Tag: bullying

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock

The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, illustrated by Sophie Casson (InfoSoup)

Told from the point of view of a child in Arles, France, this book looks at how unique people in the world have their own way of viewing things. The boy joins with the adults in the town to mock and bully painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh was seen as a wild man, living in poverty who wasted his days creating art that didn’t sell and that went against everything that people knew about art. Yet he just kept on painting. The boy eventually finds himself in a field with the artist, suddenly seeing the world as something amazing and vibrantly colored rather than the same place it has always been. The artist offered the boy his painting but the boy refused, only to see it years later on the wall of a museum.

Peacock has created a picture book about bullying but also about so much more. It is about the way that society reacts to a genius who refuses to follow their rules, who walks his own path through the fields, painting as he goes. The child is clearly following what the adults around him are saying. He is also intrigued in many ways by the strange artist and the way he lives. Plus he is drawn in by the paintings that he can glimpse. It’s a lovely balance of rejection and attraction that makes the book surprising and effective.

The art by Casson uses vibrant colors to capture the French countryside. The golden of the wheat fields, the purple of the sky, all tied together with reds and blues and add depth and even more color. The result is a different style than Van Gogh, but a nod to his use of color and sense of freedom.

A book that works on many levels, this picture book looks at bullying, genius, art and the power of connection. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn (InfoSoup)

Adrian works hard to stay invisible in the high school hallways, because otherwise he seems to always get the attention of the school bullies. Adrian uses a lot of his free time drawing his superhero, Graphite and posting new stories and art anonymously to his website. He also has his two best friends who offer him some safety at school, since he is an art geek, sci-fi fan and gay. When Adrian manages to give himself a shocking haircut, he stops being invisible. Then a hate crime happens right in front of him and Adrian has to step forward and speak the truth about what really happened even if the police and others don’t believe him. It’s what any superhero would do.

This book is a dynamic mix of graphic novel, science fiction and LGBT reality. It looks at high school right now, showing that even if people know better there are still gay teens being beaten up just for being themselves. It asks the question of whether being closeted is safer or not, whether putting yourself out there is worth the risk, and whether it is ever suitable to try to be invisible. It also shows readers what a real hero looks like. The type that can’t fly or live in space, but one that walks high school halls and steps up for others.

Linn combines his writing and drawing skills in this book, giving Graphite his own look and feel. I appreciate that the art is well done, but also something that could be done by a talented high school student. It displays a sensitivity that is right in line with Adrian’s perspective as well as a certain theatrical nature too.

An amazing and unique teen novel, this book offers several heroes in and out of costume. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (InfoSoup)

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania in 1943, Annabelle lives a quiet life where she hopes for adventure. She attends a one-room schoolhouse with her two younger brothers, walking there from their family farm each day. That quiet life changes when Betty Glengarry arrives at school. She immediately targets Annabelle, demanding payments in exchange for not hurting Annabelle and her brothers, killing a bird without remorse. Annabelle does not want to worry her family with her troubles, so she keeps them to herself. Soon though things escalate with her youngest brother running into a sharpened wire along the path. After that, Annabelle’s best friend is maimed with a rock that Annabelle knows was thrown by Betty. Betty though blames Toby, a reclusive man who walks the paths all day long with guns slung on his back. Toby has been nothing but kind to Annabelle and her family, but he is considered strange by many. When Betty disappears soon after making the allegation, Annabelle decides that she must rescue Toby from the new accusations being made.

Wolk has created a rich and beautiful world for Annabelle to live in. The hills and valleys of the Pennsylvanian countryside offer not only a rich farming world but also a place where secrets can hide and dangers lurk. The setting of Wolf Hollow itself with its history of trapping wolves in pits is a striking analogy for what happens in the novel. Annabelle herself is brave and clever, a girl who is bullied awfully and then has the power placed in her hands to make a difference for someone she cares about.

This book focuses on the courage it takes to stand up for what is right, for what one knows deep down to be true. It is a book that speaks to all of those who are strange among us and the way that rumors and accusations tend to target them. It is also about the power a child can have in an adult world, the difference one person can make. It is also a book that is dark and complicated: one where girls disappear, where Germans are not welcome, and where hate is fast to develop.

This is a complex and layered novel that is a deep and compelling read focusing on bullying and the impact of war. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers

A Complicated Case by Ulf Nilsson

A Complicated Case by Ulf Nilsson

A Complicated Case by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Gitte Spee

This is the second book in the Detective Gordon series and offers a new mystery for the toad police chief and his young mouse assistant to solve. The detective pair live together at the police station after converting the jail into bedrooms. Gordon is getting pudgier and finding it harder to run, partly because he loves his cakes and his naps. Buffy is just as energetic as ever, but has some of her own personal fears to overcome, like admitting that she can’t read. The two detectives discover that someone in the forest is being mean to others, something that is clearly against the rules set forth in the law. But things are not as clear as they may seem as the two detectives discover.

Nilsson has just the right amount of drama in this second installment of the series. The lovely friendship between the aging toad and the young mouse is delightfully presented with plenty of appreciation for what each of them bring to the partnership, and I don’t just mean that Gordon can swim and Buffy can climb trees. In this mystery, the two of them also convey their own doubts and fears, something that is done with enough subtlety that readers may not realize until the end of the book that that is the focus of this mystery.

The art is warm and playful. The two characters are wonderfully distinct from one another as Gordon mopes on the page about how pudgy he is while Buffy dances and dreams of wearing costumes. There is a coziness in the illustrations as well, from the cakes and their tins to the soft furniture.

