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Since I started this website, my awareness of bullying/harassment issues has grown considerably, as has the definition. The word "bully" all by itself has become a buzz word-people are quick to label almost anything bullying. That word, the verb and the noun, is used much too freely, as is the word hate.

Bullying has changed in as many ways as you can count. All of the "isms" -racism, sexism, socioeconomic-ism, age-ism, genderism, etc. are based on a difference of power, those with power over those with less power, without any power, or not even involved in power. This requirement is crucial. Think about our history, think about the newspaper headlines over the last few years. Make a list of groups that have been bullied/harassed starting with labels. Make a list of all groups with bullying power and in creating that list, think about those who grant that power, encourage or support that power, justify that power. The power that goes with elitism. Is anything there a surprise? Humans-not all--seemingly like to degrade those with less.

Another thing to be aware of is Institutional Bullying-when an institution knows the harassment is happening and does nothing to stop it, allowing the harassment to continue seemingly condoned. That institution is libel and must be held responsible. "When Institutions Are Libel for Bullying." The ALAN Review Winter 2014 The Penn State Coach child sex abuse scandal has recently been revived, showing that those in charge knew decades before the abuse came to public view and did nothing. That is a powerful and current example of institutional bullying.

If you think about just the time you have been here on earth, you can probably name several groups that have been bullied/harassed/ discriminated against by those with more power/acceptance/privileges. Make a list, and get your students do make a list and share it.

Sexual harassment, racial harassment, gender harassment, socio-economic harassment, class harassment, ability harassment, physical and mental health harassment, ad nauseam. All such labels are given by those that "have" or "are" over those who do "not have" or "are not." Who gets to define that illusive and un-definable "norm?"

The book Generation Bullied 2.0: Prevention and Intervention Strategies for Our Most Vulnerable Students (edited by sj Miller, Leslie David Burns, Tara Star Johnson) identified the four descriptors that most often make students targets at the secondary level --

  • LGBT or nonconventional gender presentations,
  • Appearance, particularly body discrimination, sometimes called sizism,
  • Disabilities,
  • Ethnicity/diversity

None of these are the individual's choosing.

There are more ways people, from young children to the elderly, become targets and there will be more labels. Teaching respect must start very early and be reinforced 24/7/365 forever.


Latest Finds


My husband, Don Gallo, and I receive a wealth of books for children and teens from the many generous publishers we know. One of my favorites small presses is Groundwood, a Canadian press, which publishes picture books referencing many cultures. I particularly like these books because as a child in a small town of most white people, I was somewhat limited in my awareness of cultural diversity-which I am now in love with. Hence I love Groundwood Books!

Groundwood Books is part of the House of Anansi Press Check them out!

Here is a sampling of some from Groundwood's latest catalogue, Celebrating Canadian Identities.

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Alego written and illustrated by Ningeokuluk Teevee

The book is presented in Inuktitut and English and introduces the reader to "the life of an Inuit child and her world." My computer does not offer Inuktitut so I cannot give you an example, but what a wonderful way for children to discover the idea of other languages! I do not remember when I learned not everyone writes in English words, though I do remember thinking that everyone must write books in English first and then the book gets translated. My child's mind was limited in experiences like this book. In this book there are translations for the creatures Alego finds-in original Inuktitut-which again I cannot reproduce-then that word in English letters, and then the word in English. For example, the Inuit word, then that word in English letters -- kinguq (singular) and kinguit (plural) and then the English translation -sea louse and sea lice. What fun.

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Another such picture book, that I happen to have is Only In My Hometown or Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani (English translation), and then there is the Inuit words, AND the text is presented in all three formats! This wonderful book is written by one sister, Arnakuluk Vuriisan and illustrated by her sister, Angnakuluk Friesen. Notice the family name is first.


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Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

HarperCollins, 2017. Told in three alternating voices of three teens who were each put up for adoption -- Grace, Maya, and Joaquin. They all have the same birth mother, but none of them knew anything the others or about their mother until Grace starts hunting. When they meet, Grace is 16, Maya is 15 and Joaquin is 17.

Grace lives with Diane and Rob as her parents and they have a strong family unit. Maya lives with a set of loving adoptive parents and Lauren-a younger sister born shortly after Maya was adopted. Joaquin is living with his 18th set of foster parents and they very much want to adopt him-but he isn't sure. Seventeen rejection makes him leary.

As the book opens, Grace, a sophomore, has given birth to a little girl she calls Peach. She puts the baby up for adoption-but cannot stop mourning her. Fortunately, the new parents are very willing to keep Grace informed of the baby's life, but the emptiness she feels for the child she held, makes Grace think about her own birth mother-could she still miss Grace? As she starts to research her birth mother, Grace discovers she has two siblings, which she now wants to find. Perhaps they can search for their mother together.

The three meet -- and almost instantly a sense of family grows between them.


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The Librarian of Auschwitz by Iturbe, Antonio. Henry Holt, 2017

Set in 1944, Ditinka - Dita -- Alderova and her mother and father are prisoners in Auschwitz, where Alfred -- Fredy -- Hirsch has managed to convince the Nazis that he can keep the children busy with games. Once Fredy's idea has been accepted, he secretly involves adults as teachers to create a school; at fourteen, Dita becomes the librarian to their collection of eight books to which she eventually adds Living Books-teachers telling the stories of their favorite books. This young girl feels honored and takes her job very seriously as "she had discovered that her life could be made much more profound because books multiple your experience . . ."

