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Bullies Beware: Kids and YA Books for Bullying Awareness Week

We decided to post two Canadian fiction lists: one with books aimed at kids coming to terms with bullying for the first time, and one with novels for pre-teens and teens dealing with it in their middle- and high-schools.

This week in Canada is Bullying Awareness Week, an important week in our culture given the sometimes scary environments our kids are dealing with today. The potential consequences of peer-to-peer cruelty were made horrifically clear this fall when BC teen Amanda Todd ended her life due to relentless offline and online bullying, but of course bullying is an age-old problem and goes on every day in Canada. The charitable organization reports that "one out of 4 kids are bullied, one out of 5 kids are the bully, and 282,000 high school kids are attacked each month nationally."


Bullying affects people of all ages but the most vulnerable group for bullying is often said to be kids aged 10 to 14, so we decided to post two Canadian fiction lists with this demographic in mind. The first contains books aimed at elementary-school-aged kids coming to terms with bullying for the first time, and the second comprises novels for pre-teens and teens who may encounter it in their middle- and high-schools. The majority of the titles listed here are award winners or nominees.

In addition to fiction, there are also important Canadian non-fiction books aimed at kids and teens, for example:

Bullying: Deal With It Before Push Comes to Shove, by Elaine Slavens
as well as the Deal With It Series Bullying & Conflict Resource Guide

Cliques: Deal With It Using What You Have Inside, by Kat Mototsune

Cyberbullying, by Robyn MacEachern

Kids' Fiction With Anti-Bullying Themes

Eddie Longpants (M Levert): Eddie Longpants is big. Really big. He has long legs and huge feet and gangly arms that dangle down from his shoulders and bump into everything. Every day at school, his classmates find new ways to bully him. When things get too painful, he takes refuge under his favorite tree. But one day the bullying goes too far and the teacher notices. Then Eddie shows his tormentor that there's more than one way to behave. In the end Eddie and his classmates realize that being big isn't so bad after all, especially when you have a big heart. A CCBC Our Choice book, and shortlisted for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (CCBC).

Feather Brain (Maureen Bush): Lucas gets more than he bargained for when he orders a dinosaur-making kit off the Internet. Shortlisted for the Red Cedar Book Award, Rocky Mountain Book Award, Golden Eagle Book Award, Silver Birch Express Honour Book, Hackmatack Children's Choice Award. Commended: CCBC Best Books, OLA Best Bets.

Dimples Delight (Frieda Wishinsky): Lawrence hates being teased about his dimples, but nothing he does seems to make any difference. Joe goes right on teasing him, and the teasing gets meaner and meaner. Finally, Lawrence notices something about his friend Stewart that may provide the tool he needs to tease-proof himself once and for all. Commended: Resource Links "The Year's Best."

How to Tame a Bully (Nancy Wilcox Richards): How will Lauren cope with the new girl in her class who is bullying her? In this easy-to-read early chapter book, Lauren is thrilled to begin Grade 3 in her favourite teacher's class, and with her best friend. But also in the class is Bethany, a newcomer to the school —and a bully. As Lauren is subjected to a series of lunchtime and classroom challenges, she learns how to deal with her nemesis.

My Name Is Mitch (Shelagh Lynne Supeene): Mitch MacLeod may be the smallest kid in grade six, but he has a great sense of humor and a strong backbone. He can read, sometimes, but never at school when he has to. "You don't know what humiliation is until you have a grade one reading buddy who reads better than you do," he says. But things start to change for Mitch when he creates an opportunity to stand up to Philip, his arch-enemy, when his reading begins to improve, and when his dad, "The Creep," moves back to town. Shortlisted for the Silver Birch and the SYRCA Diamond Willow, and a CCBC Our Book.

Lilly Traps the Bullies (Brenda Bellingham): Lilly and Theresa run into bullies at the pool, Spider and Bugsy, who tease Theresa but take an interest in Lilly. Lilly faces tough decisions about being a good friend versus trying to fit in. Brenda Bellingham's story emphasizes the importance of problem-solving and teamwork in standing up to bullying.

I Like Who I Am (Tara White): Celina is a young Mohawk girl who moves to her mother's home reserve. She is teased by her classmates who tell her that she is not Mohawk and does not belong because she has blond hair and blue eyes. Celina starts to believe her classmates and decides not to dance at an upcoming Pow Wow. But her great-grandmother helps Celina understand that being Mohawk is not about how she looks but about what she feels in her heart.

