The tragedy of Phoebe Prince has brought forth the voices of many wise and brave authors against bullying. My children’s lit class just read Bridge to Terabithia, and beyond its story of an important friendship and loss, there’s a sub-plot of bullying. Remember seventh grader Janice Avery tormenting younger children? Remember her stealing a Twinkie from Jess’s little sister, and the revenge he and his friend Leslie enacted, faking a love note from a boy? Which, of course, was really very mean. Then the revelation about Janice’s past. It’s all complicated and feels far too ordinary.
In Gates of Excellence, Katherine Paterson wrote: “When I walk into a room full of well-dressed people, I never walk in alone. With me is a nine-year-old who knows her clothes are out of a missionary barrel, her accent is foreign, and her mannerisms peculiar – a child who knows that if she is lucky she will be ignored and if unlucky she will be sneered at.”
And writing about our beloved Ambassador of Children’s Literature, Sarah Ellis, in From Reader to Writer, tells us: “When she was in grade one she didn’t get any valentines on Valentine’s Day. Her mother felt very sorry for her, and years later she asked Katherine why she had never written about that sad experience. Katherine replied, ‘But, Mother, all my stories are about the time I didn’t get any valentines.’”