Three books that can be used to talk with students about bullying, differences, moving, and materialism.
Picture Book Resources
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, ill. by David Catrow
Molly Lou Melon's family is moving and she is worried about fitting in at her new school. She has reason to be worried. She's extremely short, has buck teeth, and some rather unique talents. Molly Lou's grandmother tells her to stand tall and embrace her differences and the rest of the world will too. Ronald Durkin is the class bully at her new school and tries to make fun of her, but his plans seem to bounce right off of Molly Lou and backfire as she follows her grandma’s advice. Eventually, Ronald Durkin has a change of heart.
- Bullying: Molly Lou's response to the class bully is worth emulating. It's a great book to use when talking with students about how to respond to bullies.
- Moving: Just about everyone has qualms about moving to a new place. This is a good book to intro discussions with kids about their feelings towards past or upcoming moves.
- Differences: Many of us try to hide our differences, but Molly Lou's grandmother tells her to embrace her differences. Have students brainstorm a list of pros/cons about following Grandma's advice. Do the pros outweigh the cons? What would have happened to Molly Lou if she hadn't listened to her Grandma?
- Differences: Discuss why people often make fun of those who are different. Have students determine if they are more like Molly Lou or more like Ronald, and whether they are satisfied with that. Have them write down goals for themselves of how to behave in the future in regards to their own uniqueness and others' differences.
- Talents: Many students struggle with figuring out what they are good at. You could also have students write notes to each other telling each other what they appreciate about each others' differences and unique talents.
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester, ill. by Lynn Munsinger
Tacky the Penguin does not behave like a typical pretty penguin. He does not have perfect poise or a
beautiful voice, and he can’t even seem to march correctly. His companion penguins find him rather
odd. However, when the mean hunters come around looking to catch some “pretty penguins” Tacky
manages to confuse and confound them till they run off. There are several other books in the Tacky
series and in each one Tacky seems to save the day by being the odd penguin who doesn’t quite fit in. Tacky's a personal favorite of mine and several others I know.
- Gifts/Talents: Have a class discussion about what the world would be like if we all had the exact same talents. What would be the benefits and what would be the hazards of such a world?
- Bullying: Like Molly Lou Melon, Tacky could easily be the brunt of bullying (though he is often a little too off in the clouds to notice). Compare and contrast how the other penguins treat Tacky before and after the hunters come. Why do their attitudes changed? Who changed, Tacky or the other penguins? Is the person that gets picked on in your class like Tacky? If so, what does this book make you think about how you should be treating that person?
- Book Duo on Differences: Read both Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and Tacky the Penguin. Have students compare and contrast the two characters. Ask students to brainstorm things we can learn from both of these characters.
- Religion: Right along with the gifts/talents idea above, this book could be tied in with lessons about being the body of Christ or spiritual gifts.
- Antarctica/Polar Climates: This is a very fun read for classes studying polar climates or penguins.
- Penguins: Tacky stands out among the rest of the penguins, but penguins themselves are rather unique birds. Have students do some research on ways penguins are different from many other birds and how they are uniquely designed for life in the cold.
The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, ill. by Gail de Marcken
A very greedy king finds out that there is a quiltmaker in his kingdom who just gives away
beautiful quilts to other people. He is hurt that he has never received one. He demands that
she make him one of his beautiful quilts. The wise quiltmaker takes the opportunity to require
payment in rather unique methods and teaches the king valuable lessons on the joys of blessing
others and being unselfish. The king must give things away from his hoarded treasures, and each
time he does so, she will add a square to his quilt. The king’s heart changes dramatically in the
process, and in the end, he learns to joyfully give until he cannot give any more. The pictures are
beautifully captivating. This is a longer picture book, so it may require two sittings to read.
- Materialism: Many people are now consumed with getting more, more, more, but are extremely dissatisfied. Have students compare and contrast the king from the beginning of the book and the end of the book. Which would they rather meet? Before reading, ask students to write down 5-10 things they need. After reading, ask students to reevaluate that list and brainstorm ways the money could help others instead.
- Charity: This is a perfect book to read and start a discussion about how to help people in need. Maybe even have students to brainstorm ways they can work as a class to help others around them, possibly even ways that will cost them something like it cost the king. Are they willing to give up their favorite snack for a week and save the money to give to an organization that helps others? Are they willing to sacrifice their time to help others themselves? There are lots of ways students of all ages can be involved in blessing their communities.
- Haves/Havenots, Media & Psychology: There are lots of interesting studies about which cultures are happiest or the most worry-free, and it is usually the people who have just enough, not the super rich. There's also some very interesting stuff out there about how media uses psychology to get us to buy things. (One great source for this is Go: a Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd.) Have students read some of the data and ask them to write an essay comparing what the media tells, and what the research of cultures tells us. Can money really buy happiness?
- Stories with Morals: This is a rather long tale, but it is easy to figure out the moral of the story. Ask students if they can write it in a few words. Ask students which would make a bigger impact on someone else they know, if they had just read the moral or if they read them the whole book. Why is that? (Which can lead to talking about the power of stories to help change hearts and minds.)
- Morals Writing Extension: Have students brainstorm a moral they think is important for people to know, and then write a story to convey that message.
- Bible: Could be tied in with a lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit, or Solomon's choice of gift from God, or the story of the rich young ruler.
- Quilts: Have students brainstorm characteristics that would make them a good citizen. Put the characteristics on quilt squares (real or just paper), and make a character quilt for the class of things they want to be to bless their community.