Perfect Pals (Robert McConnell): Candy, Josie and Buddy are three canine friends whose days are filled with fun and friendship at the local park. But their happy days are threatened when two bullies named Riff and Raff drive them from their park, perhaps for good. This book teaches a valuable lesson that every child should learn, that if good friends stand together, bullies soon find out that they're not as tough as they thought.

The Adventures of Gus and Isaac (Debbie Hanlon): Bullies roam the backyards of downtown St. John’s, scaring and picking on everyone they find. So, when Isaac the bob-tailed cat moves into a house in the neighbourhood, you know he’ll be the next target. It’s only by forging an unlikely friendship with Gus the seagull, who’s afraid of heights, that the two can face their fears and stand up to the backyard bullies.

The Tale of Sir Dragon: Dealing with Bullies for Kids (Jean Pendziwol): Setting out from Camp Camelot in search of a noble quest, a girl and her dragon friend cross swords with a bully of a knight. The bully says the dragon is too big, tall and green to play knights. Suddenly, playtime is spoiled. The girl stands up for the dragon, but the other bystanders let the bully do as he pleases. It's time for a petition to the king! After a roundtable discussion, the bully comes to accept that everyone has a right to play—no matter how big, tall or green they are!

The Luck of Jude (Andrew Larsen): When the Grade Four teacher at Trillium Elementary in Toronto assigns a new project, Jude Bhandari is sure that he'll be paired up with his best friend Sanjay. Everyone knows they both love everything to do with outer space. But instead Jude is paired up with the tough new kid from England who likes to pick fights. Will Jude be able to find common ground with the new kid—or will he end up as his latest victim? [Fry Reading level—2.3]

YA Fiction With Anti-Bullying Themes

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen (Susin Nielsen): Darker than Susin's previous novels, this novel is about the ultimate cost of bullying with a cast of fabulous characters, dark humour, and a lovable, difficult protagonist struggling to come to terms with the horrible crime his brother has committed. Winner of the 2012 Governor General's Literary Award.

Queen of the Toilet Bowl (Frieda Wishinsky): When Renata is chosen to play the lead role in the school musical, students who used to ignore her start saying hello and congratulating her in the hall. She is happy until it becomes evident that Karin, a wealthy girl who expected to get the lead role, will go to great lengths to ruin Renata's reputation. CCBC Our Choice book.

Responsible (Darlene Ryan): In a new school, Kevin must choose between falling in with a rough crowd or doing the right thing. Longlisted for YALSA Quick Picks.

The Last Superhero (Kristin Butcher): Sometimes a guy just can't mind his own business, no matter how hard he tries, and sometimes that guy gets mired in predicaments which are not of his making. That's what happens to Jas, a Grade Seven boy who is putting all his energy into completing the artwork for an adventure comic he hopes will be his ticket into an elite summer art program. But when he meets Wren, an eccentric, crusading classmate, his efforts are derailed. Eventually Wren becomes the target of bullies, then, because of Jas's inadvertent interference, the bullies turn their attention to him. They destroy his comic and his chances of getting into art school. What can Jas and Wren do to end the bullies' reign of terror? Commended: CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens.

Stitches (Glen Huser): Travis has been waiting to get to junior high. When that time finally comes, things are both better, and worse, than he had hoped. On the plus side are two great new teachers. On the minus side there's Shon Docker, Travis's old tormenter from elementary school. Travis knows he's different. He loves to sew and play with puppets. He wants to become a professional puppeteer. It all makes him a target for Shon and his friends. As Travis and his friends happily prepare a puppet production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the school graduation festivities, Shon's anger and prejudice erupt in violence. Winner: Governor General's Literary Award.

Triple Threat (Eric Walters and Jerome Williams): It's summertime and hoops season is over, but that doesn't keep Nick and Kia off the court. One very hot day they head to the rec center for a swim but end up on the outdoor courts that are usually dominated by older players. Their enjoyment of the court is short-lived, however, when three teens show up and kick the kids and their ball off the court. Nick and Kia don't take well to being bullied, but there's nothing they can do about it. At least not until they run into Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams at a mall promotional event, and Kia enlists the NBA star's help in proving that she and Nick do indeed belong on the same court as the older players. CCBC Our Choice book.

