Bullying is in no way cute, but author/illustrator Jennifer Sattler has figured a way to soften it a bit with her adorable new picture book, aptly titled, Bully.
In the book, pudgy Bully the bull frog offers the world his most curmudgeonly scowl as he claims all the lilies in the local pond for himself. He does NOT want Snail eating them, Bee pollinating them or Dragonfly sniffing them, and he tells them so. Then he orders them to “GET OUT!!!” To be sure they understand that he means business, he eats nearly every lily pad in the pond, then sits on the very last one so no one else can eat it. It’s as if he’s saying, “I don’t want it, but I don’t want you to have it, either.”
At first Snail, Bee and Dragonfly do as Bully says and vacate the lovely premises. But after awhile, they finally do what every person (or bee, snail or dragonfly) has to do when confronted with an unrelenting bully: they stand up to him.
And boy, is that a sight to behold!
This bullying-with-a-twist book is a real delight, and should quickly become an early elementary favorite. Ms. Sattler’s prose is packed with humor (and insects!), and the plot is fast-paced and exciting enough to keep children turning pages until the very end. Her illustrations are adorable, with plumpish frogs, moon-eyed snails, unassuming bees, and a lovely pond that makes one want to plunge their bare toes into it…if Bully will allow it, that is.
Ms. Sattler helps young readers identify the traits of a bully, beginning with the scowl on Bully’s face to the selfishness and self-centered outlook he portrays when he refuses to share what doesn’t even belong to him (the pond…and the world in general) with others. With skill and precision, she even manages to portray that “other side” of a bully; the side that shows after the bully has run off all his/her friends and finally sits churlish and alone…and perhaps wondering why he/she has no true friends.
Use this book to open a discussion about bullies and when (and how) to stand up to them. The book’s satisfying ending can also be used to open a discussion about the fact that standing up to a bully doesn’t necessarily change the bully, but it certainly changes the atmosphere for the ones who have been subjected to his or her cruelty.