Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Weird! Series: Weird! Dare! Tough!

Author: Erin Frankel

Illustrator: Paula Heaphy

Buy them here!


Summary: These three books present bullying from three perspectives: the bully, the bullied, and the person who sees the bullying but does not do anything to help. First, Weird! is about Louisa, a little girl who loves polka dots, is bilingual, and has a bubbly personality. Sam, her classmate, bullies her and calls the things that make her special "weird." The book follows Louisa from being a happy girl to feeling incredibly helpless, and hurt. She even asks herself, "What did I do to deserve this?" She finally reaches out to adults, and people start to stand up for her. She ends up embracing all of those "weird" things about her. Dare! follows Jayla, Louisa's classmate and, in the end, friend. Jayla has been bullied by Sam before. Though at first she feels relieved to no longer be Sam's target, Jayla begins to feel guilty and wonders what she can do to ease her bad feelings, and help Louisa. She talks to adults and begins to make choices that make her feel good, like complimenting Louisa and standing up to Sam. Tough! follows Sam, the bully, and gives background as to why she acts the way she acts. It highlights her behavioral models-- rude teens on TV, an older brother who picks on her-- and discusses her perspective of her bullying-- she isn't being mean, she's being "tough," which is how to be cool. Again, adults intervene, and Sam begins to recognize that her behavior is hurtful.
These three books are to be read and taught together-- they share common illustrations from different perspectives. They also have teaching tools in the back of each book.

Relationship to Element 2: Element 2 is all about respect for others. Through The Weird! Series, the reader learns not just that bullying is bad, but also teaches from the different perspectives of those who are involved in bullying. Not only that, but it gives resources and advice to readers about how to deal with and handle bullying. The books teach respect for self and others, and respect for differing perspectives. By portraying bullying from multiple perspectives, these books humanize the bully (rather than bullying the bully, which many books tend to do, by making the bully the enemy), show how one person can make a difference if they speak up, and also shows the effects that bullying can have on multiple victims. These books teach respect in a cooperative way, and are awesome, especially when read together.

Activity: In the back of each book, there are series activities suggested, as well as reflection questions, and suggestions for those feeling like Louisa, Jayla, or Sam (for example, in Weird!, the "confidence club" is discussed, and suggests students "recycling their thoughts," and turn negative thoughts into positive ones). One of my favorite activity suggestions is called the "Circle of Courage," where students reflect on the courageous acts that make differences to the characters in the three books. Then, a large "Circle of Courage" is made, with polka dots, stars, and hearts placed close by. Students are then encouraged to add a shape to the circle whenever they see an act of courage, or helps prevent, discourage, or stop bullying. I think this activity works well because it first encourages students to reflect on what's been read, but then to connect it to their real lives. It also encourages students to be more aware of their behavior, as well as their classmate's behavior, and to promote respectful dialogue, even in conflict situations.

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