Tough Topics: Bullying and Teasing

You Go First

These stories take on the challenges and pain of being teased and bullied for all kinds of reasons. They also provide opportunities for students to talk about bullying, how to prevent it, and how to respond when they see it.

See additional books in 20 Multicultural Books About Bullying from the Colours of Us website.

American Born Chinese

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)
Language: English

Three storylines — contemporary and mythic — intersect in this tale of a boy who is not comfortable with his culture or himself. This fresh, sometimes surprising, revealing novel is told in image and text. This graphic novel was the first of its format to win the Printz Award for best work of Young Adult Literature.

Blackbird Fly

Blackbird Fly
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show her how special she really is.

Fatima's Great Outdoors

Fatima's Great Outdoors

Fatima Khazi is excited for her family's first camping trip, where she can leave her troubles at school behind and achieve everything she sets out to do. This lively picture book by Ambreen Tariq, outdoors activist and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, celebrates the strengths young people can find in the outdoors and the adventures waiting for them on their next camping trip.

Finding Junie Kim

Finding Junie Kim
By: Ellen Oh
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Junie Kim just wants to fit in. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out. Then Junie’s history teacher assigns a project and Junie decides to interview her grandparents, learning about their unbelievable experiences as kids during the Korean War. Junie comes to admire her grandma’s fierce determination to overcome impossible odds, and her grandpa’s unwavering compassion during wartime.

First Day in Grapes

Chico has had lots of first days, like the first day of artichokes and the first day of onions. Today will be his first day in grapes as his family arrives in a new place to harvest a new crop. Despite some trouble from some bullies, Chico has a good first day — and he may even be at this school long enough to participate in the math contest! Through Chico's eyes, students will have a new appreciation for what it's like for migrant kids or other kids who move a lot and who always know they have a new first day just around the corner.

Goal!

Illustrated by: A.G. Ford
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

"This heart-tugging picture book from a debut author tells a lyrical soccer story in the voice of a young boy in a South African shantytown… In full-page oil paintings, Ford uses unusual angles to intensify the sense of the scuffling, exciting action; the tense confrontation; and the reality of shantytown life." — Gillian Engberg, Booklist

Hello, Universe

Hello, Universe
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.

Indian No More

girl with brains standing in front of a city and a mountain
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Regina Petit's family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest.

Inside Out and Back Again

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Shortly before the fall of Saigon in 1975, Hà's family flees war-torn Vietnam. When they arrive in Alabama more than 3 months later as refugees, they struggle to adapt to a new life. Yet slowly Hà and her family begin to find their way, making friends in unexpected places and helping each other survive. Based on the childhood experiences of the author, this compelling novel won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

King for a Day

Illustrated by: Christiane Krömer
Age Level: 6-9

Malik, a Pakistani boy who uses a wheelchair, is excited to compete in the annual kite-flying festival of Basant. Can his kite defeat the bully's and make him King of the festival? This lively, contemporary story introduces readers to a centuries-old festival and the traditional sport of kite fighting, and to a spirited, determined young boy who masters the sport while finding his own way to face and overcome life's challenges.

Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Marcus Vega is six feet tall, 180 pounds, and the owner of a premature mustache. When you look like this and you're only in the eighth grade, you're both a threat and a target. After a fight at school leaves Marcus facing suspension, Marcus's mom decides it's time for a change of environment. She takes Marcus and his younger brother to Puerto Rico to spend a week with relatives they don't remember or have never met. But Marcus can't focus knowing that his father--who walked out of their lives ten years ago--is somewhere on the island.

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Illustrated by: Sara Palacios
Age Level: 6-9
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Meet Marisol McDonald, a spunky young girl with fiery red hair and brown skin who wears green polka dots with purple stripes, mixes English and Spanish, and eats peanut butter and jelly burritos. Everyone tells her she doesn't match, until one day she tries matching — and discovers that it makes her miserable. At the end of the day, however, her teacher shares a special secret with her and lets her know she likes Marisol for who she is: a creative, bilingual Peruvian-Scottish-American!

My Name is Bilal

My Name is Bilal
Illustrated by: Barbara Kiwak
Age Level: 6-9

When Bilal and his sister Ayesha move with their family, they have to attend a new school. They soon find out that they may be the only Muslim students there. When Bilal sees his sister bullied on their first day, he worries about being teased himself, and thinks it might be best if his classmates didn't know that he is Muslim. Maybe if he tells kids his name is Bill, rather than Bilal, then they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal's teachers and also Muslim, sees how Bilal is struggling.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

Stand Up, Yumi Chung
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her "Yu-MEAT" because she smells like her family's Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she's reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage. Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant.

The Dreamer

Illustrated by: Peter Sis
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Young Neftali cannot resist the power of words and the world around him. Whether he is studying the iridescent wings of beetle or imagining the story of a lone boot left in the mud, there is no limit to where his imagination and words will take him. Neftali grows up to become one of the world's most beloved poets: Chile's Nobel-winning laureate Pablo Neruda. Through this stunning novel, Pam Muñoz Ryan imagines poet's childhood and triumph in overcoming a tyrannical father to believe in his own voice and words.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

In this humorous and heartfelt story about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu. She's ready to rule the school, go out for captain of the basketball team, and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister … until she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother's sister, is coming to visit and will be staying in Lucy's room. Lucy discovers that life often reveals silver linings in the most unexpected of clouds.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Age Level: Young adult (14-18)

One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to get her attention. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel dealing head-on with bullying, Meg Medina draws upon her own experiences to portray a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is. Winner Pura Belpré award.

You Go First

You Go First
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different — Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana. Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.