Another lovely outing for the two detectives, this series is one to watch for children just starting to read chapter books. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (InfoSoup)

Riley carefully chooses the right clothes for the first day of public school, probably more carefully than another other teen ever has. Riley’s clothes need to blend in, but Riley has never been good at that, particularly with having a congressman for a father but even more so because being gender fluid makes dressing all the more complicated. When a therapist tells Riley to start a blog and find a cause, Riley starts to write online about what it is really like to be a gender fluid teen. At school, Riley is starting to fit in with new friends and what could be a budding romance if Riley is reading the signs right. But then advice Riley has given to a transgender teen online takes makes the blog go viral and the issue gets national attention. Soon Riley realizes there is a local stalker reading the blog, threatening to reveal Riley’s identity to everyone.

Garvin has managed to write an entire novel without letting readers know the gender that Riley was assigned at birth. It’s a tremendous feat, made all the more amazing because readers will not notice what he is doing. A large part of that is because Riley is an incredibly engaging and extraordinary character, filled with angst about gender but also longing for friends and even a dash of romance. Riley is a blaze of light as a character, burning so brightly on the page that is impossible to look away. This is a book that you read in one long gulp, caught in the world the author has created so vividly. It is a book that dances with disaster, offering a protagonist who is smart, courageous and simply superb.

Garvin deals with a series of serious issues in this novel. He does not shy away from any of it, which makes the book all the more raw and engaging. He shows exactly what being androgynous is like, the bullying and speculation about a person’s gender. He speaks to the tragedy of suicide in the trans population, the hatred that is directed their way, the lack of understanding and even violence by parents. He turns his attention to sexual attacks as well, creating a book that is riveting to read but also very important to have on library shelves.

An impressive, important and glorious teen novel about one gender fluid teen who will let you understand what being gender fluid is about and the courage it takes to be yourself every day. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss.

Review: When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang

When Sophies Feelings Are Really Really Hurt by Molly Bang

When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang

Released September 29, 2015.

Sophie and her class at school are given an assignment to paint a tree from real life. Sophie has a favorite tree, the big beech tree where she goes when she is feeling sad. When she visits it, she sees how it glows in the sun, how its branches are formed. But when she tries to paint it, she realizes that its gray trunk actually looks sad in the painting, it’s the opposite of how she feels about the tree. So she changes the bark color to a vivid blue, the sky is orange and the leaves are chartreuse and ringed in yellow to make them glow. Sophie is very happy with her painting until the other children start to tease her about it not being realistic at all. Sophie’s feelings get very hurt until her teacher comes over and they talk about what Sophie was showing in her painting of the tree. Sophie also gets the chance to see the trees that everyone in the class painted and to see how they conveyed what they were feeling too.

This second book about Sophie follows the very popular When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry, which received a Caldecott Honor. This book focuses on feelings and emotions once again and wisely takes on emotions through the lens of art. Bang makes sure to explain exactly how Sophie is feeling throughout the book, focusing on the emotions from how the tree makes her feel to the way that the teasing at school feels down to her physical reactions as well. These clear looks at emotions will allow a discussion of feelings that is manageable and one that can embrace art as well.

Bang’s illustrations are exceptional. They glow with a light from within. The beech tree is fabulous and one can immediately see the connection between Bang’s art and Sophie’s. Both are playful, colorful and show deep emotion. I particularly love the image when Sophie is upset that looks at her gazing down at her feet, so that the reader is almost seeing things from Sophie’s perspective. It captures the feeling of self-doubt and even shame that teasing can create. The entire book has moments like this.

Another winning title from Molly Bang, this second Sophie book deserves to be in every library right alongside the first. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from The Blue Sky Press.

Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage by Courtney Summers (InfoSoup)

When Romy is raped at a party after having too much to drink, no one believes her that it happened. After all, she accused the sheriff’s oldest son and she’s the daughter of the town drunk. A year later, Romy has tried to put her life back together. She and her mother have moved in with her mother’s new boyfriend and her alcoholic father has left town. Romy works at a diner where no one knows about the scandal that she was involved in. But all is not good, she is bullied mercilessly at school for the “lie” that she told and she can’t trust anyone at her high school to have her back. Romance starts to bloom with the cook at the diner, a boy whom Romy is not sure she can trust and knows that she can’t let anyone at her hometown know about. As the annual senior party approaches, Romy knows she can’t attend but news that another girl may have been raped in a neighboring town sends her into a downward spiral, one that she may not survive.

This is one incredible read. The prose is beautiful, roaming and wild with a lusciousness that lingers in the mind. Summers makes the act of putting on finger polish and lipstick into one of battle paint and bravery. She also has a distinct feminist point of view that is a delight to read, one that shows the violence towards women and girls and rejects the notion that women are to be used and thrown away. She does that all by having a story where women are abused, raped, objectified and thrown away and where girls are called names, bullied and beaten. It is a story that is brutal in its fierce honesty and burning with anger at what we are allowing to happen to ourselves.

Romy is a spectacular heroine. She is a ball of ferocious pain, painted with makeup that allows her to control things, searching for a way to be a new person and finding it impossible to leave her anger and herself behind. Add to the appeal an African-American love interest where that is not the issue at the heart of the book. And a mother who is involved and cares deeply but is unable to save her daughter from the world they live in together. And a stepfather who is kind and lovely, disabled and disrespected. These people make up Romy’s family and heart. They hold her together when she cannot, though she fights to stand alone always.

A piercingly compelling read, this is a compelling feminist book that teenagers need to read to understand our society and what has to change. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from library copy.