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Picture Books Help Kids Handle Anger and Bullying


Share This week, Education World reviews Bullies and Gangs, The Ant Bully, and When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry... These three new picture books support classroom discussions of anger, bullying, violence, and tolerance.

Bullies & Gangs Book Cover Most every child will be confronted by a bully at some time... But how will the child react when that situation is encountered? Will she throw a punch? Will he cave in to the bully's demands? Neither of those is a good solution. But there are many options open to the bullied child.

A recent release from Copper Beech Books, Bullies and Gangs, provides kids ages 4-8 with helpful pointers for putting bullies and bullying behavior to rest.

In Bullies and Gangs, four children talk about bullying -- what it is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it. Samuel, Amy, Jonathan, and Neetu have all had experiences with bullying. (Amy, the smallest of the group, even comes clean as an unlikely reformed bully.) As the multicultural quartet discusses their experiences, young readers learn that bullying can happen to anyone and that bullies aren't always easy to pick out in a crowd.

The four kids also dialogue about possible solutions to bullying behavior. Many simple solutions are shared in cartoon-style panels. The cartoon kids model ways to deal with bullies and gangs. Those pointers include:

  • Kids can build confidence in their ability to confront bullies by practicing their responses in front of a mirror.
  • Bullying can only go on if you let it. To put a stop to bullying it is sometimes necessary to tell others about it.
  • Since some kids are too afraid to tell on a bully (for fear of reprisal), a friend can help put a stop to bullying behavior they witness by telling an adult about it.

As simple as the advice might be, Bullies and Gangs (written by Julie Johnson, with illustrations by Christopher O'Neill and photos by Roger Vlitos) is still a useful tool for engaging classroom discussion about how it feels to be bullied and how to put a stop to bullying behavior. Building that kind of awareness can go a long way toward preventing conflict.

Isn't that worth the price of a book?

THE ANT BULLY

The Ant Bully Author/illustrator John Nickle has finally gotten even with the bullies in his past! In The Ant Bully (Scholastic Press), Nickle draws on the appeal of recent movie releases such as Antz and A Bug's Life to create a fantasy comeuppance for bullies.

Sid is the big bully who picks on defenseless Lucas who, in turn, takes out his frustration on the ant colony in his yard. Lucas bullies the defenseless insects with his squirt gun. In retaliation, the ants band together to shrink Lucas and force him to stand trial. Lucas is sentenced to help the worker ants gather food, defend the colony against wasps, and attend with the drones to the Queen's bath.

The Ant Bully is a wonderful tool for learning about the science of ant behavior. But, it's also a great tool for learning valuable lessons about human nature, the importance of cooperation, and the hurtful nature of bullying. One final demand by the Queen leads Lucas to stand up for the defenseless ants against another big bully brandishing a fly swatter. In appreciation for Lucas's life-saving help, the ants take revenge on Sid!

Some might take issue with the fact that The Ant Bully doesn't offer useful ideas about how to deal with bullies; the bullies in this story are dealt with in out-of-this-world ways. (And, personally, I think Lucas should lose the little helicopter beanie. It invites being bullied!) But Nickle's winning illustrations -- masterpieces of perspective, detail, and humor -- will enthrall young readers and entice them to read the book again and again.

The value of The Ant Bully's messages outweighs any minor criticisms. The book's themes of cooperation and standing up for the defenseless are sure to spur valuable classroom discussions.

And the illustrations are priceless!

WHEN SOPHIE GETS ANGRY -- REALLY, REALLY ANGRY...

When Sophie Gets Mad Book Cover Kids deal with their anger in many different ways. Some lash out, others hold it in. Caldecott Honor winning Molly Bang introduces young readers to Sophie, who deals with her anger by blowing off steam, then crying and, finally, by climbing her favorite tree so she can cool off and reflect on her anger. That transformation is recounted in Bang's new book, When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry... (Blue Sky Press).

Bang's brightly illustrated text reflects Sophie's slow cooling. Bold reds and oranges with jagged, flaming text are gradually replaced as Molly's anger subsides with cooler colors and rounded text.

Sophie could be a great discussion starter for teachers of young children. Natural questions flow from a quick read aloud -- questions such as What makes you angry?, How do people act when they get angry?, What do you do when you get angry?, and What are some good and not so good ways to deal with anger? Discussion of those questions could provide young readers with valuable behavior management skills.

The books above are available in bookstores. If your local bookstore doesn't have the book you want, ask your bookseller to order it for you. Or contact the publisher:

  • Bullies and Gangs -- written by Julie Johnson, illustrated by Christopher O'Neill, and photographed by Roger Vlitos -- is published by Copper Beech Books (an imprint of The Millbrook Press), 2 Old Milford Road, Brookfield, Connecticut 06804.
  • The Ant Bully, written and illustrated by John Nickle, is published by Scholastic Press. Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
  • When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry..., written and illustrated by Molly Bang, is published by Blue Sky Press (an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.). Call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1999 Education World

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10/18/1999
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