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National Bullying Prevention Month 2017 Unity Day

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Today is Unity Day, when people wear orange to spotlight the issue of bullying and raise awareness of bullying prevention. “Together against bullying — united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion.” Click here for additional ways to show your support, and look for the hashtag #UnityDay2017.

The following picture books are good starting points for discussion about bullying and kindness. See also our book recommendations for International Day of Peace, and keep an eye out for I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët. The titles were all recommended at the time of their publication by The Horn Book Magazine and Guide. Reviews reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Online.

Davies, Matt Ben Rides On
32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2013. ISBN 978-1-59643-794-4

Davies puts his wild cartooning imagination to good use in this book about a boy, his bicycle, and a bully. When Ben gets to school, bully Adrian Underbite takes his bike — then rides it over a cliff. Only Ben can rescue him. Will he? Each line of Davies’s work — both text and illustrations —is filled with motion or humor, and usually both.

Deedy, Carmen Agra The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!
32 pp. Scholastic 2017. ISBN 978-0-545-72288-9

Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. Deedy’s original story has the feel and cadence of a well-told folktale. A repressive new mayor of a noisy village outlaws public singing, then imposes ever-stricter laws. Seven silent years pass before change struts into La Paz in the form of a loud, fearless little rooster. Lively art captures both the story’s humor and its more sobering points. Also available in a bilingual edition, with Spanish translation: ¡El gallo que no se callaba! / The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!

De Kinder, Jan Red
32 pp. Eerdmans 2015. ISBN 978-0-8028-5446-9

Translated by Laura Watkinson. In this thoughtful Belgian import, the narrator innocuously points out her classmate’s blushing cheeks, but the ensuing wordless spread captures Tommy’s humiliation at being singled out. The situation snowballs with a tormenter and his giggling sycophants; eventually our protagonist finds the courage to speak up. The mixed-media illustrations’ varying shades of red are used to great emotional effect, paired with child-friendly comparisons.

Garza, Cynthia Leonor Lucía the Luchadora
40 pp. POW! 2017. ISBN 978-1-57687-827-9

Illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez. The boys on the playground claim that girls can’t be superheroes, making Lucía mad. Her abuela gives her a luchadora costume, which emboldens Lucía. Hidden behind the mask, she soars through the playground better than all the other children; after rescuing a puppy, Lucía reveals her identity. Energetic watercolors illuminate a diverse crowd of children led by a strong, dynamic personality who’s unabashedly proud to be a girl.

Gordon, David Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery
48 pp. Simon 2016. ISBN 978-1-4169-2441-8 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-5967-9

When playground bullies continually destroy their sandcastle, a group of “extremely cute animals” gets “EXTREMELY MAD” and builds an amusement park — “no bullies allowed.” But since these cutie-pies are not extremely mean, they invite the bullies in, showcasing forgiveness over anger. Carried by hilarious juxtapositions, such as a tutu-wearing bunny wielding a blowtorch, this is a fresh take on bullying, empowerment, and empathy.

Jin-Ho, Jung Look Up!
40 pp. Holiday 2016. ISBN 978-0-8234-3652-1 Ebook ISBN 978-0-8234-3728-3

Translated by Mi Hyun Kim. This story unfolds through a consistent, singular bird’s-eye perspective. Passersby in a cobblestone courtyard take no notice of a girl in a wheelchair on a balcony repeatedly calling, “Look up!” — until one boy lies down, the better to communicate face to face. Jin-Ho’s spare, scratchy black-and-white drawings depict the simple scenes with little embellishment; introducing color subtly signals the richness when lives intersect.

Khan, Rukhsana King for a Day
32 pp. Lee 2013. ISBN 978-1-60060-659-5

Illustrated by Christiane Krömer. Action-filled collages of traditional fabrics, textured paper, yarn, and more display intricate sky- and cityscapes of Lahore, Pakistan, during Basant, the spring kite festival. Malik, skillfully using his handmade small kite to conquer the bully next door in the kite battle, is a real hero; that he uses a wheelchair is incidental to the story. Useful contextual information is appended.

