I’ve written about bullying in the past. I shared how it impacted me and how it still damages kids today. A few years ago a school psychologist did an anti-bullying program with my class, and it was one of the most effective ones. He talked about how there are multiple types of bullies. There is “the bully”, the one that actually does the deed or thinks it up. There is “the posse”, the ones that help or follow; and finally, the spectators. We all know them they are the ones that just watch and do nothing. The posse and the spectators give the bully power!
Recently Random House sent me a copy of Twerp by Mark Goldblatt. It is a story about Julian Twerski. He is the sixth grade and was suspended for a week for an action he doesn’t want to think about. Twerp is set in 1969. Julian’s English teacher tells him he can get out of a Shakespeare assignment is he writes a journal of his life. He eventually fills over 10 composition books. While we read his entries we learn a lot about this young man. Julian is gifted, and that doesn’t sit well with his best friend. We, also, find out that, his best friend, Lonnie is the true bully.
I am not going spoil the ending, but as time goes on it is easy to tell that Julian is a major part of the posse. His misguided sense of loyalty to Lonnie gets him into more trouble than he deserves. During my time with Julian I got very angry with him, and almost gave up on him; but I knew there was something in him that made him special. I am my no means defending his actions, but I believe that his empathy will guide him away from Lonnie.
Here’s the deal. This will be a powerful read aloud for 5th grade and 6th grade classes. It will allow for discussion on making right choices even if it goes against the wishes of friends. I would put in a fourth grade library, and share with mature third graders.