Top 10: Best Picture and Chapter Books That Deal with Bullies

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I have a very Politically Incorrect story to confess (my favorite kind!). My youngest is a boy and very small for his age. When he was in preschool — a wonderful preschool with an equally wonderful teacher and assistant teacher — another little boy his size bullied him by whacking him on several occasions with a block that is basically a 2 x 4 chunk of wood. I witnessed this during the wait time before the drop-off.

He cried of course. It happened again. This time the boy stepped on his hand on purpose. He cried again. I was there to witness and the parent helper (it is a Coop preschool). The teacher said that the bully boy, who is an only child, wasn’t used to interacting with kids. Fair point, but my son is the one with a lump on the back of his head. A real goose egg.

We already talked to the teacher several times but all she could do is react. She would take the errant child next to her but it was always too late after my son was left crying. And nothing changed.

And so we had a family discussion. His older sisters said they would come down to the school to beat up that kid. That plan got vetoed. Then a new plan was hatched … by me. Codename: An Eye for an Eye. I told him, “If he hits you again, hit him back just a little harder.” My daughters worried that his act of aggression would land him in trouble. I wasn’t so worried.

I was up to parent help again. and it happened on the play structure that is shaped like a ship. The little boy shoved my son.  Hard. He stepped backward, stunned. Then, my son pushed him back. Harder. They glared at each other for a few minutes. Then, they ran off to play together.

Guess what? End of bullying. That’s right. School is like a dog pack. You need to establish the Alpha pecking order. I’m sorry to say that this works. Beautifully.

For my oldest, Music Lovers, the girl bullying started in Kindergarten and continued through 5th grade like insidious cancer spreading from girl to girl. By the time the elementary school staged an intervention in 4th grade, it was too late. The school psychologist said that it was the worst case she had seen in her twenty years of experience.

Music Lovers only got zinged a few times so she got off relatively easily. For her first episode, her close friend stood up for her and removed her from the situation; an ideal outcome. The upside is that this experience has made Middle School girl socialization a piece of cake.

What are the books you use for talking about bullies to your kids? Have your kids been bullied and how have you handled it? Are you Politically Incorrect too? Thank you for sharing/confessing.

p.s. Perhaps I have no moral ground to stand on, but here is another post on Top 10 Books to Teach Kids Compassion.

p.p.s. Here are some posts on Bullying with different philosophies than mine. 🙂

Children’s Books that Deal with Bullies

10. Alice Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones can’t wait to start boarding school. When she arrives at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies, the adventure begins . . . only not quite as Alice-Miranda expects. The minute she sets foot on the school’s manicured grounds, she senses that something is wrong: Miss Grimm, the headmistress, is nowhere to be seen, the gardens have no flowers, and a mysterious stranger seems to be hiding out on the premises.

But that’s not all. Some girls are mean and spoiled, like Alethea Goldsworthy. Can Alice-Miranda defeat Alethea in one of three difficult tests she must pass to remain at school? Will she discover Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale’s big secret—and make things right? Well, if anyone can, it’s spunky Alice-Miranda!

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith Kennington-Jones can handle anything including the schoolgirl bully Alethea Goldsworthy. It doesn’t help that the school headmistress Miss Grimm is acting like her name AND is determined to find a way to expel her. Never fear, she’s a cheerful indomitable spirit that can win anyone over and accomplish anything with ease and great style. It is cartoon-like about the characters in a Ferris Bueller Day’s Off kind of way, but it makes the book especially fun to read. This is a fun chapter book series for ages 9 and up.

9.  Leave Me Alone by Kes Gray

In this sensitively told story, a little boy is feeling sad because every day he has to face a bully. But the little boy also has friends. A frog, a cat, a rabbit, a cow, and other animal friends insist on helping him, even after he tells them: “There’s nothing you can do for me/ There’s nothing you can say.” Fortunately, he is mistaken, because the next time the bully approaches, they all join with him and shout, “LEAVE HIM ALONE!” And it works! The bully turns around and goes away. Author Kes Gray’s gently clever use of rhyming verse gives a difficult subject a wonderfully light touch. Large color illustrations on every page capture the spirit of a story that will have special meaning for many little boys and girls.

