Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

The Rudolph Effect

christmas-928328_1280.pngI know the holiday season is over, but I’m sure you remember this story. Santa’s reindeer won’t let poor Rudolph play any reindeer games. “Then one foggy Christmas eve…” those hypocrite reindeer suddenly liked Rudolph because he was useful. (Summary my own.)
I often see this theme in bully short stories in my student lessons. The picked upon main character saves the bullies, saves the day, or does something so great that now the bullies like him. Have you had that happen in real life? Me? Not so much. Neither have children. What’s that phrase? Haters will hate.
Bullies usually pick on isolated kids–the new kid, the different kid, the loner. Why is that? Because those isolated kids don’t have others to stand up for them. No support group in this situation. It’s like a pack of wolves against a lone rabbit. Scary! And because those bullies have issues of their own. Though sometimes mob mentality is in play too.
Good bully stories focus on how the main character deals with being bullied. (Without immediately going to parents or teachers. Even though we tell kids to go for help, we also know that bullies often plan retribution.)
-Some are tough and don’t react no matter what.
-Others fight back.
-Some run.
And what else?
New bully stories need to have something fresh about them.
There are lots of bully stories out there. Look at this one library’s Pinterest board of titles for young readers. Here’s a list aimed at tween and teen girls from a mighty girl. I’m sure we could find tons more.
Resources for writing about bullies:
“Advice & Tips On Creating & Writing Bullies”
“How do I write a believable, violent, and manipulative school bully?”
“Avoiding the avoid the cliched bully”
“Character Type: Bully”
Do you have other thoughts on this issue? Share them in the comments section.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Just Under the Clouds

JustUndertheCloudsI loved Just Under the Clouds (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) by Melissa Sarno. It’s such a good book. And has a gorgeous cover.
Twelve-year-old Cora and her family, consisting of her mother and her sister Adare, have been moving from place to place for six years since Daddy died. Now they’re homeless. Cora gets comfort from knowing and climbing trees in Brooklyn, just like her father taught her. But with watching her “different” sister while Mom works, and struggling with algebra in school, Cora worries they’ll never belong anywhere.
Just Under the Clouds is the author’s debut novel. Read about the birth of the story here. Her next book, A Swirl of Ocean, comes out in late summer and I’m really looking forward to it. Read more about Melissa here.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Squirm

SquirmSquirm (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) by Carl Hiaasen is an intriguing book involving snakes, eagles, grizzlies, panthers, and drones (the man-made kind). I love the cover!
Thirteen-year-old Billy Dicken’s is one tough kid. He makes the kids at school leave his locker alone by putting a live rattlesnake inside, stands up to bullies, and is determined to meet the father who left when Billy was four. Billy doesn’t know where his dad lives or what he does for a living, but he’s determined to find out. His mom and sister won’t help, so Billy will do whatever it takes to find his father. His journey takes him from Florida to Montana and back again.
Author Carl Hiaasen has five other books out for young readers. Read about them here. His book Hoot was a Newbery honor book and was made into a movie. You can listen to an interview with Carl on Mike Lupica’s podcast.