The Weird series (Free Spirit Publishing)
Written by Erin Frankel and illustrated by Paula Heaphy
Grades 1 through 5
The Weird series introduces readers to Luisa, Jayla, and Sam—three girls intertwined in a bullying experience. Each story is told from their own viewpoint—the victim, the bystander, and the bully. In the first book, WEIRD!, we meet Luisa who is the target of the bullying. She endures relentless putdowns aimed at her unique style and personality. This causes her to emotionally suffer and become confused as to why this is happening and how to make it stop. She finally reveals the truth of what is going on to her mother who helps her reclaim her former self-confidence.
In the second book, DARE!, we are introduced to Jayla the bystander of the bully problem. In the beginning, Jayla does nothing to stop Luisa being tormented because she is afraid of the bully. Readers discover Jayla was also once a victim of the girl's taunts. Author Erin Frankel shows us the danger of becoming a bystander in the second book when Jayla joins in the bullying because she feels intimidated and pressured into doing so. One day Jayla dares herself to take a stand and have courage to fight this problem. She learns to cope with her past fears by befriending Luisa and standing up for her.
In the concluding book of the series, TOUGH!, we meet Sam who has been behind all of the bullying. But readers also discover what is underneath all of the mean behavior. Sam is exposed to television programs depicting bullying behavior, bullied by her brother at home, and has also been picked on at school. The only way she feels she can regain control is by hurting others and acting tough to cover up her own secret pain. Sam finally loses her bullying ways when a teacher intervenes and offers to help. Her anger and desire to lash out at others subsides when she begins to use kindness and compassion.
The illustrations in this story will definitely spur discussion. It is illustrated in black and white except for the characters in each book who are in color. Two of the same pages overlap and appear in each book. Each book in the series also includes an activity guide and helpful information for adults. The Weird! series is a powerful teaching tool about bullying. It's insightful, creative, and will touch students' hearts and minds and empower them to stop bullying. Cross-curricular connections:
Character Education, Writing, Art, Language Arts Ideas for Classroom Use: Character Study through Illustrations
Lead a discussion around the use of color in the books. Divide the class into three groups and give them each a different book to study. Allow them to take notes on their observations by using sticky notes. On a white board, write the names of each different book and allow each group to put all of their observations under each title. Students can also take it a step further and try to interpret why they feel color was used this way.
Some observations students should look for and discussion points:
- The story is black and white except for the main characters.
- The main characters are in color.
- Luisa's colors fade as the bullying continues.
- Jayla's colors fade as she stands by silently watching Luisa being bullied and joins in on the bullying.
- Luisa's polka dots float away, Jayla's stars fade, and Sam wears hearts under a hoodie.
- Luisa's polka dots come back bigger and brighter than ever.
- Jayla's stars come back in full color.
- Sam stops hiding behind her hooded sweatshirt and we see her hearts as we see her kindness begin to grow.
- What color do you feel when you are happy?
- What color do you feel when you are bullied or when you see someone else being bullied?
- What happens to your color when you feel powerless?
- What happens when you are empowered?
- How can you protect your color?
- How can you protect other people's colors?
As a closing activity for this lesson, have students write and illustrate their own story about bullying from their point of view. Were they the victim, bystander, or maybe even the bully? Encourage students to use color in a similar fashion as it was in the Weird! series to represent their power and how they overcame their problem. Allow students to share their stories with the classroom community. For younger students, allow them to do a drawing using colors that make them feel courageous, confident, and kind. Additional Resources and Activities: PACER
This website contains information from the creators of National Bullying Prevention Month and The National Center for Bullying Prevention that helps promote awareness and teach effective ways to respond to bullying.
Kids’ site: www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org
Teen site: www.pacerteensagainstbullying.org NEA Bully Free Schools
This website provides information on NEA’s bullying prevention campaign. There are also tips and resources to help you address the issue of bullying in your classroom. Choose Kind
This is a blog inspired by R.J. Palacio’s WONDER. It contains links to anti-bullying resources and opportunities to use the novel in conjunction with efforts to get your students to “choose kindness.” Teaching Tolerance
This website by the Southern Poverty Law Center offers a documentary, classroom activities, and teaching kits that promote tolerance. The Trevor Project
This website is a companion to the Trevor Lifeline, a 24-hour, national crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for gay and questioning teens. The site offers teacher resources, tips, and training. The number for the hotline is 1-866-4-U-Trevor. Bully Free Program
This website offers a range of tips for dealing with bullying for teachers, students, and parents. Claim Your Rights
The Claim Your Rights program is designed to help everyone understand that they have the right to safer schools. This resource helps students, parents, and teachers report incidences of bullying, particularly when schools deny that bullying exists. Roxanne Davidson has been working as an elementary school counselor since obtaining her Master's Degree in Education in 2005. Bibliotherapy has always been a passion of hers as she has witnessed the healing power of books in her students' lives. She has made it her mission to help teachers, children, and parents find contemporary books to help them address the many issues kids currently deal with in the classroom and at home. This inspired her to start the popular book review blog, Books That Heal Kids. Besides writing for her blog she enjoys running, reading and spending time with her husband and daughter.
© 2012 Roxanne Davidson. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.