1 Story of Bullying, 3 Perspectives, 3 Books

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My kids and I loved The Weird Series (Weird! Dare! Tough!) — a three book picture book set about three girls’ perspective of the same bullying story – the books were incredibly insightful and provoked good discussion. The books are well-written by Erin Frankel, beautifully illustrated by Paula Heaphy, and published by the always inspiring Free Spirit Publishing. Each book includes “activity club” pages and discussion ideas and information for parents and teachers. It’s a must own for educators, if not parents.

Book about Bullying

Weird! is Luisa’s story of being targeted by bullying.
Dare! is Jayla’s story of watching the bullying as a bystander.
Tough! is Sam’s story of being the bully.
book about bullying
(below descriptions from the publisher)
Luisa is repeatedly teased and called “weird” by her classmate Sam, even though she is simply being herself—laughing with her friends, answering questions in class, greeting her father in Spanish, and wearing her favorite polka-dot boots. Luisa initially reacts to the bullying by withdrawing and hiding her colorful nature. But with the support of her teachers, parents, classmates, and one special friend named Jayla, she is able to reclaim her color and resist Sam’s putdowns.
Jayla feels threatened by her classmate Sam, who has bullied her in the past for her “nerdy” love of astronomy and stars. Sam is now bullying Jayla’s friend Luisa, and she enlists Jayla to participate. Jalya reluctantly joins in but soon realizes it is wrong. With the help of caring adults and friends, Jayla comes to sympathize with Luisa and finds the courage to dare to stand up to Sam and put an end to the bullying.
Sam is concerned about keeping things orderly and “cool” at school. She thinks people need to have a tough skin in order to fit in and withstand others’ meanness and lack of cooperation. Sam teases her free-spirited classmate Luisa and enlists a friend, Jayla, to help. But when Sam is confronted by a concerned teacher about her bullying, and Jayla
turns on Sam and befriends Luisa, Sam begins to show some heart and rethink her treatment of others.

Q & A with Author, Erin Frankel

1. How did you get the idea for this unique 3 book series about bullying?

I know about the suffering that children go through when it comes to bullying, based on my own as experiences as a child, and now as a parent and teacher. I have observed how kids who are bullied often give up the things that make them special in the hopes that they will no longer be bullied and this saddens me. I feel empathy for children who continue to suffer with bullying and know that building empathy in children is truly part of the solution. So I wrote a story from the target’s perspective, Weird!, to help children put themselves in the target’s shoes and feel what Luisa, the main character, was feeling. I paired up with lifelong friend and illustrator, Paula Heaphy, who was able to bring the pain and desperation felt by Luisa to life. In fact, her illustrations were so vivid, that it made me wonder what the other characters—the bystander and the child doing the bullying—were feeling. With support and guidance from our wonderful publisher, Free Spirit, the other two books in the series, Dare! and Tough!, came to life. We wanted children to be able to explore all three perspectives and to understand each character’s struggles—to see that no one wins when it comes to bullying.

2. Do you recommend the books be read together and if so, in any particular order? 

I think each book is powerful in itself, but the power is exponential when all three books are read together. Each book offers a different perspective, so reading them together allows you to dig a little deeper and peel back the layers of feelings and experiences that each character has. You can read the books in any order, but I like to start with Weird!. It gives readers a chance to explore the target’s feelings first and also sets the stage for a powerful question . . . How did Luisa get back to being herself? Then readers can explore the answer to that question in Dare! and Tough! by looking at the roles of the bystander and the child doing the bullying. I think the books really open the door to reflection and discussion.

3. Bullying is a huge problem, and it’s a big concern of many of my readers. What do you advise parents whose children are dealing with bullying? 

It is a big concern. The good news is that so many people want to help make a difference. A few tips I would share:

Listen to your children. Listen to what they say and don’t say. Have you observed any changes in their behavior? If you suspect bullying, encourage children to share their feelings with you. Many targets of bullying feel ashamed, embarrassed, and  scared. They may prefer to keep quiet rather than speak up. If you have experienced bullying, share your story. It is important for children to feel that they are not alone and that you are there to help. Let them know that you love them and that the bullying is not their fault.

