Thanks to Paul W. Hankins for this amazing review. Just had to share!
Seventy authors share their experiences with bullying while students in school. First things first, I want to thank every single YA author who contributed to this collection. Secondarily, I am especially grateful to the twenty authors found in this collection who have been a part of RAW INK Online or have interacted in some way with my students in the past few years.
This collection is so important and it couldn’t come at a better time. This book should be in every administrator’s office (their predecessor’s failing to address this issue is a common thread woven through the experiences shaed), every media specialist’s office, every counselor’s office, and in the classroom libraries of every teacher works with these students who stories have not been told. . .yet. Here is the catalyst for discussion. Here are the authors saying, “It happened to me too. . .tell me your story.”
So much more than a Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of collection, each story found within is like salve for the wound. Bullying hurts, from the localized hurt of the wound to the lasting hurt of the scar left behind. We have to start with where it hurts–by talking openly and honestly about this problem–and in time we can affect the whole. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom (?) that says, “Oh this will get better with time” or “someday you’ll look back at this and laugh.” We wouldn’t say such ludicrous things to accident victims or those in trauma. But what we see most often are administrators and policy makers tying the tourniquet and marking the victim’s forehead with a T, not for “terminal” as there seems to be this collective denial that bullying has long term effect, but with a T for time (our victims can “get over” this). It’s time to address the needs of these kids. How many tragic losses will it take before we stand up and say, “This bears as much of our attention as any conflated standard we could create.” We need to create citizens not kids who can conjugate. Dear Bully allows us to look into the problem from the gallery. If it is to get better–like any other life-threatening scenario, the time must be now. This is basic assessment. . .this is triage. . .this is important.
Ellen Hopkins’ introduction to the book should be of no surprise to readers who work with kids, but when you know the extended story behind her son, Orion, you feel every bit of hurt with Ellen and this very special young man.
Dear Bully has been carefully collected, archived, and rendered. I have been wanting to see this book since Megan Kelley Hall first started talking about the idea at Facebook (where I friend her). There is an author that will be familiar to readers who work with children of every age group, from Jon Sciezka’s “Stench” and Mo Willems’ “Bullies for Me” (a delightfully poignant and summarily triumphant cartoon panel in which Willems becomes a canine character–priceless) to Lisa McMann’s BFFBOTT.COM,Lisa Yee’s “Regret” and R. L. Stine’s “The Funny Guy” to some of YA’s biggest names today, Jo Knowles’ “Kicking Stones at the Sun” and A. S. King’s The Boy Who Won’t Leave Me Alone” there is something for the elementary teacher, the middle school teacher, and the secondary teacher–and the media specialists that assist all of these age groups to pair a story with an author the students may be reading.
The collection is sectioned to allow the authors to share from their experiences, their regrets, their insights, and their opportunity to write back to bullies and to the victims of bullying everywhere. Further, the multi-genre approach taken by each of the authors communicates in a very quiet way that there are multiple ways of telling our stories and no one way is the best way or only way to do it. This makes Dear Bully Writer Workshop-ready as a genre study as much as a means for providing powerful mentor texts in preparation of drafting a personal narrative.
I am going to be bold in this review. There are so many schools that have an “anti-bullying” policy in place. They are nice. . .but like any initiative or program untended, they are failing. Kids are still hurting. Your intentions were good, but they were not good enough. The school that earnestly undertakes the problem of bullying in the hallways would make this book a part of its communications with parents and would read selections from the book as a means of sharing powerful anecdotes from familiar names/faces from the students’ reading. I’d really love to see some of the authors create video testimonials from Dear Bully to share as a kick-off to beginning of the year school programs. And even further, it may be time for administrators, librarians, and teachers to begin telling their own stories of bullying.
I have this collection dog-eared already for when we share Chris Crutcher’s short story, A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune and share the film adaptation, Angus. We might be able to use some of these narratives to open up the channels of discussion. I am noted for quoting George Ella Lyon time and time again, but she said it so wonderfully one time, “Who are we but our stories?” These seventy authors have chosen to share “Where [They’re] From” and the place looks so familiar. . .