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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean, by Jane Lynch, with Lara Embry and A.E. Mikesell. Illustrated by Tricia Tusa. Random House, 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Marlene, Marlene,
the queen of
the scene,
of the playground,
the sidewalk,
the school ...
Marlene, Marlene,
the queen of the mean,
was known for being
quite cruel."

If you are looking to add to your selection of books about bullying, you might want to check this one out from the library. Marlene is no one's favorite school girl. She spends her days making life miserable for the other kids there. She enjoys pinching, kicking, scowling, blocking. She has a  power that few are willing to challenge.

Only when Big Freddy takes it upon himself to ask some pertinent questions do the rest of his schoolmates begin to change. As he explains to them how bullying works, they begin to ignore her and diminish her power over them. It makes Marlene furious; that makes no difference to the others. They are no longer afraid.

"So Marlene
stiffened her back
and went on the attack,
unleashing her meanness
quite fully.

Though she kicked
and she pinched,
not a single kid flinched,
and Freddy said,
"You're just a bully."

Can Marlene change? Will that be easy? If she does, will it last?

I like that it is a schoolmate who brings the bullying to the forefront and leads in making change, rather than having teachers and administration step in to try and solve a pretty universal problem. When kids stand together, they can begin to bring their own strength to solutions. Tricia Tusa uses
soft watercolors and a hint of comedy to bring a sense of ease to the story. I love how her pert pink bow distinctively denotes Marlene's sense of power, changing from bold to frazzled to sagging. It's an inspiration!

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