This is not just one story; it is a story containing other stories containing still other stories. Each character has a story in Auschwitz, another story from life before Auschwitz, and still other stories and fears inside each one's mind, all creating an abundance of stories and characters. Teens reading this will be caught up in the characters as well as the horrific realities. Iturbe does not fantasize the war, but the worst events happen "off scene." The prisoners know about the ovens, when they learn the population will be divided. One group stays and the other leaves; those who leave are going to die. The courage of the prisoners is beyond belief. Statistics remind the reader of the reality.

In Auschwitz the weirdest things are normal.

God has allowed Auschwitz to exist, so maybe he isn't an infallible watchmaker, as they told her. The most beautiful flowers emerge from the foulest dung heap. So maybe,

    God isn't a watchmaker but a gardener.

    God sows and the devil reaps with a scythe that cuts down everything.

Who'll win this mad game? Dita asks herself. (p 276)

In his research, Iturbe interviewed Dita (Alderova) Kraus, who had been rescued and released by Allied forces in 1957. She soon met and married Otto Kraus and they then moved to Israel where the widow now lives with her children and grandchildren.


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Girl Rising: Changing The World One Girl At A Time by Tanya Lee Stone. Wendy Lamb Books/Penguin Random House, 2017. After seeing the film, Girl Rising, Stone could not stop thinking of the journeys these girls had each taken after being sold into marriage by their families at ages too young, some at five years of age, to be legal. She contacted the film’s producers who were excited to share their research to enable her to create this nonfiction book.

In Nepal at the celebration that ends winter and celebrates the coming of Spring, parents know there will be Kamlari (a practice of bonded labor that has existed quietly for generations) brokers present to buy girls for their masters. The parents have come to believe that because of their extreme poverty this action will at least assure their daughters will be able to have food. One of her sources, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s Global Report Trafficking in Persons, 2014, provided the following statistics from 2011 (p 31):

Victims by gender and age –

  • 49% women, 18% men,
  • 21% girls and 18% boys

  Forms of Exploitation Among Trafficking Victims –

  • Forced Labor – 40%,
  • Sexual Slavery – 53%,
  • Other – 7%.

Stone tells the stories of several of these girls who have managed to escape or been rescued and were then able to attending school. The book is a masterpiece, combining the girls’ stories, incredible photography, and Stone’s sensitive and stirring narrative. It will be an award winner.

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Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp, Source Books, 2018. Corey and Kyra have grown up in Lost Creek, Alaska, a small town only reachable by air. Corey, her mother, and her younger brother-Kyra, her mother and father. Told through several different voices/events, Corey in the present, Kyra through unsent letters to Corey, Kyra's art, and flashbacks. Nijkamp nicely trains the reader to check the chapter titles for time references. Kyra may have died, but she is very much present in the books, as is her bipolar disorder.

The book opens after the Corey and Kyra have graduated. Corey, and her family have moved to Winnipeg where her mother has found an advanced nursing position. Corey lives in a dorm, where she gets a phone call from her mom telling her that Kyra has died. Kyra was always an outcast with few friends and since graduation had lived alone in an abandoned mansion. Her loneliness leaks through the book.

Corey immediately flies to Lost Creek for the funeral and to find out what happened. There she discovers the people of the town that had ostracized Kyra for so many years, had made her almost "holy" -- making her something other than herself.

Author also wrote This is Where It Ends, which tells the story of one school day when an angry male student traps everyone in the auditorium and slowly starts killing them starting with the principal.


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All I Want To Be Is Me Rothblatt, Phyllis, Createspace Independent Pub, 2011. (With beautiful illustrations and in rhythmic patterns that read most like a poem or song, Rothblatt writes from the point of view of several young people who want most to be accepted as they are. This simple book, gentle and accepting, implies the basic thought, “Why can’t I be accepted as me?” Though the characters are school age, All I Want To Be Is Me is accessible for all ages.


book cover How The Moon Regained Her Shape by Ben Hodson, 2006. Moon loves her work as each night she gets to glow. Bullied by the egotistical Sun, Moon fades so much that her friend, a comet, tells her to seek out Round Arms, an earth woman who will help her. As this is an original story, it cannot be categorized as folklore.


book cover The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

HarperCollins, 2016. This is how I kill someone. That is the opening line and the speaker is Alex, female, brilliant, and lonely. Her older sister was murdered, her father does not come home from business trips any more, and her mom lives in an alcoholic haze. The author does not waste any words on the trivial and each page keeps the reader locked in for the next page and the next and the next. To tell you more would be to give away too much. Just get it and read it!


book cover The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williams

FSG/MacMillan, 2014. Told in two voices, both outsiders. David Piper has a great family-a great set of parents and a little sister, Livvy, who idolizes him, but he just cannot tell them the secret he has kept for years, David knows he is a she. Leo Denton lives with his twin sister, a younger sister, and an irresponsible mom who drinks too much and brings home men who do the same. He is new to David's school having transferred from an inner city school where there was some trouble. It is not until Leo punches Harry, the bully, in the nose for harassing David that these two loners become friends.


book cover The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2016. Set in the 1970s in Alaska and told in the woven voices of Ruth (her father died in a plane crash, her mother gave birth the day to Lily the same day and has not been right since), Dora (she lives with a very abusive father until some kind neighbors rescue here), Alyce (plans to audition for a scholarship to become a dancer but first must spend the summer pulling in the day's catch on her dad's fishing boat), and Hank (the oldest of three brothers who are trying to escape from their drunk mother's abusive boyfriend.


book cover Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

HarperCollins, 2015. Alex names her bike Erwin, rides it to school and hides it in a bush as hers would be the only bike in the lot. Besides being the new kid in this public school, Alex is also trying to deal with her life and her delusions-she is schizophrenic. Alexandra Richmond is one of the gutsiest characters in YA Lit.


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