Thursday, June 13, 2002

Scoping Out a School Library

I put in my last day of author talks for this academic year at an elementary school today. During the lunch period I wandered around the school library looking for picture books, something I haven't talked about much (if at all) in Original Content.

The Ant Bully by John Nickle first caught my eye because of the illustrations. They have a very clean, retro look that I always like. I enjoyed the story, too. It's about Lucas who, sad to say, is just a little bit nerdy. So it's no surprise that he's bullied by Sid the Bully. In an interesting twist Lucas, in turn, becomes a bully. He attacks the only things he can--a colony of ants--which he sprays with his water pistol just as Sid sprays him with his garden hose.

The ants, working as a team, haul Lucas down into their colony where he has to live as a drone. He becomes such a part of the community that he takes a risk to save two ant partners who had been sent on a mission with him to bring back a Swell Jell for the queen. When he is returned to normal boy life, his ant buddies give him a hand with his bully problem.

I was attracted to this story because when I ask kids in schools to come up with events in their lives that they could use in their writing, dealing with bullies always comes up. The Ant Bully recognizes something that has only recently been made common knowledge--that being bullied can create bullies. And it does it without preaching. (You'd think a former Sunday school teacher, such as myself, wouldn't mind being preached to, but it really sets my teeth on edge.) The Ant Bully won't give anyone tools to deal with bullies but this comic, whimsical tale could help their victims feel less alone and help the bad guys recognize themselves as, well, bad guys.

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