Careless editing undercuts the authority and usefulness of a children’s book on bullying.

GRIFFIN THE DRAGON AND HOW TO TAME A BULLY

Griffin the Dragon deals with a school bully in the latest children’s book about him.

Mask’s (Griffin the Dragon and Healthy Eating Habits for Kids, 2014, etc.) fourth illustrated book about Griffin has an unabashed anti-bullying message. Set in an imaginary future United States, when humans go to school with aliens and talking animals, it involves Griffin and his friends: a hyena named Jackson and two humans, 8-year-old Cattails, a boy, and 10-year-old Alexandra. As summer vacation begins, the friends disagree about whether to visit a “jump house” or “bounce house,” terms that are neither explained nor pictured but may refer to an inflatable structure resembling the Bouncy Castles that many parents rent for children’s parties. The friends bicker, banter and roughhouse, all in good fun. Suddenly, a large alienlike bully joins them. The friends fail to defuse the bully’s aggressive moves with words, actions, threats and an offer of friendship. Finally, when the bully takes a swing at Griffin, the dragon burps flames that singe the bully’s shoes. The group celebrates when the bully leaves, but Griffin’s dad has seen the incident and grounds his child for three weeks. When the punishment ends, the friends discover that Griffin has befriended the bully and taught him to read. This resolution exemplifies the simplistic themes of the book—that bullies never win and that they “need love”—but offers no practical tips on how children should interact with bullies if, for example, they lack the ability or desire to teach them a skill. The text and the art both work hard to be attractive, with a child-friendly tone and cartoon-style drawings. But the text has cultural references and vocabulary words likely to challenge its young readers, including “surreal,” “comedic” and “postured.” And some illustrations are confusing or don’t match the text—the eyes of Griffin’s father are said to be blue until he gets angry, but they are clearly purple. The book also has many spelling and punctuation errors, such as “responed” for responded, “knells” for kneels, and “winn” for win.” All of this will limit the appeal of the book even for the most ardent supporters of its message of nonviolence, such as school anti-bullying programs.

Careless editing undercuts the authority and usefulness of a children’s book on bullying.

Pub Date: July 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4566-2331-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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THE NAME JAR

Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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