How do you deal with a bunch of “wild ones” on your first day at school? Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
When I began middle school, my school brought together many different elementary schools in my area and divided us into two ‘houses’, so suddenly I went from my normal small school setting to being in the largest population of students I had ever been around. My best friend was in the opposite house as me which essentially meant I wouldn’t have any classes with her until high school. It was a devastating blow to someone who was quiet and shy like I was at the time and I still prefer to just have one or two friends as opposed to large groups. Navigating my way on the first day of school meant that I had to try and reach out and make new friends which always filled me with dread. I don’t know how your middle school years were, but those three long years were my least favorite of my public school experience. It’s a confusing time for kids ages 11-13 and on top of that I have read it’s the years where bullying is more prevalent and most children do not come away unscathed.
People who are shy are a prime target for bullies and while it wasn’t an everyday occurrence, I had a few run-ins during middle school. As someone who went out of my way to not be noticed, I didn’t understand why someone could say or do something hurtful to someone they didn’t know. I never did much or talk to anyone about the incidences and I basically ignored the situation until I was no longer a target, which actually worked for me in that case. I laugh about it now, because as an adult, I can easily look back and know how I’d handle those situations now, but kid’s brains are still developing and it’s good to offer tools and resources on how to handle yourself if you are ‘picked on’ by others. Bullies have underlying issues for their behavior and they also want acceptance and attention and their negative behavior can be curbed by how you interact with them. I really enjoyed how Nicholas and the Wild Ones focused on how kids being bullied can be proactive and even build friendships in what seems like unlikely situations.
In Nicholas and the Wild Ones, Nicholas is faced with a gang of bullies on his very first day of school. There is ‘big’ Charlie, ‘mean’ Jake, Wedgie Reggie and, worst of all, their leader, Cindy Crocker who is keen to push Nicholas around. Nicholas decides to handle the ‘wild ones’ through his own inventiveness as an artist and toy-maker to problem-solve his way through being bullied to actually making a new friend with Cindy and the others follow suit. The book places emphasis that those being bullied do not have to ‘beat’ bullies with words or their body, they can do it through resourceful and kind ways. Remember, this is a book for the ‘bullied’ and not the ‘bully’ (I recommend reading the book, Charlie’s Wish, for children who are being bullies), so showing kids that they can change the situation on their end if they are getting picked on is a good lesson. While you can not make another person change their ways you can change your actions and attitudes towards the situation which can diffuse bullies and, yes, a friendship can develop. Does this approach always stop bullies? Unfortunately, no, and adults should take into account the age and level of seriousness of the bullying interactions. I’d like my daughters to feel empowered to take steps into their own hands and deal with bullies head-on, but I also think it’s important to note that there are cases when bullying behavior can’t be fixed by the person being bullied and, no matter how resilient a child is, the behavior should be reported and dealt with by adults. Children should know that they can and should speak with the adults who are there to oversee bullying situations if they are out of hand or in cases of violence or other seriousness of the bullying offense. That said, Niki Daly offers a wonderful picture book that discusses bullying, problem-solving and friendship that offers sound advice for kids to open up the conversation and know their reaction to bullying can make all the difference.
About the Author: Niki Daly is the award-winning author and illustrator of many Frances Lincoln books, including the Jamela series, Not So Fast, Songololo, Pretty Salma, No More Kisses for Bernard, Ruby Sings the Blues and The Herd Boy. His groundbreaking multicultural title Not So Fast, Songololo was chosen for the Diverse Voices Top 50 of the Best Children’s Books in 2014. Nicholas and the Wild Ones is a winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal. Niki lives in lives in Kleinmond, South Africa with his wife, the illustrator Jude Daly.
List Price: $ 18.99