This week I have a short book (just under 100 pages) that would be perfect for the 2-4th grade boy who either a) loves baseball or b) is struggling with being bullied.
In Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball, author Phyllis J. Perry authentically portrays the problems that Jack, a fifth grader and avid baseball fan, encounters at school every day.
Here's the opening paragraph:
"I squeezed my eyes together as tight as I could, praying that when I opened them again, the two distant figures that I saw leaning against the fence wouldn't be there. But I knew better." (p.1)From that point on, Jack is confronted with Steve and his sidekick, Cliff, who harass him every day. He chooses not to tell his friends or his parents about how they tease him, take his lunch, and how he doesn't stick up for himself.
I didn't want Dad to know I was a coward. I was afraid he'd be so disappointed in me if he found out that I was letting Steve bully me, and that I didn't even try to stand up for myself. And nothing could be worse than disappointing my dad. p. 10-11Jack tries several different ways to avoid Steve and Cliff, but avoidance doesn't work and he ends up more disappointed in himself for not speaking up. At the same time, he is appointed to help out a new student, Hans from Germany, who helps him see the situation differently.
When Jack finally speaks his mind to the bullies it's over something that matters to him even more than his own reputation--his beloved baseball glove that his uncle gave him.
At the end of the book the reader discovers what many adults know: young bullies often see bullying in their families or are victims themselves.
When Jack finally confides in his parents that he didn't want to be a tattletale or disappoint his parents, his mother's response is one I wish all parents in this situation would echo:
"I probably wouldn't know what was best to do about it either," Mom said, "But I'd never think you were a coward for avoiding a fight with two bullies." (p.77)One of my favorite lines is when Jack prepares himself to come face to face with Steve and Cliff. "...I wasn't really scared. It was funny, but I was over that. Part of being scared is not knowing what to do." (p. 80). Jack also helps a boy younger than himself confront his fears. That is a sweet demonstration of Jack passing along what he has learned.
This would make a great elementary school classroom read. The book's (unfortunately) current topic makes it accessible to older reluctant readers also.
I'm giving away my copy of this book. Leave me a comment (with your name and email address if you are new to my blog) and I'll enter your name. Share this on social media (and tell me what you do) and I'll add your name a second time to the proverbial hat. Giveaway ends January 18.