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Bullying: recommended titles for children and young adults for Anti Bullying Week

Written by · Published Nov 13, 2018

Created: 16 November 2016 Last updated: 13 November 2018

Something Else, How To Fly With Broken Wings, The Icarus Show

For Anti Bullying Week, we’ve put together a list of recommendations for children and young adults on the subject of bullying.

Bullying can be frightening and isolating, so we hope that these titles help young people who are being bullied to feel less alone, and seek help.

Even if they’re not being bullied, it’s important for children to understand how it feels to be in such a situation and learn what to do if they experience or witness bullying.

Picture books

I Walk With Vanessa: a story about a simple act of kindness, by Kerascoët

“This simple yet powerful picture book tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events, I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help.”

Willy the Wimp, by Anthony Browne

“Willy wouldn’t hurt a fly - he even apologises when someone hits him. The suburban gorillas call him Willy the Wimp. Then, one day, Willy answers a bodybuilding advertisement - with hilarious results!”

Avocado Baby, by John Burningham

“The Hargraves family are plagued by bullies. However, when their new baby discovers avocado, he develops super strength and endurance and puts the bullies in their place.”

Something Else, by Kathryn Cave & Chris Riddell

“A simple story, about a small creature who does his best to join in with the others. But he’s different. No matter how he tries, he just doesn’t belong. Then Something turns up and wants to be friends - but Something Else isn’t sure he’s like him at all.”

A story about exclusion, the most common form of bullying amongst young children, this book deals with difference and the power of friendship. It’s lovely to read, well resolved and an excellent choice.

Say Hello, by Jack & Michael Foreman

“Based on the author’s childhood experience, this is the story of a boy who is left out and all alone, while other children play happily.”

Elmer and the Big Bird, by David McKee

“One day, Elmer notices that there are no birds around. How strange! Soon he finds them hiding from the nasty bully bird in a nearby cave. The bully bird is mean and likes to frighten little birds. Led by Elmer, the animals work together to frighten off the bully - and succeed!”

Troll Stinks, by Jeanne Willis & Tony Ross

“Billy Goat and his best friend Cyril are messing about with the farmer’s mobile phone, taking selfies and playing games - until they find the number for a troll. Their Grandpa Gruff says trolls are bad, so Billy and Cyril decide to get their own back by sending mean messages. After all, trolls really do stink! Don’t they?”

Bluebird, by Bob Staake

“In this emotional picture book, readers will be captivated as they follow the journey of a bluebird as he develops a friendship with a young boy and ultimately risks his life to save the boy from harm. Both simple and evocative, this timeless and profound story will resonate with readers young and old.”

Dinosaur Chase!, by Benedict Blathwayt

“Fin is a dinosaur unlike any other - teased for his ‘spindly little legs, bony tale and feeble fluffy arms’. But despite his odd appearance, when a gang of four big, bullying dinosaurs chase him into the woods, Fin outwits them one by one.”

Short chapter books

Secret Friends, by Elizabeth Laird

“Rafaella finds it hard to make friends when she starts at a new school. Her name sounds strange, her ears stick out, she feels different from the others. And Lucy is the first to tease, the first to call her Earwig. But then a secret friendship begins.”

A super book about the harm caused by name calling, Secret Friends was shortlisted for the Carnegie Award for its intelligent and sensitive portrayal of difference and racism in schools.

Invisible Vinnie, by Jenny Nimmo

“Rose wishes Zack wasn’t always teasing her at school. Then her Uncle Vinnie conjures up a magic way of stopping him. Ratty, the classroom pet might look like just a cute rat to Rose, but, as bully-boy Zack finds out, there’s more to this little furry rodent than meets the eye.

Why Pick On Me?, by Louis Sachar

“Everyone is laughing at Marvin Redpost. Why? He picks his nose, at least that’s what Clarence says and no one argues with Clarence - not even Marvin’s so-called friends. So what can Marvin do to turn things around?”

Junior fiction

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, by Louis Sachar

“Bradley Chalkers is a bad lot! He lies, he gets into fights, no one wants to be his friend and he is all alone. Until, that is, he meets the delightful new school counsellor, Carla, and she persuades Bradley that he can change.”

The Song from Somewhere Else, by A. F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

“Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird and he smells - or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks.

“And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever. But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help.”

Who’s a Big Bully Then?, by Michael Morpurgo

“How would you feel if you beat the school bully in a race? And he then wanted a fight? How would you cope? This text tells you what happens to Darren Bishop as he stands up to something bigger than him, namely Olly the bull.”

Matilda, by Roald Dahl

“Matilda’s parents have called her some terrible things. The truth is, she’s a genius and they’re the stupid ones. Find out how she gets the better of them and her spiteful headmistress, as well as discovering that she has a very special power.”

The Butterfly Club, by Jacqueline Wilson

“Tina is a triplet, but she’s always been the odd one out. Her sisters Phil and Maddie are bigger and stronger and better at just about everything. Luckily, they look after teeny-tiny Tina wherever they go - but when the girls start in scary, super-strict Miss Lovejoy’s class, they’re split up, and Tina has to fend for herself for the first time.

“Tina is horrified when she’s paired up with angry bully Selma, who nobody wants to be friends with. But when Miss Lovejoy asks them to help her create a butterfly garden in the school playground, Tina discovers she doesn’t always need her sisters - and that there’s a lot more to Selma than first meets the eye.

Bad Girls, by Jacqueline Wilson

“Mandy White is being bullied at school. Life is miserable until she meets Tanya. Four years older and ten times cooler, orange-haired Tanya is an unlikely friend.”

