Friday, July 26, 2013

Doing Unto Others: Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Words hurt.

In Laura Vaccaro Seeger's Bully  (Roaring Brook, 2013), the opening endpapers reveal the source of a young bull's bad attitude. His friendly overtures to a big gray bull are rebuffed, and brushed off  in no uncertain terms,  head down, he slinks away, feeling small and unwanted.

But when he meets up with a trio of young animals who a want to play, he responds in kind, hitting where it hurts. He calls the little hen "Chicken!" He tells the turtle he's slowpokey, and a bee who crosses his path buzzes off when he gets a brusque brushoff. And when a friendly young skunk approaches, the little bull points out the obvious, with a gnarly, snarly "You stink!" As he vents his own hurt by hurting others, the little bull appears to grow larger and meaner, finally filling the pages, all evil eyes, horns and hooves, crowding out the others.

But when a little goat who crosses his path is told to "butt out," he finally points out the truth with a word.


Suddenly, the little bull gets it. Deflated, he asks himself:  Is he a bully? Is he like that big bull who blew him off? Ohh!

In a succession of award-winning picture books--Green, First the Egg (Caldecott Honor Book and Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book (Awards)), Lemons Are Not Red (Ala Notable Book(Awards)), (Neal Porter Books) and Dog and Bear (Neal Porter Books) (Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner-Best Picture Book) (Awards))--Seeger has shown herself incapable of creating a book that is not fresh, insightful, and moving, absolutely lyrical even with the briefest of texts, always with humor, and a standout in original conception and design.

Simple in style and with the sparest of texts, this story zooms in on the creation and redemption of a bully who suddenly sees himself as others see him and sees others in himself.  It's a complex theme, as deep as human nature itself, well told in bold pictures and the leanest of dialogue, but meaningful even to the youngest.   Booklist says," ... for all its simplicity, this story opens up a number of complex issues for discussion," and Publishers Weekly puts in that "Seeger’s pages pop with action, and the lesson couldn’t be clearer."

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  • I read this the other day. It has a great message in a simple way. Stop the bullies! I just published a children's book in hopes to give children a similar message, in a little different way, along with much more. my website is I hope people will get a chance to take these books' messages to heart and grow up to be great people.

    By Blogger Kevin Willms, at 8:34 PM  

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