidence.
So while I don’t think that this book will magically put an end to any child’s bullying problem it might help them to gain some self confidence in dealing with it. I think it is more like the Trevor Project, not telling kids who are bullied that the bullies will leave the junior high if you give them the magic death glare of doom, but that you can be bullied and still like yourself and that while it might not get better soon, eventually it will get better.
Today is Non Fiction Monday, hosted this week at Apples With Many Seeds, check out the other great posts here.