The Nine Lives of Travis Keating (Jill MacLean): After his mother's death, Travis Keating and his father move to Ratchet, Newfoundland, to start a new life. Some life. Travis soon discovers that only a few oddballs show any interest in him: Cole, a talker who soon makes himself scarce; Hector, a strange kid whose ears stick out; and Prinny, a girl as scraggly as her skinny ponytail. Nobody you can really call a friend. And then there's Hud, the toughest, nastiest bully in school, who hates "townies" and promises to make Travis's life an utter misery. But Travis doesn't care. He's got his "funeral face," a tight mask that gives away nothing and allows him to hide his feelings. Funeral face comes in handy, especially with parents and other adults who think they know what you're feeling every minute of the day.

But funeral face can also make him reckless, and Travis decides to visit the dangerous Gulley Cove, with its treacherous wharf and its tumbledown fish shacks, which some of the kids say are haunted. Instead of ghosts, Travis discovers a colony of feral cats, sickly and starving, and unused to kindness. Putting aside his own problems to care for them is about to bring Travis more satisfaction—and more danger—than he ever would have thought possible. Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature Winner, Resource Link's "Best of 2008" List, CLA Children's Book of the Year Award shortlist, CCBC Our Choice book, OLA's Silver Birch Fiction nominee, Rocky Mountain Book Award Shortlist.

Edge (Diane Thullson): Ever since Marlie started grade nine, she's been an out cast by the rest of the school—even her own best friend. She finds her place among a group of students, who, like herself, are social misfits and often bullied by their classmates. One of Marlie's new acquaintances, Mike, is especially serious about getting back at the bullies—dead serious. When Mike plots for the groups revenge to take place a a formal school dance, Marlie's fear that he might seriously hurt people compels her to take matters into her own hands.

Every Move (Peter McPhee): It begins with a chance encounter: teenage Emily and her friends come to the aid of a stranger who is being bullied by a gang. Emily forgets about the incident, but the young man she helped becomes fixated on her. Only when her real love interest is attacked does she begin to understand that the stranger's interest in her has become a full-blown obsession. Every Move is a realistic but chilling look at this threatening and all-too-common form of harassment. [Fry Reading Level—4.2] CCBC Our Choice Starred Selection.

Payback (James Heneghan): Thirteen-year-old Charley Callaghan is coping with some difficult changes. His family has recently moved to Vancouver from Ireland, and his mother has died of cancer. Now he is desperately trying to fit in—in a new school, a new city, anew country—while holding a part-time job and keeping an eye on his little sister, Annie. Charley's red hair and Irish accent at first make him a target of the class bullies, but he is tough enough—just —to keep them at bay.So it is almost a relief to him when the bullies find a new target, Benny Mason. Charley keeps hoping that Benny will defend himself, but he fails to intervene when the bullying worsens. When Benny commits suicide, Charley is overcome with remorse and guilt. He visits Benny's single mom, Joanna, but instead of confessing, finds himself trying to make amends by doing chores, running errands and befriending Benny's little brother. Can Charley find atonement for failing to act?

Born Ugly(Beth Goobie): To say Shir is unpopular is a understatement. In fact she's less than homely, therefore a target of casual cruelty in high school. Even though she wishes to remain invisible, bullies find ways of tormenting her, viciously. Worse still, she's an outcast in her own family.

There are two areas where Shir can overcome her negative self image. One is at her part-time job where the kindly Mr. A has hired her as the driver of his grocery delivery truck. The other is at her secret retreat—myplace‚where she can sip her beer and watch the river, undisturbed. But neither sanctuary is safe; Shir discovers that Mr. A's kindness is part of a plot to use her as an accomplice in shady dealings, and her haven by the river is intruded upon by a boy who simply won't go away. While these invasions shatter her initially, both lead to her throwing off the mantle of victim and asserting herself for the first time in her life.

Scab (Robert Rayner): Life was never easy for Julian, aka Scab. After years of being tormented by his peers and ignored by his parents, he's about to show everyone that he has what it takes to make it. But he finds himself in a situation where he has to choose between his own ambitions and the only person who's ever cared about him. [Fry Reading Level—3.8]. 2010 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Best Books for Kids & Teens—Canadian Children's Book Centre.

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