October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Looking for suggestions for titles that encourage kindness, empathy, and understanding in your classroom or library? Read on for a list of titles for every age reader, plus a spotlight on Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Dashka Slater.
Spotlight on Accountable
Dashka Slater, New York Times bestselling and award winning author of The 57 Bus returns with Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed This harrowing, propulsive account of a racist social media account and the community it transformed is ideal for jump starting discussions around cyber bullying all year round.
Listen in on a conversation between Dashka and Joy Peskin, Executive Editorial Director at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers.
Books to Read and Share
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill
A New York Times bestseller!
“These days, it seems more important than ever for books to show young people how to act with thoughtfulness, civility, and kindness.” —The New York Times Book Review
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind?
From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference—or at least help a friend.
With a gentle text from the award-winning author of Sophie’s Squash, Pat Zietlow Miller, and irresistible art from Jen Hill, Be Kind is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.
The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark by Deborah Diesen; pictures by Dan Hanna
Mr. Fish and all his friends
Love to play down at the park.
But that ends when they’re bullied
By a misbehaving shark!
Mr. Fish wants to help.
He knows bullying is wrong!
But he’s just one fish—
Is he really that strong?
In this board book conversion of the jacketed hardcover, the New York Times–bestselling Pout-Pout Fish teaches a bully shark about kindness and being a friend. Swim along as he discovers the strength of his community, and the power of his own voice.
What James Said by Liz Rosenberg; illustrated by Matt Myers
A funny, heartfelt, perfectly pitched story about misunderstandings and the importance of true friendship.
When a little girl thinks that her best friend James has been saying bad things about her behind her back, she takes action in the form of the silent treatment. As they go about their day and James tries harder and harder to get her to talk to him, they both realize that true friendship surpasses any rumor… or misunderstanding.
A classic childhood situation is brought to life with humor and poignancy with energetic illustrations by Matt Myers and a simple, telling text by Liz Rosenberg.
If Animals Tried to Be Kind by Ann Whitford Paul; illustrated by David Walker
Don’t miss the other books in this adorable series: If Animals Kissed Good Night, If Animals Said I Love You, If Animals Celebrated Christmas, If Animals Went to School, and If Animals Gave Thanks!
What if animals did what YOU do? This adorable story by Ann Whitford Paul and David Walker imagines how animals would show kindness!
If animals tried to be kind. . .what would they do? Porcupine would knit Giraffe a long scarf. Squirrel would help Dog diggity-dig for a bone. And Bear would surprise Snake with a honey cake. Across the animal kingdom, every creature would be kind in their own special way.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
“Fresh and funny.” —New York Times Book Review
Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it’s worth the journey.
When best friends are not forever . . .
Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.
Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?
“A hugely relatable must-read: witty, intensely emotional, and full of heart.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a refreshingly honest middle-grade debut novel about toxic sibling rivalry, socioeconomic disparity, and dental drama.
Max Plink’s life is complicated. Her parents aren’t getting along. The school bullies are relentless—and her own sister is the cruelest of them. Worst of all, her mouth is a mess. With a mismatched puzzle of a jaw, Max has a Class II malocclusion, otherwise known as a severe overbite. She already has braces, which means she lives on Advil and soft foods after each orthodontist appointment. But now Max has to wear painful (and totally awkward) orthodontic headgear nicknamed “the jawbreaker.” Could things get any worse?
Yes. The journalism competition Max wants to enter has a video component. But being on camera means showing her face not just to her junior high classmates, but possibly the whole city. Going viral is the last thing Max needs, but winning this competition is what she wants most. Turns out, following her dreams is complicated, too. Inspired by Christina Wyman’s own experience with a Class II malocclusion, Jawbreaker is a humorous, heartfelt, and refreshingly relatable story.
Saving Sunshine by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Shazleen Khan
“A beautiful, realistic, and important story focusing on family and sibling bonds.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
From Saadia Faruqi and Shazleen Khan comes a relatable, funny, and heart-wrenchingly honest graphic novel about Muslim American siblings who must learn how to stop fighting and support each other in a world that is often unkind.
It’s hard enough being a kid without being teased for a funny sounding name or wearing a hijab.
It’s even harder when you’re constantly fighting your sibling—and Zara and Zeeshan really can’t stand each other. During a family trip to Florida, when the bickering, shoving, and insults reach new heights of chaos, their parents sentence them to the worst possible fate—each other’s company! But when the twins find an ailing turtle, it presents a rare opportunity for teamwork—if the two can put their differences aside at last.
Mary O’Malley is tired of keeping secrets. Secrets like her older brother, Jonny’s, drug use. Starting seventh grade is tough enough without the upheaval her brother is bringing to their family.
