Tuesday, October 7, 2014

‘Weird!’ by Erin Frankel for bullying awareness

Cover art for Weird! by Erin Frankel. In the right foreground, a girl looks sadly toward a girl who laughs and points at her. To the laughing girl's left, a girl with a hula hoop looks on uncomfortably.

With the universality of its devastating impact upon children’s self-esteem, I knew that when I selected a book with a culturally-neutral subject, I wanted the subject to be bullying. To commemorate October as National Bullying Prevention Month while examining cultural diversity, Weird!, written by Erin Frankel and illustrated by Paula Heaphy (Free Spirit Publishing, 2012), seemed the perfect choice.

(As explained during my course readings for Children’s Literature this week, a book that is “culturally neutral” contains characters who are culturally diverse, but the book’s topic is about something else.)

Weird! is one in a set of three books that examine a case of bullying. There is a victim, Luisa, a bystander, Jayla, and a bully, Sam. The cover art for Weird! shows the girls from left to right as bystander, bully and victim, and the two companion books (Dare! and Tough!) document the incidents from Jayla’s and Sam’s perspectives.

In Weird!, Sam constantly puts Luisa down when she shows her individuality. One of the things Sam makes fun of Luisa for is when Luisa speaks in Spanish to her father.

Luisa is portrayed as a bilingual child, from what may be a biracial family. Her multicultural background is one aspect of a diverse character who also loves polka dots and feels proud when she does well in math. I donated the three books to my local school library because I value their portrayals of bullying. I consider the books to be of high quality, especially when used together.

Composed for Cuesta College’s ECE 234, Children’s Literature

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