Kim, Aram Cat on the Bus
32 pp. Holiday 2016. ISBN 978-0-8234-3647-7

After scrounging for food, a calico cat waits dejectedly at a bus stop. One driver snarls at it (“Scram / Scoot / SHOO!”), the next driver lets it board. The cat is greeted by a kindly man, and the simple story comes to a very happy ending. Kim combines pastels and colored pencils digitally to create clean, spare illustrations showing a diverse urban environment.

Levy, Janice Thomas the Toadilly Terrible Bully
32 pp. Eerdmans 2014. ISBN 978-0-8028-5373-8

Illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperança Melo. After his attempts to score cool points fail, new-toad-in-town Thomas sets his sights on being a bully, figuring it will win him popularity; it doesn’t. Instead, he tries friendship, tricking a true bully into leaving a little toad alone. Humor abounds here, but Thomas is no stooge: the studied acrylics make vivid the evolution of his thinking.

Peacock, Shane The Artist and Me
40 pp. Owlkids 2016. ISBN 978-1-77147-138-1

Illustrated by Sophie Casson. An elderly gentleman compiling a scrapbook looks back on his childhood in the south of France, specifically time spent tormenting an eccentric artist (whom readers discover is Vincent van Gogh). Peacock’s first-person narrative, framed as the scrapbook’s text, is forthright and self-aware; sunlit illustrations reflect the artist’s brilliance without mimicry. End notes offer information about van Gogh and the story’s inspiration. Bib.

Reynolds, Peter H. I’m Here
32 pp. Atheneum 2011. ISBN 978-1-4169-9649-1

A boy feels alone on a crowded playground until he creates a paper airplane “friend” upon which he imagines flying. Satisfyingly, he makes a real friend when a girl returns the plane. Reynolds’s lyrical, dreamy text and his simple pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations touchingly portray the boy’s painful isolation, then his joyful companionship.

Robertson, David Alexander When We Were Alone
32 pp. HighWater 2016. ISBN 978-1-55379-673-2

Illustrated by Julie Flett. This quiet story is about love and resistance during the decades-long era of oppressive residential schools for First Nations children in Canada. A contemporary girl asks her grandmother several questions; Nókom answers by discussing the residential school she attended. Through descriptive language and repetition, Robertson describes the seasons of Nókom’s resistance. Flett’s collage illustrations, with their simplicity and earthy colors, are soulful and gentle.

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro Bully
40 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2013. ISBN 978-1-59643-630-5

In this barnyard drama, a large bull tells a little bull to “GO AWAY!” When other animals ask the little bull to play, he calls them names: “CHICKEN!” “SLOW POKE!” “PIG!” In Seeger’s barnyard drama, the narrative appears in dialogue bubbles, and the pictures, drawn in thick lines and in flat colors on textured rice paper, fill in the rest of the story.

Staake, Bob Bluebird
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-87037-8 LE ISBN 978-0-375-97038-2

A downcast loner, teased or ignored by his classmates, trudges Manhattan’s geometric, gray streets, oblivious to possible friendship or fun until his spirits are gradually lifted by the insistent bird following him. Then dusk brings a bullies’ ambush, conflict, sorrow — and a dreamlike resurrection accompanied by a many-colored flock. Staake’s graphically distinguished art conveys extraordinary depth of emotion for this quietly beautiful book.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline WoodsonWoodson, Jacqueline Each Kindness
32 pp. Penguin/Paulsen (Penguin Young Readers Group) 2012. ISBN 978-0-399-24652-4

Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. At recess, Chloe pointedly gathers her best friends to share secrets while ignoring new-girl Maya’s advances of friendship. Maya plays alone, seemingly unbowed by the ostracism, until one day, suddenly, she’s gone. A silent, belatedly thoughtful Chloe regrets “each kindness I had never shown.” Woodson’s affecting story focuses on the withholding of friendship rather than outright bullying; Lewis reflects the pensive mood in sober watercolors.

For more on social justice and activism, visit The Horn Book’s Making a Difference landing page.

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Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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