by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press (A Neal Porter Book), July 2013
review copy provided by the publisher
Bull is a bully. He is mean to every single animal, and with every meanness, he gets bigger and bigger on the page. That is, until the goat stands up to him and calls him what he is: "BULLY!"
This causes Bull to experience introspection, deflation, and happy resolution (after he apologizes).
BULLY is a simple book, but even for older children, there is much to talk about, beginning with an illustration before the title page that hints at why Bull is a bully. Also, not enough can be said, in my opinion, about the power of standing up for yourself. So many students come to me on the playground at recess complaining about something another child did to them, and 9 times out of 10, they wouldn't have needed to come tattle to me if they had simply turned to the other child and asked, in an assertive voice, "Why did you do that to me?" This usually gives the other child a chance to A. realize they did something to cause offense, B. apologize before the child who's been "wronged" runs away to tattle, and/or C. deflate a bit because they've been called out for their behavior.
by Doug TenNapel
review copy purchased for my classroom
TOMMYSAURUS REX is more about losing a dear pet than it is about bullies, but there is a really mean one who plays a key role in the story. (The bully is a boy whose dad has left his mom and him, and I'm getting a little tired of that over-simplified formula for a bully. But we'll set that irritation aside for now and continue with the review...)
Ely's beloved dog Tommy is hit by a car and killed, and to help him get over his grief, his parents let him spend the summer on his grandfather's farm. While there, Ely discovers a Tyrannosaurus Rex who escaped extinction, becomes fast friends with (**spoiler alert**) her, and then has to figure out a way to raise money to pay for the damages she causes and convince the town that he should be able to keep her as his pet. Randy, the bully, dashes Ely's every hope, but there are a couple of plot twists in the end that result in multiple happy endings.
Just like in BULLY, the ending is just a little bit too easy -- neither book is an accurate portrayal of real-life bullies and what it's like to deal with them. But both books (together or separately) will be great for classroom (and family) conversations about what's possible, and strategies that need to be attempted, whether or not they work the same way in life as they do in literature.