It seems the only person who might understand is Griffen Connolly, whose older sister runs with Jonny in the wrong crowd. Mary thought Griff was too cool, too popular for her. But now he wants to hang out with her, and listen.
When two girls Mary thought were her friends decide to slam another girl online, Mary tries to look the other way. Then the girls turn on Mary, and suddenly, she doesn’t have a safety zone. Her brother is out of control, her family’s energies are all spent on him. There is only one person she can turn to. But can she trust Griff? Or is he one of the bullies?
wishtree by Katherine Applegate
An oak tree and a crow help their neighbors embrace their differences in this beautiful, nuanced, New York Times-bestselling middle-grade novel from Newbery Medalist author Katherine Applegate.
Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with a crow named Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all.
Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experience as a wishtree is more important than ever.
Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, this is Katherine Applegate at her very best—writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.
The Tornado by Jake Burt
Jake Burt’s The Tornado is “One of the best stories about bullying for middle grades. Highly recommended.” —School Library Journal, starred review
Bell Kirby is an expert at systems, whether he’s designing the world’s most elaborate habitat for his pet chinchilla, re-creating Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest inventions in his garage, or avoiding Parker Hellickson, the most diabolical bully Village Green Elementary has ever seen.
Since third grade, Parker has tormented Bell, who’s spent two long years devising a finely tuned system that keeps him out of Parker’s way. Sure, it means that Bell can’t get a drink when he wants to, can’t play with his best friend on the playground, and can’t tell his parents about his day, but at least he’s safe.
Until Daelynn Gower touches down in his classroom like a tornado.
Bell’s not sure why the new girl, with her rainbow hair, wild clothes, and strange habits, is drawn to him, but he knows one thing–she means trouble. It’s bad enough that she disrupts Bell’s secret system, but when Daelynn becomes the bully’s new target, Bell is forced to make an impossible decision: Finally stand up to Parker. . .
The Fix-It Friends: Sticks and Stones by Nicole C. Kear; illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Because words can hurt you too.
Noah’s the quiet type, which makes him a great friend for Veronica. She chats. He listens. She gabs. He nods. Perfect!
So when Veronica spots Noah getting teased, she decides that if he won’t speak up for himself, she will! What she doesn’t expect is that the teasing will turn on her — and her sense of style. Veronica’s so embarrassed that she agrees to a mega Makeover from Cora, the Queen of Cute. When this only makes the name-calling worse, Veronica and Noah know just who to call for back-up: the one-and-only problem-solving team, the Fix-It Friends!
This is the second adventure in The Fix-It Friends chapter book series. Author Nicole C. Kear anchors humor with lots of heart, as the group learns to deal with teasing and bullying.
Includes a toolbox of expert advice on how to handle teasing!
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The 57 Bus comes Accountable, a propulsive and thought-provoking true story about the revelation of a racist social media account that changes everything for a group of high school students and begs the question: What does it mean to be held accountable for harm that takes place behind a screen?
When a high school student started a private Instagram account that used racist and sexist memes to make his friends laugh, he thought of it as “edgy” humor. Over time, the edge got sharper. Then a few other kids found out about the account. Pretty soon, everyone knew.
Ultimately no one in the small town of Albany, California, was safe from the repercussions of the account’s discovery. Not the girls targeted by the posts. Not the boy who created the account. Not the group of kids who followed it. Not the adults—educators and parents—whose attempts to fix things too often made them worse.
In the end, no one was laughing. And everyone was left asking: Where does accountability end for online speech that harms? And what does accountability even mean?
Award-winning and New York Times–bestselling author Dashka Slater has written a must-read book for our era that explores the real-world consequences of online choices.
Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer
A poignant young adult graphic memoir about a Korean-American girl who uses fandom and art-making to overcome racist bullying.
“For fans of Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo and Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl, this coming-of-age memoir will appeal to youth who are struggling with their identity.” —School Library Journal, starred review
Sarah has always struggled to fit in. Born in South Korea and adopted at birth by a white couple, she grows up in a rural community with few Asian neighbors. People whisper in the supermarket. Classmates bully her. She has trouble containing her anger in these moments—but through it all, she has her art. She’s always been a compulsive drawer, and when she discovers anime, her hobby becomes an obsession.
Though drawing and cosplay offer her an escape, she still struggles to connect with others. And in high school, the bullies are louder and meaner. Sarah’s bubbling rage is threatening to burst.
Flamer by Mike Curato
Award-winning author and artist Mike Curato draws on his own experiences in Flamer, his debut graphic novel, telling a difficult story with humor, compassion, and love.
“This book will save lives.” —Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of National Book Award Finalist Hey, Kiddo
I know I’m not gay. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both.
I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.