Another sidebar, my fourth grader has a battle of the books right now and is required to read eighty books in the next three months so every night we read aloud to each other one of the required books (we have read 16 so far). In January we finished reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio and this week we read Cynthia Lord’s Rules. Both books are about young people with disabilities. Also, in both books there are situations where young people are mean to these characters blatantly and overtly. In one scene in Rules a neighborhood boy teases and taunts the main character’s brother (who is autistic). My son stopped reading aloud and asked, “Why is this kid so mean to him?” And for the next ten minutes I proceeded to explain that there are mean people in this world and I can’t really explain what makes someone mean.
Thus, these two events within 24 hours of each other had me thinking about all the meanness that is in young adult literature and my own struggles to promote a culture of caring in my middle school classroom as well as instill empathy and caring among my own two children.
Here is a list of books about mean kids that can be used as teaching tools and more:
Elementary School Age Books
Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
This picture book is a play on words with pictures as important as the words.
Bully by Patricia Palacco
Addresses cyberbullying and how bullying happens outside of school.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Upper elementary)
A poignet tale about a little girl who is teased for wears the same dress to school everyday.
The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy
Encourages kids to stand up for others.
Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean by Jane Lynch, Lara Embry, & A.E. Mikesell
Marlene is a bully on the playground until someone decides to stand up to her.
My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig
Monica and Katie have been friends since they were little but now Katie embarrasses and excludes Monica. Why would a friend do that?
One by Kathryn Otoshi
An amazing author, Otoshi plays on numbers to show that everyone counts.
Recess Queen by Alexis O’neill and Laura Huliska-Beith
Kids are afraid of Mary Jean because she rules the playground but one person turns that around.
You’re Mean Lily Jean! by Frieda Wishinsky
A new girl moves next door. When they play together she makes demands and is bossy. Carly comes up with a plan the next time the girls play together.
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
Building self confidence an encouraging others to celebrate their strengths and differences.
Middle School & High School Age Books
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
This is a favorite among my students that addresses the sometimes cruel behavior among adolescents.
Bystander by James Preller
This was a moving book that I required all my 8th graders to read last year because it addresses all perspectives of bullying and how being a bully or bystander is not static.
An anthology from all different young adult authors addressing all different types of bullying.
Cracked by K.M. Walton
Told from the perspectives of the bully and the victim who lands in a psych ward after attempting to take his own life.
Danny’s Mom by Elaine Wolf
A guidance counselor comes back to school after her teenage son is killed in a car crash and now back to work the injustices in the high school she is in is magnified.
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
I am told that A.S. King is one of the best YA writers of our time. Lucky Linderman is a target of bullying and escapes in his dreams to a place where he is a hero.
Jerk California by Jonathan Friesen
Sam has Tourettes Syndrome, or T.S. and struggles to be accepted by his peers and step father. Sam goes on a quest to find about his father and more about himself.
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Catherine’s brother is autistic and her best friend is in California all summer. A new girl moves next door but will she be understanding of Catherine’s brother and could they be friends?
StarGirl by Jerry Spinelli
One of my all time favorite YA books about being who you are and not following the crowd.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August was born with a facial difference and homeschooled up until now. Starting 5th grade at a new school he just wants everyone to treat him like an ordinary kid.