I like the moral of the story and it’s a sage point to prevent bullying: the kids who watch the bully must not be passive observers. Kids really need to be coached to step in to stand up to a bully in defense of a friend or just another kid. This is an effective way to stop bullying. This picture book is great for preschoolers, ages 2 and up.

8. Hoot by Carl Hiassen

A book for young readers. It involves new kids, bullies, alligators, eco-warriors, pancakes, and pint-sized owls. A hilarious 
Floridian adventure!

This is a realistic version of being bullied through the resolution of a bully and bullied has a satisfying but not-likely-in-real-life ending.

7. Arnie and the New Kid by Nancy Carlson

“Top cat Arnie teases Philip because he is confined to a wheelchair. Yet when Arnie falls down the school steps and breaks a leg, twists a wrist, and sprains a tail, he begins to see life from a different perspective. With few books about mainstreaming available, this entertaining story should be welcome.”–Booklist. Full color.

Understanding our differences goes a long way to bringing a bully around. This picture book is great for ages 3 and up and helps to teach kids empathy.

6. Lion’s Lunch by Fiona Tierney, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

Look out, Sarah: If you can’t impress the lion, he’ll eat you for lunch! A quick-witted girl teaches the King of the Jungle a thing or two about good behavior.

Sarah is strolling through the jungle, singing a happy song, when Lion pounces. How dare she trespass on his turf? He is King of the Jungle–where nobody strolls and sings: They lumber and grunt, sprint, and squeak, slithers and harrumph! Lion makes an executive decision to eat the little girl for lunch. But Sarah thinks fast: True, she can’t wallow like the hippo or wriggle like the snake, but she can draw. She paints a portrait of Lion. “I don’t look that grumpy!” he protests. “Yes, you do!” all the animal’s chorus. Soon Sarah is the jungle’s artist-in-residence!

The King of the Jungle is a bully to Sarah when he finds her singing happily through the jungle. He wants to eat her for lunch but she convinces him that she can do something better than any other animal: draw. He agrees to let her draw but doesn’t like what he sees. The other animals agree that the grumpy lion picture is an accurate portrait. The lion takes this to heart and changes his behavior so when Sarah returns in a month, he’s a “great, big, happy lion!” A picture book for ages 3 and up.

5. My Last Best Friend by Julie Bowe

After her best friend moves away, Ida May, just starting fourth grade, decides to stay lonely rather than open herself up to being hurt again. Then Stacey, who seems nice, arrives. Bossy bully Jenna sweeps Stacey into her circle, but Ida May senses Stacey isn’t entirely at home there. Curious, Ida May sends Stacey a note, keeping her identity secret. When Stacey responds, Ida May is delighted despite herself. The resulting correspondence brings the girls closer, but Ida May steadfastly refuses to tell Stacey who she is, and Stacey won’t reveal the whole truth about herself or admit that Jenna is a poor friend. Ida May is perhaps too quick-witted for her years, and Jenna is so over-the-top that she verges on caricature. Yet Bowe successfully creates a wry, sweet, proud protagonist in Ida May, whose struggle to leave the security of childhood things behind and make new friends hits all the right emotional notes. Comedy and important growing-up issues, like handling bullies and telling the truth, meld in a strong debut, just right for the age group. Zvirin, Stephanie from BookList

Girl bullies have their own special and subtle forms of torture. It’s more difficult to detect and combat. This chapter book describes very realistically how girl bullies operate and it’s perfect for girls ages 8 and up.

4. How to Rock Glasses and Braces by Meg Haston

Super-stylish and über-harsh, Kacey Simon is the social dictator of Marquette Middle School. But when an eye infection and a visit to the dentist leave her with Coke-bottle glasses, a mouth full of metal, and…a little, Kacey is dismissed by her popular friends, falling so far down the social ladder she can barely see the top, even with her magnifying specs.

