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Friday, May 18, 2018

what happens next, written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff. Owlbooks, 2018. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"What I Say About Bully B. When Mom Comes to Kiss Me Good Night: Everything. What Mom Says: That I'm brave for telling her. That she's sorry I feel scared and hurt. That she'll help. What Mom Says Next:
That everyone has their own way of looking at things and people. That each person's way of looking is made of where they're standing ... "

The bullied child is our narrator. Bully B. manages to make life miserable every school day. The text is to the point, the headlines bold and telling. Unsure how to get help, the vulnerable child expresses feelings alone and to readers.

"What I Want to Do on My Way to School:
Hurt something. Squish something.

What I Don't Do on My Way to School:
Hurt something. Squish something.

What Bully B. Does Today:
Swishes right past me like I'm invisible."

Mom sees the sadness, but there is no explanation for it. She suggests a walk. The two have fun, lying on the grass, talking about the vast blue sky. Upon the return home, the child looks at favorite books, considers a real love for Earth and life on it. And wishes Bully B. were an inhabitant of far distant star. Finally, the courage comes to share with EVERYTHING with Mom.

Mom tries to explain that everyone has their own view of the world that comes from circumstance, and Bully B. only sees the differences between the two. She offers advice and a few solutions for changing that perception. One takes special courage. It's worth a try, isn't it? Can they come to some sort of understanding?

If the solution to bullying were easy, we would not have to keep discussing it. Books can make a difference in the way children perceive its causes. Empathy for others is a perfect place to begin thinking differently.

Carey Sookocheff creates characters that are just slightly hazy in appearance. The main character is blue, the bully green and the rest of their world largely without color. Only when a cautious truce results does the world become more colorful and vibrant.

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