Bullying is a hot topic in the media these days as it seems to be on the rise in our schools and neighborhoods. Or, perhaps more people are just paying attention to it. Audrey Penn addressed the topic back in 2008, using her beloved character Chester Raccoon, famous from The Kissing Hand book, in her picture book Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully.
Chester, his younger brother Ronny, and their friend Cassy don't want to go to school anymore. When Mrs. Raccoon asks them why, they tell her about this horrible bully at school, whose description sounds more like a fanciful monster than a real [animal] child. But think about it – to children, a bully would resemble some kind of a monster in their minds. The bully is actually a badger who does all kinds of things to torture the children at school. He ruins their play time, causes a skunk to spray their friend, and hurts the other children. Even the teacher has a hard time controlling him. So, Mrs. Raccoon decides to gather the young ones and to tell them a story.
Mrs. Raccoon tells a tale about a stone that the other animals once found in the woods. It was a different color than any of the other ones, and was very rough around the edges. The animals work together to smooth out those rough edges, to bring out the stone's true beauty. Inspired by Mrs. Raccoon's tale, the children decide to be proactive with the badger. They ignore his volatile behavior and focus on being his friend, to help him change his ways.
What I love about this book is that it has lessons for both adults and children within it. Children who become bullies are often very insecure and do not know any other method of expressing themselves, beyond acting out in aggression. These are the children who need some extra love and attention. It isn't going to be as easy as it was in this picture book to change the bullying child's ways. But with teamwork and acceptance, eventually those difficult children's rough edges can be smoothed out. Children do not innately realize this and need adults to set a good example. And adults need to remember this lesson when they are feeling their most frustrated with the difficult child.
I shared this book with several young children. One of them, who is 8 years old, was extremely excited to see this book on my laptop, because she remembered hearing it at school. Her favorite part is Mrs. Raccoon's story about the stones. She had me read it over and over again before finishing the rest of the book. This repetition was a great way to implant the book's lessons into her being. Read it with young children in your life to open up discussion about bullying and being friends.
I received a set of galleys from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this review.