Pottymouth and Stoopid, by James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein & Stephen Gilpin

“David and his best friend Michael were tagged with awful nicknames way back in preschool when everyone did silly things. Fast-forward to seventh grade: ‘Pottymouth’ and ‘Stoopid’ are still stuck with the names - and everyone in school, including the teachers and their principal, believe the labels are true. So how do they go about changing everyone’s minds? By turning their misery into megastardom on TV, of course!

“And this important story delivers more than just laughs - it shows that the worst bullying doesn’t have to be physical, and that things will get better.”

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

“Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into a new year and a new school where undersize weaklings share the corridors with kids who are taller, meaner and already shaving. Greg is happy to have his sidekick, Rowley, along for the ride. When Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s popularity to his own advantage.”

How to Fly with Broken Wings, by Jane Elson

“A heart-warming tale about a boy who just wants to make friends, and the girl who shows him how.”

The War Next Door, by Phil Earle

“Masher is the bully of Storey Street. No one ever dares stand up to him and that’s the way he likes it. But then Jemima and her family move into the plot of land next door. Jemima isn’t afraid of him at all, and she’s making him look like a bit of a wimp. To Masher, that just means one thing: war.

Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick

“Max is used to being called Stupid. And he is used to everyone being scared of him. On account of his size and looking like his dad. Kevin is used to being called Dwarf. On account of his size and being some cripple kid.

“But greatness comes in all sizes, and together Max and Kevin become ‘Freak The Mighty’ and walk high above the world.”

Blubber, by Judy Blume

“It’s easy to bully someone, especially when they’re weak and different, and everyone else joins in the game. That’s why they all call Linda ‘Blubber’, including Jill. Jill can’t stop joining in, even though she can see how much Linda is hurting.”

Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk

“Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle’s calm world is shattered, along with everything she’s ever known about right and wrong.

“When Betty accuses gentle loner Toby - a traumatised ex-soldier - of a terrible act, Annabelle knows he’s innocent. Then Betty disappears. Now Annabelle must protect Toby from the spiralling accusations and hysteria, until she can prove to Wolf Hollow what really happened to Betty.”

Young Adult

Thornhill, by Pam Smy

“As she unpacks in her new bedroom, Ella is irresistibly drawn to the big old house that she can see out of her window. Surrounded by overgrown gardens, barbed wire fences and ‘keep out’ signs. It looks derelict.

“But that night a light goes on in one of the windows. And the next day she sees a girl in the grounds. Ella is hooked, the house has a story to tell, she is sure of it. Enter Thornhill, Institute for Children, and discover the dark secrets that lie within. But once inside, will you ever leave?”

This is a dark tale, highly illustrated and an affecting portrayal of bullying and its consequences.

The Weight of Water, by Sarah Crossan

“Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother leave Poland and head for the UK to find her father. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school Kasienka finds it impossible to make new friends.”

7 Days, by Eve Ainsworth

“School should be a safe place for Jess, a refuge from her difficult home life - but thanks to Kez and her friends, it’s everything she dreads.

“Despite being beautiful and popular, Kez’s life isn’t any sweeter. She clings to the fact she is better off than Jess - or so she thinks.”

The Icarus Show, by Sally Christie

“Alex has worked out a foolproof way to avoid being picked on. Don’t react. It’s so simple, it’s brilliant! David does react and becomes an outcast, nicknamed Bogsy. He’s branded a weirdo and Alex is determined to avoid the same fate.

“But one day, Alex gets a note in his bag that forces him out of his safe little world. Who sent the note? And is it true - will a boy really fly?”

This moving novel deals with the pain of social isolation and bullying so bad it leads to an attempted suicide. It’s utterly absorbing and thought provoking.

We Are All Made of Molecules, by Susin Nielsen

“Meet Stewart. He’s geeky, gifted, and sees things a bit differently to most people. His mum has died and he misses her all the more now he and Dad have moved in with Ashley and her mum. Meet Ashley. She’s popular, cool, and sees things very differently to her new family. Her dad has come out and moved out - but not far enough. And now she has to live with a freakazoid step-brother.

“Stewart can’t quite fit in at his new school, and Ashley can’t quite get used to her totally awkward home, which is now filled with some rather questionable decor. And things are about to get a whole lot more mixed up when these two very different people attract the attention of school hunk Jared.”

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

“16-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. And worse still, so will the privacy of ‘Blue’, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing. With messy dynamics emerging in Simon’s once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s life suddenly becomes just a little complicated.

“Now Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out - without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

“Clay Jensen returns home from school one day to find a box, with his name on it, lying on the porch. Inside he discovers 13 cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate, who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did, and Clay is one of them.”

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

“The headmaster of Trinity College asks Archie Costello, the leader of the Vigils, a secret society that rules the school, to help with the selling of 20,000 boxes of chocolates in the annual fund-raising effort. Archie sees the chance of adding to his power - he is the Assigner, handing out to the boys tasks to be performed if they are to survive in the school.

“Freshman, Jerry Renault, a newcomer to the corrupt regime, refuses to sell chocolates. Enormous mental and physical pressure is put on him but he will not give in - the result is an inevitable, explosive tragedy.”

The Truth About Alice, by Jennifer Mathieu

“In this remarkable novel, four Healy High students - the party girl, the car accident survivor, the ex best friend and the boy next door - tell all they know. But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.”

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

“A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast.”

The Knife That Killed Me, by Anthony McGowan

“He’s coming to kill me. Now would be a good time to run. I can’t run. I’m too afraid to run.

“Paul Varderman could be at any normal school - bullies, girls & teachers are just a part of life. Unfortunately ‘normal’ doesn’t apply when it comes to the school’s most evil bully, Roth, a twisted and threatening thug.”

See also: Self-help books on recognising and tackling bullying

Jo Dixon and Sophie Green

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