Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Matthew and the Bullies by Sarah, Duchess of York

Matthew and the Bullies
by Sarah, Duchess of York
Copyright 2010
Sterling Children's Books - ages 4-8

Matthew can run fast, but he's smaller than most of the kids in his class and because of his size, he is bullied. He's nervous about going to school but afraid to tell anyone about his problem. Matthew considers fighting back, but hasn't, yet. Sometimes, he lingers amidst a group of children to protect himself. But, it doesn't always work. When John and Daniel gang up on him, he runs away and cries.

A friend finds Matthew crying and she encourages him to talk to the teacher and his parents. His parents talk to the teacher and the teacher tells the bullies that picking on people will not be tolerated. She also talks to their parents to let them know about the bad behavior of their children and the potential consequences. After Matthew does a show-and-tell presentation of his athletic awards, he's pleased at how well he did. John and Daniel tell him they won't bully him, anymore, and Matthew asks them if they'd like to practice soccer with him, over the weekend. All is well.

What I liked about this book:

Matthew and the Bullies offers parents an opportunity to discuss bullying with their children and to let children know that they're willing to listen, that parents and teachers are there to help. There are some excellent tips by a psychologist in the back of the book.

What I disliked about this book:

It's a little too easy for Matthew, in the end -- pretty unrealistic, I thought. I especially disliked the fact that it turned out that Matthew was a talented athlete. What does that say to those who aren't? It's pretty common for brainy kids to be bullied, even at a very young age, and if they happen to be burdened with awkwardness and lack of athleticism, this book could just be like poking a bruise if it's read or handed to those children. I'm not sure how exactly I would have ended that book, but it definitely had an oddly narrow focus and a too-easy solution.

On bullying, in general, and the usefulness of this book:

Bullying and cruelty to those who are different is a hot topic, these days, due to the recent suicides of gay teens -- and it's an important one. Our own experience has taught us that teachers cannot be expected to catch everything, so the most important thing a parent can do is keep communication open with their children. In this way, I think Matthew and the Bullies is a book that one can use, in spite of its flaws. It's geared to younger children and opening up the subject early may help them to deal with it later in life.

The bottom line:

I'd advise purchasing Matthew and the Bullies when your child is on the younger end of the spectrum, as a way to open up the topic. But if your child is already being bullied because he's unathletic, skip it and find another book. As to the writing, it's a little flat and lifeless but gets the point across. The illustrations didn't thrill me. In general, I'd call this an average book and recommend it with slight hesitation because of its overly-simplified ending.

In other news:

No photos, today. But, I do have a kitty story. Isabel has always been fascinated with the toilet and today I made the mistake of flushing with the lid up. Little Izzy was sitting nearby and jumped directly into the toilet as it was flushing, then popped back out backwards. Oh, do I wish I'd had a video camera, although it's not likely I'd have carried it into the bathroom, anyway. Fortunately, Isabel got a clean-water bath. The jerky shake-off-the-water dance after her experience was half the fun. I'll call that my Wednesday Wahoo!

And, this is unusual for me: I'm planning to do a product review for CSN, which has about a million stores and sells everything from cat beds to human bed sets to cooking utensils and bookshelves . . . you name it. I've seen a lot of reviews of bookshelves and I actually have plenty of those, so I'm still pondering what exactly to review. It'll have to be something related to the blog, though, meaning something that has to do with books, blogging or cats. I'll let you know when I figure it out!

Just finished:

The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell and
Take a Chance On Me by Jill Mansell

I enjoyed both and hope to review them very soon. My sidebar will give you an idea of how serious the review backlog has become. Eeks. It's kind of scary. I shall do my best to catch up, but you know how that goes. Don't hold your breath.

May your Wednesdays be full of wahoos and the rest of your days happy and healthy.

Bookfool, feeling wahooey

©2010 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. It would be nice if it were that easy, but in my experience schools really don't do much about bullying except saying they won't tolerate it. The book sounds underwhelming to me.

  2. Kathy,

    It is, in fact, underwhelming. This is the book I mentioned that I wasn't going to be giving an overly positive review, a few weeks ago. I think I've pretty much loved every other Sterling book I've read. Their children's books are generally wonderful.

    I can't say I had much luck with school administrators when we had bullying problems, either, although we got an earful of, "If only he'd informed us," when one of my children was bullied and ended up suspended for five days after he decided he'd had enough and got in a fight. Interesting side note: Nobody ever bothered him, again.

  3. What really needs to happen is that bullies are removed forcibly and incarcerated. Possibly horsewhipped. Not that I'm carrying any animosity decades later.

    Fi is so cute! I love that expression you captured.

    Wing NaN....something.

    I discovered Damian Lewis in Life. I didn't think I was going to like it or him but I did. I was so mad when it was cancelled.

    I am very behind! And more cont ed tonight and the week to come. Argh. Behinder and behinder.

  4. Carrie,

    Okay, honey, put down the caffeinated beverages and try meditating.

    Thanks. I love that picture of Fi. That's her real look -- the relaxed, zen look that was on her face when I first saw her and it seemed like she was just patiently waiting to go home with me. I was so besotted, I nearly blocked a little girl from looking at her.

    LOL Of course you don't have any remaining animosity. Obviously, the "horsewhip 'em" comment was sage advice.

    NaNoWriMo. I know, it's tricky. Okay, I'll wing it. Just because you said I should.

    Damian Lewis is truly a wonderful actor. They cancel all the good shows, these days. I don't get that. Well, except for Chuck and NCIS and I have a bad feeling about Chuck. Apparently, they're hesitant and only paid for 13 episodes, this season.

    The further you go, the behinder you get? Hang in there.

  5. Sounds like this book took the easy way out in terms of its ending, which is unfortunate. For a topic like this, if it can't be handled in a way that's a bit more useful to what I'm guessing would be the vast majority of bullied kids who are not athletic, then maybe the author should have chosen to write about something else instead.

    I love your kitty story! My kitten, too, is fascinated by the toilet. She has come very close to ending up in it a couple times. I know that if she ever manages it she'll probably never want to have anything to do with the toilet ever again, but I'd rather not have to clean up the mess of that one learning experience. She has already learned to her dismay that the bottom of the tub is sometimes wet.

  6. Library Girl,

    It did sugar-coat the whole issue of bullying, in my humble opinion. Both of my sons were very tall and unathletic at a young age (although later they found their place in athletics) and the book wouldn't have been helpful for them at all.

    Isabel is absolutely fascinated by water and wasn't put off by her experience. She only got a quick dip, so there was no mess. She landed on the throw rug, did that funny little eck-I'm-wet dance and then cleaned herself up. She was lucky she landed in clean water! She actually likes padding around in the bathtub when it's been freshly drained and she walks around on the edge of the tub and flicks the water with her paw, while I'm bathing. It's very entertaining. LOL


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