Monday, December 2, 2019

Review - What If Bunny's NOT a Bully?

What If Bunny's NOT a Bully?
by Lana Button
illustrated by Christine Battuz
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Gertie the elephant says everyone on the playground should stay far away from Bunny because she's super mean. But Kitty has questions: How did Bunny become a bully? Was she born that way? Was she stung by a bullybug? Or maybe she caught the bully flu? Wait, does that mean bullying is contagious? And if it is, couldn't the other animals catch it, too? But ... then no one would play with them either, and that doesn't seem fair. Is it possible that Bunny is sorry? Should they give her a second chance?

Not your typical bullying story, Lana Button's fresh take flips the focus from the child being bullied to the one being called a bully. In cadenced rhyming text, the compassionate and insightful Kitty leads children through a series of questions that get at the core of the assumptions we make about others and how it feels to be on the other side of name-calling. Christine Battuz's expressive illustrations use tenderness and a touch of humor to complement the emotional level of the text. Altogether, this is a perfect child-level exploration of empathy. It would be an excellent choice for discussions about bullying, or more broad issues of social development. It also works for character education lessons on empathy, compassion, fairness and inclusiveness.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book has an important message, but one I thought could've been taken further.

An elephant tells all the other animals on the playground to stay away from Bunny because she's a bully. We don't know exactly what Bunny did to deserve this ostracizing, but the kids run with it. All the kids except for Kitty, that is. They wonder if Bunny's always been a bully and what makes her that way. Eventually, the kids all decide to give Bunny another chance and let her back into the group.

I think the issue I have with this is that the question in the title isn't satisfactorily addressed. From what I can tell, Bunny isn't actually a bully. It sounds more like she was just having an off day and said or did something that the other kids didn't like. That is not bullying. That's making a mistake. There's no indication that Bunny's words or actions were repetitive or sustained. Too many people today are quick to hurl accusations of bullying around whenever someone says something they don't like, even if it's only said once. Sorry, but that's not bullying. This book had the opportunity to clear up that misconception. Unfortunately, it didn't. The elephant harping on and on about Bunny being so terrible seemed more like bullying to me, given the fact that it was repetitive and there was a clear power imbalance (elephant versus bunny).

So this book, while attempting to deal with bullying and empathy, kind of missed the mark. The illustrations are cute, but the story that goes along with them is a bit weak in places. I would definitely sit down with a child and have a discussion about the themes here, if they're going to read the book; there's a lot of potential for misunderstanding what bullying actually is.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

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