An empowering comic book focuses on how to prevent and deal with bullying.
Magnusson (Bitopia, 2012) and illustrator Marathas provide dynamic panels, comic-style fonts, and multicultural characters who speak directly to the reader in this anti-bullying guide. Zoey and Max, two preteen kids, instruct readers on how to help themselves and one another—“You and your classmates are really the ones who decide how to treat each other”—while indicating when to ask an adult for help (for example, when children mention harming themselves). Beginning with a section for students in kindergarten through second grade, Zoey and Max define bullying by describing how it makes someone feel, then reassure kids that most children are never bullied. A key component to bullying is often an “aggressor’s” underlying anger or frustration toward a “target,” and finding out why they feel that way can diffuse the situation: “You don’t have to say you did what the person said you did. But you can still help the person feel better.” Effective apologies are reiterated throughout the volume, including when the aggressor’s anger is justified: “Say you are sorry. Say what you are sorry for. Let the person know he or she has a right to be mad. Say you will not do [it] again.” For older children, as relationships become more complicated, Zoey and Max redefine bullying as “dominance aggression” or “relational aggression” and offer useful advice for handling both by encouraging self-confidence and thoughtful, one-on-one interaction. Creative page arrangements, including Zoey and Max breaking out of their panels, visually reinforce direct engagement. A helpful “Find Your Section” page points kids to chapters on helping someone else who is being bullied, learning ways to interact with aggressors, stopping someone from bullying, or teaching an adult how to help effectively. Online bullying-prevention tips—don’t email or text in anger, don’t take potentially embarrassing photos—prove useful at any age. Occasionally, jargon-heavy text miniaturizes characters beneath massive speech bubbles, but most of the book balances words and images nicely, lending a friendly, easy-to-understand tone to a serious subject.Appealing, concrete, and easy-to-follow suggestions for kids—and adults—in dealing with challenging relationships.