Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully, by Audrey Penn (illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson)

Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully
Author: Audrey Penn 
Illustrator: Barbara L. Gibson 
Publisher: Tanglewood 
Publication Date: August 14, 2008 
Audrey Penn and Barbara L. Gibson's series of books are lovely and (deservedly) very popular, but perhaps they can't all be as magical as The Kissing HandChester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully has some good points, but it's not the "instant classic" that The Kissing Hand was. The basic premise is that Chester and his friends are terrified of a mean badger at school who has been bullying them, to the point that event the teacher can't control his behaviour. Chester's mom tells them all a story about a prickly blue stone that is beautiful but painful to touch, a metaphor for the prickly badger. She encourages the forest children to "smooth out the prickly edges" of the badger's mean disposition with kindness. In the end, the children confront the bully and ask him to play, at which point the entire problem is instantly resolved.

The things I did like about this book is that it teaches empathy for the bully. With all the books about bullying on the market these days, I do worry about the number of them that make it seem like a "bully" is a monster or an evil person, instead of a child who behaves badly. I don't like the idea that very young children get labelled as bullies and think that is their identity forever. Or, that they don't think their own behaviour is wrong because they don't think of themselves as "bullies." I'd like to see more books that remind children to have empathy and not to behave as bullies themselves.

At the same time, I'm not sure if it's a very realistic message to simply say "ask the bully to play" and expect that it'll be the end of it. I agree that sympathy is better than retaliation in many ways, but the message seems a bit one-dimensional and hollow.
You May Also Like:
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn (illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak)

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

No comments: