MOM'S CHOICE AWARDS HONORING EXCELLENCE, GOLD LEVEL 2021. Justin, (aka J.J.) adores his friends but can’t seem to avoid being bullied. His lack of self-esteem leads him to be physically and verbally abused by an older student. J.J. holds onto several secrets in this drama about middle-grade kids. Throughout, the reader will be drawn into his narration and inner thoughts concerning the struggles of being bullied. From “Better Than A Bully: Carrot Top’s Surprise,” the first in the series, the reader will encounter Annie, Tara, Ace, and Lexi, who are all back again with their new awareness of ‘Being Better Than a Bully.’ New characters in this story will take your breath away before learning a similar lesson. This book uncovers how Ace was influenced to be a bully. In school, J.J. is physically and verbally tormented by an older student. One wonders why J.J. doesn’t tell his teacher, nurse, principal, or even his parents. Thus begins J.J.’s secrets and transformation journey. When J.J. is a bystander to his peers being bullied, his confidence shows up loud and clear. Throughout the story, we learn how friendship, school community, and a willingness to learn new strategies as the one bullied or a bystander can be resources to help themselves and others.
There are inspiring questions to aid enthusiastic family or classroom discussions and resources in the appendix.
J.J.’s attempts to handle being bullied are relatable and will resonate with young readers familiar with similar situations. When he has to get glasses, which his friends think look cool, bully Eric takes his torment to another level (“Know who has more than two eyes? Bugs! You a bug?”). J.J. fears that confronting the situation will only make things worse, but everything comes to an inevitable head when Eric’s attack during recess breaks J.J.’s glasses and causes serious injuries. With the help of teachers dedicated to rooting out bullying in the school, and his concerned parents, J.J. joins the school-sanctioned Better Than A Bully Brigade and confronts Eric in the process.
Levine skillfully tackles a heavy topic with welcoming prose that will reel in middle grade readers, and Ned Levine’s black and white, comic-strip-like illustrations add to the experience. The author alerts readers to different roles involved in bullying, differentiates between types of cruel and bullying behavior, and clarifies how kids can confront the issues without falling into the stereotype of being a “tattletale”–all in an easy-to-follow storyline that illuminates the emotional impact of bullying. Parents, educators, and middle grade readers will welcome this creative foray into bullying prevention.
Takeaway: A relatable story of the emotional and physical impacts of bullying–and how to address and prevent it.
Great for fans of: M. Evan Wolkenstein’s Turtle Boy. James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts’s Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: C
5.0 out of 5 stars 11-year old fan
Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2021
I think that this book is great to teach and reach out to people who have seen bullying or have been bullied, and how they must stand up and try to stop it. I also liked that the story had the same characters and setting from the first book, but the event and the person telling the story was different. I highly recommend this book to kids 7 and up, and can't wait for the next book in this series.
5.0 out of 5 stars Justin learns what to do about a bully.
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2021
This story holds the reader’ attention from the beginning to the last page. As you get to know Justin, you are eager to find out how he copes with being bullied.The physical and emotional aspects of being bullied are depicted through the eyes and feelings of a middle schooler. Justin’s reactions and thoughts are believable.The roles of parents,school personnel and friends are depicted in a realistic way.Justin’s personality, his ability to figure things out and his personal growth makes the story captivating. Ann Taub, CPNP,Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Better Than A Bully: J.J.’s Friendships & Secrets fits the middle school dilemma perfectly, giving kids resources without talking down to them.
Dr. Sherryll Kraizer, founder, Coalition for Children firstname.lastname@example.org
J.J.’s Friendships & Secrets, the second title in the Better Than A Bully series by Tina Levine, is a delightfully entertaining story that follows the transformation of the title character, J.J., from his unfortunate experiences of being bullied to his learning how to rise above peer cruelty, reach out to helping adults, forge positive friendships, and make a positive difference for his entire school community. J.J.’s Friendships & Secrets is a great read for anyone interested in learning how to stand up for themselves, connect with others, and turn a problem situation into an opportunity for leadership and growth.
Signe Whitson, author of 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools
Better Than A Bully: J.J.’s Friendships & Secrets is a heart-warming story about the transformation of a boy scared to tell adults about being physically bullied at school. In this second book of the series, we hear and see the effects physical bullying has on the bullied, the bystanders, and the bully. Bravo to this upper elementary and middle-grade fiction book engaging readers while sharing strategies on how to handle these challenging situations.
Andrew Pleener, psychiatrist, MD CEO of Regional Psychiatry Windermere, Flordia