With nowhere else to turn, Kacey has to hang with her nerdy neighbor and a boy who walks to beat of his own drum, but she’s determined to reclaim her throne. Will she climb back to the top? Or will she discover that hitting rock bottom kind of…rocks?

A middle school Queen Bee gets dethroned and must battle back for social supremacy. Along the way, she meets a cute boy, joins a band, reconnects with an old friend, and, dare I say it? decides that the old person she was is not the person she wants to be. The perfect chapter book for girls in grade 5 or above. It should be required reading for all girls in Middle schooler.

3. The Meanest Doll in the World by Ann M. Martin

Annabelle Doll and Tiffany Funcraft are two dolls who have been best friends since they met in Kate Palmer’s house at 26 Wetherby Lane. In this sequel to The Doll People, they hitch a ride in Kate’s backpack and find themselves in the biggest adventure of their lives, a day at school! But when an attempt to return home lands them in the wrong house, they’re in far deeper trouble than they imagined. Along with a host of new doll friends, they also encounter Mean Mimi, the wickedest doll of all. Mean Mimi is mean-really mean-and she’s determined to rule all of the Dollkind or else destroy it. Will the world ever be safe for dolls again? In this masterfully plotted sequel, Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, with the help of Brian Selznick’s ingenious black-and-white illustrations, take the reader on another nonstop adventure from a doll’s eye view!

As part of the Doll People series, the meanest doll in the world is your classic girl bully. How she manipulates those around her is an education in itself. This is a safe way to explore girl bullies for girls in grades 3nd and up since the bullying is a little removed as a doll character.

2. Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

A shy rat who can’t pronounce his r’s rises to the occasion and outsmarts a new student who terrorizes the classroom. An ego booster for any child who has ever been bullied or teased, with illustrations that exude charm and personality. School Library Journal

A bully can be terrifying and Wodney Wat who stutters is horrified to meet the new kid. His stuttering proves to be a boon when he manages to get rid of her once and for all. This is the perfect picture book for any child in preschool or older who feels like he or she has a special need.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since. At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies. Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.” This powerful, timeless story has been reissued in paperback with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color.

All third-grade girls should read this easy chapter book written by Eleanor Estes because she was that passive observer who witnessed and allowed another girl to be bullied. This experience haunted her and became this book. I read it as a child and it’s even more relevant today. It illustrates the need to stand up to bullies even if it means that you might be the next target.

Children’s Books that Deal with Bullies Honorable Mentions

Dare!, Weird! and Tough! by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy

This picture book trilogy tells the story of bullying from three perspectives: the bully (Tough!), the victim (Weird!), and the bystander (Dare!). Read together, the trilogy forms the basis for a great discussion on bullying both in terms of how each party feels and what to do. The most important book, in my opinion, is the bystanders’ perspective because it’s the largest group and truly the swing vote that can shut down bullies.

This is a unique and helpful take on bullying and a series I’d recommend for every classroom and home, ages 9 and up.

Bystander Power by Phyllis Kaufman Goodstein and Elizabeth Verdick

If you want a more comprehensive take on Dare! for grades 5 and up, this is a great manual on what it means to be a bystander observing a bullying incident and what to do. I like how there are realistic and in-depth instructions on staying safe if witnessing bullying and being outnumbered. This book is particularly good for middle school.

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p.s. Related posts:

Top 10 Multicultural Picture Books on Bullying

FREE Resources on Bullying, IEPs, Dyslexia and More

Meet Author Trudy Ludwig for Books on Bullying for Kids

Books for Back to School Issues: Bullying, Nut Allergy, ADHD and more

Girl Bullying: The Hundred Dresses by Estes (grades 3-5th)

Sarah Dessen: Cyberbully and Her Posse of Mean Girls

My books:

BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.

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