Thursday, November 18, 2021

Poetry Friday - One Book for All


Carol Varsalona is "Bedecked in Autumn  HERE at her blog, Beyond Literacy Link!  Hers is our celebration of these autumn months, beginning tints, fully painted, now the goodbye. It's nearly time. Our leaves have had their heyday dancing around, some gymnasts, others ballet artists, floating oh, so gracefully down. They now lie quietly on my garden beds. Thanks, Carol, and to all those in Carol's new Gallery who shared their own bounty!

         As for bounty! Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I am certainly thankful for each of you! 

        The NAGC (gifted organization) was here in Denver this past weekend. Myra Garces-Bascal of Gathering Books was here and we had lunch together, met IN PERSON after about ten years of blogging together. It was a delight! What a pleasure to meet when you only know them online! Thanks to Myra for connecting!

Alen Ištoković, CC BY 3.0
 via Wikimedia Commons
          As I travel around in the city (at certain times), I see school buses full of kids, or empty because they've made it to school or home. Now, after reading Kat Apel's Bully on the Bus, I wonder if there is another child that can not wait to get off, because they, too, have bully problems.

          I've wanted to read Kat's book ever since my younger granddaughter started riding a bus to school this year. She's ten and has loved it. I'm glad for her. 

          But, Kat knows that is not always true for some, like the young boy Leroy in her book. Leroy loves school, being part of the "Superkids" in Mrs. Wilson's class. He looks forward to each day there, but NOT getting there via bus. It appears that this bus brings a varied group from a neighborhood that doesn't have a lot of kids because Leroy's bully is DJ, a high school girl. Her hair is often a different color but her attitude stays the same, nasty! From my adult perspective, it feels as if she's in a bad place, too. Picking on a young kid through insults, bad rhymes, and actually poking feels quite desperate for a high school kid. Older sister Ruby, fifth grade, tries to help but she's young, too. 

        There's lots of white space in this book as Kat makes her way through the story. She gives each part a title, i.e., a hint for readers of what's coming. Leroy hates riding, feels pretty helpless, but DJ has also threatened him if he tells. Reading the hate and the hurt builds:
                     On a Friday, Ruby and Leroy walk home, glad to have the weekend. They're playing with sticks, drawing a picture in the dirt. 

In "Sticks and Stones", Leroy says:

                           Dad says:
                           sticks and stones
                           may break my bones
                                            but words will never
                                            hurt me.'"

    A Little later:

                               "But it's not true,
                                 is it, Ruby."

     On that weekend, it's cupcake time, filled with all the fun Mom and Dad can create. Leroy and Ruby decorate and decorate and he makes one very special cupcake for Mrs. Wilson. Through these few pages, Kat manages to show lots of love in this family. We readers know it would help if Leroy would only tell! Ruby tries to help by pretending she is a bully and Leroy does say "Stop it now." and a few other shouting words.

       But, and yes, Kat changes the scene again on Monday. After Leroy tried for a ride with Mom to school, he's back on the bus with "Hunger"! All that's needed are these brief lines:

                             "Hey, Loser.
                     What did Mommy pack
                     for lunch today?"

      I know you can imagine what's next! The cupcake is ruined, Leroy's lunch and supplies are spilled to the bus floor, the bus driver gets angry, too. 
       There is more, and sad to write, the bumps continue: 

       Through Leroy fighting and losing to that "Bully on the Bus', Kat raises the tension until finally, there is one shout at home, 

                    "She's the bully on the bus."
                     I say and I feel
                     my words grow stronger.
                     "She picks on me and I don't like it".

      There is help to be found and I know things don't always work, but Leroy is given some tools to try along with support because he told. Kat shows how it can work, verse by verse! The layout of the verses show such great intention in the placement. It's not hard to see what Leroy feels in this part when he's speaking to Ruby. And the poetry shines, though sad to read.

                                            "Not Telling"

                                             Ruby wants me
                                             to tell

                                             What will the bully
                                             do to me
                                             if I

         Later in this part:

                                            I can't look at Ruby.
                                            I gaze past her
                                            into the distance and hear
                                            red-hot lava words whistling
                                                around like a steamed-up kettle
                                                inside my head.

                                          "... I'm gonna get you ... If you tell ... I'm gonna
                                     get you ... If you tell ... "

         It's not so easy to relay how effective a novel-in-verse with brief poems can be. Kat has managed to tell a story that ends well, giving some advice and support that kids can try when they feel helpless. I'm happy to recommend this book for teachers and parents, too, who might need a nudge to watch for signs from those kids they nurture who may need a boost. Thanks, Kat!

         There's a terrific article here about all Kat's verse novels! In a part of it, she says: "Bully on the Bus was such an exciting process – realising that the chapter book I’d written was really the verse novel I’d been trying to write. It was like an epiphany – and so rewarding, to uncover the verse, and then develop the heart and story more." Be sure to read the part about this book and then about all the others! 


  1. Thanks so much for telling us about this book. I would really like to read it now! Years ago my own kiddo's bus had a fifth-grade Queen of the Bus, to whom everyone was supposed to bow down, and she had a couple of third-grade ladies-in-waiting/enforcers. Nightmare!

