Canada's Bullying Awareness Week runs November 15-21, this year with the theme, "Stand Up to Bullying." The focus of Bullying Awareness Week is not about influencing the actions of others, but rather about understanding what we as individuals and community members can do to address the problem of bullying. And one thing that parents, teachers and librarians can do is make the following books, selected by award-winning YA author Colleen Nelson, available to the young people in their lives.
These are stories that can empower readers to "stand up to bullying" once and for all.
Books about bullying are plentiful. Authors know that bullies make complex characters and if the plot involves a triumph over a bully, so much the better. The shift in power, the underdog standing up to his aggressor, makes readers want to stand up a cheer. But for many children and teens, there is no cheering section. Bullied children feel alone and trapped, unable to speak out. Bullying can be overt and aggressive or subtle and manipulative; on-line or in-person. It happens under the noses of parents and teachers and can have disastrous consequences. Books with an anti-bullying message have an impact. They show young people that there are ways out of bad situations, giving them the confidence to stand up to their bully and have their voice heard.
The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden, by Jill MacLean
A member of the Shrikes, a group of three bullies in her Maritime hometown, Sigrid is feared by her classmates. Flipping the usual narrative, the reader follows Sigrid as she tries to make amends for her actions. Maclean’s characters are fully and powerfully written, each with a story as unique as the mournful Maritime setting.
The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley, by Jan Andrews
Bullying takes many forms, including being abused by a parent. Kyle McGinley has decided to stop speaking, holding all his pain inside, when he arrives at his new foster family’s home. Through a willingness to let Kyle heal on his own terms, his new foster family helps Kyle to face his demons.
Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summer
Summer’s writing style make her stories real, fast-paced and memorable. She cuts to the quick in the story of Regina Afterton. After her best friends turn on her, Regina takes a hard look at who she has become. It’s not a bad-girl-gone-good story, but a story of redemption and the desire we all feel to be part of something, even when it’s a bad something.
Stewart, or Spewart as he is called by his new pseudo step-sister, has just moved in with his dad’s girlfriend. Her daughter, Ashley, a popular, vapid-type is embarrassed and keeps the new living arrangement a secret from her friends. She goes out of her way to hurt Stewart’s feelings. Nielsen writes with her usual humour, switching the narration between the two main characters. The depiction of Ashley as the Queen Bee and a pivotal scene involving a party, underage drinking and a cell phone camera are scenes every teen age girl should read as cautionary tale.
The Cat at the Wall, by Deborah Ellis
Creatively told, Ellis spins the story of Clare, a bully who has been reincarnated as a cat in the Middle East. Caught in a siege at a young boy’s house, she takes stock of her life as a human when she is given a second chance at doing the right thing. While it might sound like an odd premise, Ellis uses flashback to great effect with her well-developed main character and gives the reader a thought-provoking story.
Nix Minus One, by Jill MacLean
Nix is an introvert and finding a place to fit in is hard for him. He finds solace in his father’s woodworking shop, and caring for a neighbor’s dog. When a sudden and tragic accident turns his life upside down, he realizes that he can’t hide in the shadows any longer. Nix stands up to bullies at school and the owner of Twig, the abused dog he is determined to save.
The Fall, by Colleen Nelson
Grieving is difficult at any age, but being a teenager makes the situation even harder. Ben, Cory, Taz and Luke just want to have a good time, but when one dies in a tragic accident, the rest of them have to figure out how to pick up the pieces. Taz escapes from his abusive father through alcohol and Cory uses his power at school to blame Ben for their friend’s death. When the school turns against him, Ben has to find the strength to face his bully and prove his innocence.
Forever Julia, by Jodi Carmichael
Julia has faced a lot of sadness in her life, but the one bright spot is her boyfriend, Jeremy. Ignoring the warnings from her best friend, she excuses his controlling nature as passionate. Things spiral to a dark place as Jeremy’s demands on her turn vicious and she confuses his bullying behavior with love.
Finding Hope, by Colleen Nelson (Coming this spring!)
Hope is thrilled to escape her small town when she is accepted to Ravenhurst, a private boarding school for girls. She gets a boyfriend, a cool roommate and finally feels like she fits in. But things unravel when her brother shows up at the school gates, desperate for help, and her new friends turn on her after compromising photos are circulated online. Finding Hope shows the devastating consequences of cyberbullying and how it can alter a person’s life forever.
Colleen Nelson is an award-winning writer and teacher in Winnipeg. Although she was lured by the bright lights of Japan and New York City, she returned to the Prairies where she and her husband are raising their two sons. Finding Hope is her fourth YA book.
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