School is starting soon, which means excitement over seeing friends, meeting new teachers, learning new subjects, and shopping! Yet these days parents and educators also have to address an uglier side of school days – bullying. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that children of all ages face, so prepare your children by talking to them about relationships and how to handle bullying. Here are some great books to help start the conversation.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Books about Bullying
My three year old loves to read My Friend Maggie, which is in our regular story time rotation. It is a pitch perfect look at how fraught classroom relationships can be. Paula and Maggie are best friends – until Veronica starts saying nasty things about Maggie. Suddenly Paula starts to see her friend through new, less kind eyes, and becomes embarrassed of Maggie’s clumsiness and “snuggish” clothes. Paula knows she should stick up for Maggie, but she doesn’t. Yet when Veronica turns on Paula and makes fun of her, too, Maggie shows the true meaning of friendship by coming to Paula’s rescue. A beautiful account about forgiveness and what it means to be a friend. I love that the character of Paula isn’t perfect, but that she makes the right choice in the end. A very gentle way to start talking to young children about bullying.
A super cute back to school book is Milk Goes to School. The illustrations are incredible, using actual food items (milk carton, waffle, egg, cupcake) designed and positioned like school children. What I love about this book is that it shows how things often work among school children – frequently there is not one “bad kid” that needs to be reformed. Rather, many times everyone carries a bit of the blame. For example, perhaps Milk was a little spoiled, like the other kids said, but maybe Waffle was being too quick to judge and the others too ready to go along with his comments about her. It takes an accident and some thoughtful words from a teacher for the kids to realize that they’d been mean to Milk and that she wasn’t so bad after all. Their change of heart also helps Milk see that she doesn’t always have to get her way but can learn to get along with others.
Jumping ahead to YA fiction, I really loved The Mighty Odds, the first in a series that promises to be a real favorite in our house. It is a mystery, an action-packed adventure, and a hybrid graphic novel – but also a keenly insightful look at the minefield of middle school social relationships. Martina, Nick, Farshad, and Cookie would normally never have anything to do with each other, but after a mysterious school bus accident gives them all surprising (and surprisingly lame) super powers, they eventually realize they need each other. Unnatural fires are springing up all over town, and someone creepy is trying to track down everyone who was on the bus.
What does this have to do with bullying? Everything. The super popular Cookie committed Iranian-American Farshad to the social hinterland several years prior by starting a rumor that he was a terrorist. But African-American Cookie herself risks social suicide by just being seen with geeky Nick and weird Martina, never mind the utter shock that would come if she was actually seen speaking to Farshad now. Can Farshad forgive Cookie so they can save themselves from whoever is chasing them? Can Cookie put aside her pride and work with the band of outcasts? The Mighty Odds uses dark humor to show the dangers of middle school life from every angle – and remind me that turning 40 is a lot better than having to go back to middle school! I love the complexity of the characters and the wild adventure they are caught up in. So much to love about this book – I can’t wait for the next installment in the series!