Learning how to navigate social dramas and issues with friends and peers is as much a part of a tween’s day at school as learning fractions or state capitals. Seeing fictional characters struggle with — and overcome — different varieties of bullying, from minor teasing to physical humiliation, is empowering for students and gives them a way to talk about these difficult topics.
Here are seven books that tweens highly recommend as being both engaging and providing practical lessons on dealing with bullies in everyday life.
In this classic book by Judy Blume, an overweight girl, Linda, is mercilessly teased and humiliated — and no one stands up for her. Angie, 11, highly recommends this book about bullying and standing up for yourself. “I like this book because it talks about real world problems. I could relate to it because I used to be bullied and everyone else would just stand and stare. Judy Blume shows how it feels to be bullied, what bystanders do, and why people bully each other.”
Ages 8 - 12
“This is the perfect book to read when you first start third grade,” says Beck, 9. Robbie York has a plan for how to be cool this school year — despite the fact that he still wears superhero underwear. The daily grind of bullies, friendship issues, and teacher mishaps are covered in a humorous way in this story for younger tweens.
Ages 7 - 10
“This is the best book I have ever read,” proclaims Kady, 10. Two boys, a short genius with leg braces and a slow learner stuck in an extra tall body, forge a special bond that takes them on fantastic adventures that require bravery and perseverance. Their friendship allows them to overcome bullies, physical dangers, crazy parents, and more obstacles that try to slow them down.
Ages 9 - 12
Red is a hothead who likes to pick on Blue and all the other colors. No one is willing to stand up to Red until One comes along and shows them that everybody counts. Thomas, 9, says, “I like this book because it teaches all of us a lesson not to pick on others. We all count.” Faith, 10, adds that this picture book “shows you the fun of being okay with yourself.”
“I recommend this book because it teaches you not to treat people poorly. Only treat people the way you want to be treated,” shares Victoria, 10. In this award-winning picture book, Chloe and her friends refuse to play with the new girl, Maya. It’s not until Maya stops showing up for school that Chloe realizes the impact of her behavior and the missed opportunity for friendship. It delivers a powerful message about kindness and the ripple effect of our actions.
Melody is brilliant, but nobody knows it. All they see is a girl stuck in a wheelchair who can’t speak, write, or move due to her cerebral palsy. When Melody gets integrated into a traditional classroom, people finally see how smart she is, but she also becomes the target of teasing and bullying from several kids and the teacher, too. Emma, 10, raves, “This book is amazing! It teaches you about the power of friends and that you can persevere through almost anything if you just set your mind to it.” A review by Sonia, 9, sums it up: “I love, love, love it #Friendship #Fun #LearningNewStuff.”
An emotionally charged story about Jack Callahan, a baseball star who quits the team after the death of his brother. His old friends don’t understand his choices, and he finds comfort in new friendships with a girl and a boy who’s always been bullied. Rohan, 10, recommends this book to “anyone who like sports” and Gabe, 11, says “this book covers not only baseball but the heart and soul of friendship and family.”
Ages 8 - 12
What other books about bullying would you recommend to tween readers?