Tough Topics: Kids' Books About Bullying

Young boy with a lantern

These books tell the stories of children who are bullied for all kinds of reasons, including how they dress, talk, and look, as well as their different abilities and family traditions. They also provide opportunities for students to talk about bullying, how to prevent it, and how to respond when they see it.

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Eyes That Speak to the Stars

Young boy with lantern
By: Joanna Ho
Illustrated by: Dung Ho
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9

A young boy comes to recognize his own power and ability to change the future. When a friend at school creates a hurtful drawing, the boy turns to his family for comfort. He realizes that his eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars, shine like sunlit rays, and glimpse trails of light from those who came before—in fact, his eyes are like his father’s, his agong’s, and his little brother’s, and they are visionary.

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.

First Day in Grapes

Illustration of young boy standing in front of grape fields
Illustrated by: Robert Casilla
Age Level: 9-12
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

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.


Young boy kicking a soccer ball
Illustrated by: A.G. Ford
Age Level: Middle Grade

"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

King for a Day

Young boy in a wheelchair flying a kite
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.

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Illustration of a red-headed girl hanging upside down
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 Footprints

My Footprints
By: Bao Phi
Illustrated by: Basia Tran
Age Level: 6-9

Every child feels different in some way, but Thuy feels "double different." She is Vietnamese American and she has two moms. Thuy walks home one winter afternoon, angry and lonely after a bully's taunts. Then a bird catches her attention and sets Thuy on an imaginary exploration. What if she could fly away like a bird? What if she could sprint like a deer, or roar like a bear? Mimicking the footprints of each creature in the snow, she makes her way home to the arms of her moms.

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.