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Early/Young Readers, Interactive Ideas, Picture Books

The WEIRD series: WEIRD! DARE! TOUGH! by Erin Frankel Illustrated by Paula Heaphy

weird dare tough

The WEIRD! series relates a common bullying situation from three different perspectives:  WEIRD! is from the viewpoint of the bully’s target(Luisa); DARE! is from that of the bystander(Jayla); and TOUGH! is from the perspective of the bully, herself(Sam).

The bully situation, itself, is absolutely believable.  Sam continually calls Jayla names and puts down how she dresses and the things she likes.  When Sam switches her attention to Luisa, calling her “Weird!,” and making snide comments about her polka-dot boots, bubbly personality and greeting her father enthusiastically in Spanish, Jayla is relieved not to be Sam’s main target.  This causes her to stand back and not say anything when Sam torments Luisa in that way she used to focus on Jayla.  At first Luisa tries to ignore Sam’s behavior.  Eventually, though, she begins to feel worn down by the unkindness, doubt herself and give up the things she enjoys.

Predictably–and necessarily for teaching purposes– Jayla finds the courage to openly support Luisa, Luisa finds the confidence to be true to who she is and Sam begins to consider the idea that she doesn’t need to put others down in order to feel confident about herself.

The storyline is thin and not particularly engaging.  It’s reminiscent of the short, bland vignettes you find as examples of conversation in second language textbooks.  The strength of the WEIRD! series–and it is considerable–is in the brilliant teaching activities which follow each story.

Each book finishes with the main characters listing important points she has realized during the story using the acronym of her own title:  Luisa uses the letters from WEIRD; Jayla from DARE; and Sam from TOUGH.  This is a fantastically effective way to help young people recall and discuss the most important points from the story.

Following this each character also has a special “club” which young readers are invited to “join”:  Luisa’s Confidence Club, Jayla’s Courage Club; and Sam’s Kindness Club.  Each club lists different strategies for courage and confidence as well as several activities which then reinforce them.

The series narrative will be best received by primary grades but the strategies and interactive activities are applicable and adaptable across the entire age range of elementary schools.  The WEIRD! series is well worth your reading investment as a parent, teacher, or young person looking for ways to deal with a difficult situation.

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