|Author Karen Tyrrell with her junior novel, STOP the Bully.|
I, like many people, was bullied as a child. Like the protagonist Brian in Karen Tyrrell’s STOP the Bully, I was the shy, unconfident, head-down new kid, and an easy target to those ‘testing’ me out. The advice I was given to ‘ignore them – they’ll go away if they don’t get a reaction’ was not only incorrect, but in fact spurred the bullies on to step up their attacks in order to get a response – they do it until they get a reaction when you don’t stand up for yourself.
Junior novel STOP the Bully was borne from Tyrrell’s experiences as a bullied child, and later as a teacher bullied by a parent. When moving to a new school, grade six student Brian becomes the immediate and irrational target of class bully Cody, who also terrorises Brian’s younger sister Tara, who is in her first year at school.
Two classmates, Pete and Cody’s past victim Amelia, befriend Brian, helping him deal with Cody’s acts, which range from name-calling to hiding schoolbags to physical threats and actions. The three friends – and Cody, under duress – form the Stop the Bully Club in the classroom, to talk about the issue and come up with ways kids can stand up to bullies, ending in a class presentation during which secrets are revealed...
This book has some great strategies for kids about what they can do if they’re bullied – including telling adults and responding appropriately; and shows that the bullies also need help. Bullying is displayed in different forms and to varying degrees; and it is stressed that it is a community problem. What makes a person a bully, the impact of their actions on their family and others, and the help needed to understand their behaviour is also woven through the narrative.
The primary school setting targets the age group well, and the school is effectively an ‘anyschool’, although it took me a minute to work out some of the localised terms, such as ‘port racks’ (bag racks). The voice is clearly that of an 11-year-old boy, and his thoughts help give an insight into the why he acts the way he does – from fear of being seen as a do-gooder, to the protective instinct involving his sister.
Tyrrell has notes for teachers and parents available on her website to build on the information in the book, including colouring-in and classroom activities, enabling the conversation to continue at school and at home.
This book gives a voice to an issue that shouldn’t be ignored because it’s not going away. I can see it being extremely helpful for any child who’s being bullied, letting them know they don’t have to deal with it alone; there is help and support available; and that doing nothing is the surest way to make sure nothing is done to stop the bully.