After listening, take their concerns seriously. We need to stop expecting children to ‘figure it out’ or ‘just ignore it’ when it comes to bullying. This is a complex social problem with no simple solution. By the time a child seeks help, he or she will have probably already made some attempt at figuring things out without you and is feeling quite desperate with the situation. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes. How would you want someone to react to you?

If the bullying is taking place at school, go to your child’s school to report the bullying. Work together with the school to help your child identify caring adults who will ensure your child’s safety and well-being as the bullying behavior is addressed. It is important for a child to feel that things will not get worse as a result of telling. Make it clear to the school that this is your priority and send a united message to your child that things will get better. Encourage children to continue to speak up if they feel that this is not the case. I learned something very important from anti-bullying activist and author Barbara Coloroso: bullying is not about conflict, it is about contempt. Sitting a target down with the child who is doing the bullying so that they can ‘work things out’ is not the solution. Share this knowledge with your child’s school. Many children are still forced to sit down with their tormentors. Those children may be hesitant to speak up again in the future.

Work with your child to identify caring friends who can offer them support. Your child may also experience feelings of betrayal and sadness because other children are not standing up against the bullying. Help your child understand why this may be happening. Bystanders are often afraid to speak up or don’t know how to help. Again, this reminds children that they are not alone in their feelings of fear and helplessness. Schools should be working toward creating a school environment in which bystanders feel confident enough to take a stand against bullying. Schools should help children explore safe ways to stand up for what is right. Ask your child’s school what they are doing to create a culture of kindness and caring.

Parents can work with children on confidence building, assertiveness skills, and coping techniques that will help them feel more empowered while the bullying behavior is being addressed. Some of these skills and techniques may influence bullying outcomes and help prevent bullying in the future. Remind your children that they are not the ones choosing cruelty over kindness and commend them on this.

Most importantly, don’t wait for bullying to happen to start talking to your children about bullying. Look for examples of caring individuals who have made a difference to others and let your children know that they can be that person. Use specific examples and stories to start the discussion. If we set the right foundation, then we will be talking about bullying prevention rather than intervention—and that means a whole lot of happy kids!

There are so many wonderful resources available for parents who are concerned about their children and bullying. It would be impossible to list them all here, but Paula and I have compiled a good starting point for resources on our website http://www.theweirdseries.com/.

Thank you, Erin! Readers, pre-order your books! Ask your school to buy these books. The bullying problem needs all of our help.
What has been your experience with bullying?

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  1. I love the idea of bullying from 3 points of view. From our anti-bullying training at our elementary school, it’s the bystander who plays the most important role in preventing bullying. No one really covers this so this series is spot on!

  2. You may like to know about a series of books I wrote about bullying called The Ginger Ninja, (Which you can now get for iPad). It’s probably aimed more at boys but, as the hero is a ginger kitten, girls love the stories too.
    InThe UK, redheads were – and sadly still are – prone to bullying and name calling. I know this because I had bright red hair as a child. When I came across the term Ginger Ninja, it so inspired me to write my series of books. Real Ninjas don’t need to actually fight because they have trained and trained and have such rock solid faith in their capabilities that most enemies will run away when the see the whites of their eyes.
    I think the bullied are often suffering from low self esteem and so present a target for bullies. If you can’t change the bully you have to change the bullied. So much bullying comes from boredom. If there is no reaction, the bully moves on to find new prey.
    It may not sort out the bully, but feelings of self worth are the best defence against bullies, who in turn are probably suffering even lower self-esteem.
    But you can’t say all that to kids – they switch off- so I made my hero a little Ginger cat and the bully an enormous kitten called Tiddles. The stories are fun as well as deep and thoughtful. Children do not respond to books that preach or to obviously “teach”
    go have a look http://bit.ly/TheGingerNinja

  3. This makes me so proud to see my dear friend Erin Frankel’s books and empowering words on Melissa’s brilliant blog! You both are women who inspire me on own blogging/publishing journey! Thank you both for what you do for our children!