By Sara E. Hoffmann, School & Library Series Managing Editor
Every now and then, a book comes along that makes me feel especially proud to be a children’s book editor. One of those, hot off the presses this spring, is We All Have Value: A Story of Respect—one of six titles in Cloverleaf Books’ Stories with Character series.
The title broaches a topic very close to my heart: social and emotional learning, and specifically, the importance of treating everyone respectfully and not engaging in bullying behavior.
What I love about this book is the specific approach that it takes to bullying. So many of the anti-bullying resources I’ve seen imply (albeit subtly, but the implication’s there) that the victim does something to bring on the bullying. For instance, they mention that a kid might be bullied for lacking self-esteem or for having poor social skills. But the truth is that, just as in any abusive situation, no victim ever does anything to ask for the abuse. A bullied child’s self-esteem or social skills are not what needs adjusting. It’s the bullying child’s way of relating to his or her peers that needs to change.
We All Have Value never once suggests that Ben, the bullied boy in our story, is doing anything to cause his situation. He’s simply the victim of another child who isn’t quite sure how to act around his peers. Pete—the character who does the bullying—shoves in front of Ben in the lunch line. He shouts over Ben when he’s trying to talk. He excludes him from a game during recess.
We All Have Value makes clear that it’s Pete who needs to change his ways. And realistically, the story shows that it’s a peer bystander who has the most power to make that happen. Pete’s good friend Idil is that bystander, and she gently calls Pete’s behavior out. Once Pete realizes he isn’t making any friends through his actions, he eventually starts to change—and, happily, apologizes to Ben.
Author Mari Schuh also has included a diverse cast of characters in our story. Our bystander, for instance, happens to be Somali and a hijabi girl. I love seeing a book featuring a Muslim character where the storyline isn’t specifically about religion or diversity. It’s just about an everyday situation that almost every kid encounters, featuring a diverse classroom like the ones in schools all across America.
I’m truly honored to introduce We All Have Value to the world. If it plays even a small role in reshaping the way bullying is perceived, I’ll be pleased and grateful beyond measure.