The new kid at school. Oh yeah, we all know how fun it is to be that person. Today is Vanessa's first day at school. Her teacher introduces her to the room and she takes her seat. So alone. And even more alone on the walk home when a bully tries to make her feel small.
But someone notices. As she walks home a girl is standing with her friends looking up at a squirrel in a tree. Where all the other children are caught up with the cute furry animal, this girl's attention is captured by the sound behind her. As she turns around, she witnesses and what she sees matters to her.
Everyone who sees a bully in action can make choices to make a difference and the back matter of this book lists strategies to counter the meanness. There is a glossary of terms related to bullying as well so everyone has the same words to describe what's happening and identify the truth.
The finale here is incredibly powerful and moving. I'll leave it to you to discover for yourself but I will say it show us at our best. Especially our youngest need to be taught early about the poison of bullying and the tools we all own to overpower this cruel use of social power.
A must have for all collections in this time where lack of respect and ignorance of integrity are in the news daily. Inspiring and celebrating the goodness in each of us.
40 pages 978-1524769550 Ages 4-9
Highly recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
This simple yet powerful picture book--from a New York Times bestselling husband-and-wife team--tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events, I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. With themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.--from the publisher
“Madness is what you demonstrate And that’s exactly how anger works and operates Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight Take control of your mind and meditate Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all” -- The Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?” (2003)
“There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” --Eldridge Cleaver
I’m with the late Eldridge Cleaver on this.
Over the years, in writing about children’s and YA literature, I’ve frequently cited childhood incidents that scarred me and have stayed with me for forty or fifty years: the five-year-old stranger who blocked the sidewalk and told me he hated me. The thirteen-year-old who called me “faggot” and made fun of my clothes and my changing voice. The fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds who slammed me into lockers or slammed my books and looseleaf out from under my arm. The unknowns who burned down a house under construction in my neighborhood and then spray painted racial epithets on the charred remains because the house was being built for a black family.
These incidents are part of who I became, why I get involved in movements for social change, and why I want to promote a socially-conscious book like I WALK WITH VANESSA.
I WALK WITH VANESSA is a wordless picture book in comic format that features a black child whose family moves to a new neighborhood. At school, the “new kid” is initially shy and reluctant to participate. On the way home from school, a young bully confronts Vanessa on the sidewalk. We can tell by the red that surrounds the scene that the bully is spewing some pretty awful stuff.
A female classmate who is chatting with friends nearby, overhears the bullying and observes Vanessa walking home, crying. She tells her friends about it and they each walk away crestfallen.
Shaken by what she saw, the classmate spends the afternoon and evening brooding over the incident and, the next morning, she has an idea.
She races over to the house she saw Vanessa entering the previous afternoon, knocks on the door, and talks with Vanessa. The two girls depart for school holding hands. Then, beginning with the friends of the observer, scores and scores of children gradually join in, walking to school with Vanessa. The bully is ignored as a sea of smiling children pass by him.
The story is followed by two brief-but-valuable sections of advice: “For Children: How you can help someone who is being bullied,” and “For Adults: Some useful words to use when talking about this book with children.” These sections were drawn up with the assistance of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the ADL website has extensive lesson plans for using the book.
I don’t harbor illusions that I WALK WITH VANESSA will change the world. After all, back in the Sixties, those bullies I encountered all went to church on Sunday and heard about the Golden Rule. But, then again, there were plenty of impressionable young people who heard a good sermon about treating others in the manner one would like to be treated and embraced the concept.
I WALK WITH VANESSA will strike a chord with a certain number of children who may later make a difference in someone’s life as a result of having experienced this book.
These days, with so many of our neighbors being vilified because of their color, race, ancestry, or religion, it’s essential that we and our children actively participate in trying to stop the hate and bullying. It devastates me to think of my little grandkids encountering the sorts of bullying that scarred me.
I WALK WITH VANESSA is an engaging and thought-provoking wordless tale that will serve as a resource in teaching our children well. I encourage you to read it, share it, gift it, and make sure it’s in your kid’s school library.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
See more of his recommendations: http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Here's a link to a lesson plan idea based on the wordless picture book "I Walk With Vanessa"