  2. Oh wow, thank you, Linda. I did not know of this book. I am going to get it asap. Kids need to know and understand. The whole idea of the bully and the watchers and all the hurt and helplessness from the Thank you for this so much. I never took the bus and was grateful. My son only did a little. It is a legitimate problem. If only they would practice kindness on the bus ride. Happy Thanksgiving to you! My bff is in Denver visiting family. I am going to send her to the bookstore (I think she has been! Please email me your schedule so maybe you can say hello, not sure but maybe. I would love if you two met.) She's there now and for at least a week or more.
    Janet Clare F.

  3. Thanks for highlighting Kat's book, Linda. I look forward to reading it, especially because bullies have touched my daughters' lives over the years. Sigh.
    SO cool you got to meet Myra in person. I love when online meets real life. :)

  4. Thanks for featuring Kat's book, Linda. Enjoyed learning more about it, and the excerpts you shared are so telling (and as you said, hard to read). You've definitely made me want to read this one. And how cool that you and Myra met in person!!

  5. Thanks for sharing Bully on the Bus. Whoever says "words can never hurt" is just overly optimistic. I like the structure of the verses that you shared. Verse structure is something I really put a lot of mental energy into and I love seeing how others do it as models. Thanks!

  6. Wonderful review of Kat's difficult, timeless, but very important book Linda. I also read and enjoyed the article on Kat and her verse books. Unfortunately both my kids experienced bully's and I did too–not an easy thing for any age to go through and come out of, thanks for sharing it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  7. Thanks for sharing these compelling excerpts, Linda, and for introducing me to this verse novel. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  8. Thanks everyone. I hope I can visit you soon. I've been in a swirl of "busy" today, picking up a car from a repair, having a drain person come to check on my drain & raking, yes, again! I am home now finally before dark & those things are done and all okay! Whew! I hope you can find Bully on the Bus. I think it's so well done & so important.

  9. Your extensive reviewing of Kat's Verse Novel is testimony to its intrinsic value as a story worth sharing, Linda. A powerful work. Kat's verse novels sit proudly in my personal collection of these important works.

  10. Linda, you did a very good job of familiarizing everyone with Kat's book. I think I read parts of the article before but thanks for sharing the link. It is so great to read about Kat's thoughts on her writing. Bully on the Bus sounds like Kat handled pressing issues with a true understanding of the characters. Thanks for being part of my gallery. Have a wonderful holiday with your family.

    1. Thank you, Carol. Yes, I enjoyed the interview with Kat a lot. It will help me look at verse novels a little differently now. Wishing you a grand holiday, too!

  11. Linda, thank-you for taking the time to write such a detailed review of Bully. I really appreciated reading your insights.

    Whilst the mother in me had to write that book, in the process of writing it, I started remembering things from the bullies on the bus when I was a small child, things that I had thought I'd forgotten - but poetry has that way, of tapping into our deep memories and emotions. I have been that Leroy, that Ruby, bit also, that Mum, that teacher...

    Here's a fun fact for you. I confess, I cringe a little when I read 'Not Telling' in the American version - because there are so many repetition of tell/telling. In the Australian version, the bully says, 'I'm gonna get you ... If you dob ... I'm gonna get you ... If you dob ...' But apparently there was no American equivalent for that.

    I am rather thrilled that Bully is available in America - published by Kane Miller Books. And I'm still disappointed that COVID cancelled plans for a second school tour in 2020.. and 2021 was no better. I want to come back and speak in your wonderfully welcoming schools - and catch up with more Poetry Friday friends!

    1. I was happy to write to share your wonderful book, Kat. Thanks for coming by and sharing your personal thoughts about it and that 'extra' about the American version, "dob" versus "tell". Wishing you could come visit, though I imagine it won't be to Colorado. It was fun to read about your visits a few years ago!

  12. I echo your praise for this book. I have it pulled out for a lesson in my library in December. I know that there has been bullying on busses these days because I'm hearing about it. And, it's sad. I wish we adults could be better at disrupting the negative behavior of kids these days. But, with all the bad behavior of adults that seem to grab attention, it's just a much tougher job. Love your review of this book, and the book too!

    1. I am happy to hear that you have shared Kat's book, Linda. Thanks for sharing that. I hope that others are, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Wow. That sounds like such a powerful book! Thanks for the review!

    1. Thanks, Jane, hope you can get it for the library & enjoy it as I did!

  14. Such a wonderful review of an excellent book. I love Kat's work,(and Kat, too!).

    1. Thanks, Sally! I agree with you, as you could read!

  15. This sounds like a great books for kids - both bullies and bullied, I was only sorry I couldn't find it in any of the New York libraries. Leroy's plight really sounds was so real and heartbreaking. Do you ever find out why a high school girl bullies a younger kid?

    1. So sorry you can't find it. Perhaps you can request it? There is some resolution for the high school girl, yes! Thanks, Alex!

  16. I didn't know about Kat's book — thanks for the highlights! And it's wonderful that you and Myra got to meet in person. I dream of a great big Poetry Friday gathering someday where we can all meet. You all are some of my favorite people. xo

    1. It was a joy to meet Myra, Karen, & I know what you mean about meeting others. A poetry daydream, right? Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Just reading these excerpts made my stomach bunch up :>( Thanks for sharing this, and how cool that you got to meet Myra in person!

    1. I understand! Bullying a way younger kid is so cruel. Wishing it were never so! Thanks, Laura.

  18. Thank you so much for featuring Kat's book, Linda. I loved hearing that the novel was written in prose first, then Kat revised it to verse. Fascinating that some stories "want" to be told in poems.


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