Friday topic: Dori Hillestad Butler on Bullying

By Dori Hillestad Butler

A few years ago, I wrote The Truth About Truman School, a novel that deals with cyberbullying. In the book, a girl named Lilly Clarke is harassed online—on a website the whole school reads, an anonymous classmate posts photos and accuses her of being gay.

She starts to avoid school, and then one day, she disappears altogether.  The book is also the story of her classmates who witness the bullying and don’t know how to respond.

You may have heard that it’s Bullying Prevention Week—or Month. This year the National Center for Bullying Prevention has expanded the event to cover the whole month of October.

It’s a strangely timely decision, considering all the recent stories about bullying-related tragedies.  Special reports on bullying are appearing on the websites for CNN.com, Cartoon Network and People magazine this week.  Some of the stories will break your heart. You wonder what you can do—if you can do anything at all.

I want to tell you about a school visit I did last spring. I spoke to 4th and 5th graders, and after one of my presentations, this girl came up to me. She waited until all the other kids were lining up to go back to their classrooms and I was getting set up for the next presentation. She said, “Can I tell you something?”

I said, “Sure.”

She looked around, then leaned in close and whispered, “I’m being cyberbullied.”

At first I just stood there. I expected her teacher to call her over any second. But when that didn’t happen, I said, “do you want to tell me about it?”

Her eyes filled with tears. Then she said, “my friend is spreading rumors about me. She has a website and she uses it to write mean things about people, just like in your book. Now no one will talk to me. Everyone in this whole school hates me.”

She told me she and that girl had been friends since they were four. Their moms were friends, too. But now because the girls weren’t getting along, neither were the moms.

I ached for this girl.

I wondered whether she had told anyone at school about what was happening. Her teacher? A counselor? She said, “they won’t do anything because my friend’s mom helps at school a lot.”

I found it interesting that this girl kept referring to the other girl as her “friend.” She didn’t sound like much of a friend to me. She sounded like a manipulative little—okay, I probably shouldn’t say that when I’m a guest on my publisher’s blog.

I asked her whether it would be okay if I told her librarian what she’d just told me.

She wiped her eyes and said, “Just forget it. It doesn’t matter. Nobody ever does anything anyway.” Then she ran off to join her class.

I did say something to that librarian. All I could do was describe the girl since I didn’t get her name. But the librarian thought she knew who I was talking about. She said “That girl has quite an imagination. I’m sure she read your book and made up that story just so she’d have something to say to you. I don’t believe any of it is true.”

I was stunned. Those tears weren’t real?

Of course the librarian knows the girl and I don’t. She could be absolutely right.

But what if she was wrong?

It’s hard to believe some kids are bullies, but sometimes it’s hard to know when a kid is a victim, too. Which is all the more reason why it’s important to take bullying seriously—in every instance.

Yes—it would’ve bothered me to find out the girl was playing me. But it would bother me a lot more to see this girl’s picture in the news.

I hope it never comes to that.

Dori Hillestad Butler began her career writing for magazines such as Cricket, Spider, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Child Life. Since then, she’s published numerous picture books and novels for children, including ghostwriting several Boxcar Children© Mysteries. Her latest novels are the first three in a new early chapter book series entitled The Buddy Files, featuring a dog detective who also becomes a therapy dog. That Buddy is a therapy dog is not a coincidence. She and her dog Mouse are a registered Pet Partner team through Delta Society and we enjoy reading with kids. Dori lives in Coralville, Iowa.

For additional bullying books from Albert Whitman & Company, please check out our website.

Friday topic: Dori Hillestad Butler on Bullying

AWC Podcast Series: The Buddy Files – The Case of the Fire Alarm

Today we are talking with Dori Hillestad Butler, the author of the popular chapter book series The Buddy Files.  Dori is talking about the newest book due out this month, #4 The Case of the Fire Alarm.  We chat about therapy dogs (no, not a canine version of Analyze This), spooky mysteries in the forthcoming book #5, and her own beloved pup named Mouse.  Click below to listen. (RT 7:08)

Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of 21 picture books such as The Great Tooth Fairy Rip-Off and novels such as Trading Places with Tank Talbott, Sliding Into Home, Do You know the Monkey Man and The Truth About Truman School, all of which have been nominated for children’s choice awards in 15 different states. Trading Places with Tank Talbott won Maryland’s Black-Eyed Susan award in 2008. She has also written for magazines such as Cricket, Spider, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Child Life.  She has also “ghostwritten” ten Sweet Valley Twins and Boxcar Children books.

Dori and her dog Mouse are a registered Pet Partner team through Delta Society and enjoy reading with kids. She lives in Coralville, Iowa with her husband, son, and assorted pets.

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AWC Podcast Series: The Buddy Files – The Case of the Fire Alarm

What Children’s Book Editors Do on Their Summer Vacations

Years ago, I remember reading a post on children’s writers’ online message board (yes, we editors lurk) about how slow things are at publishing houses during the summer months. “All the editors are at their vacation houses in the Hamptons!” a writer complained.

HA. Here in Chicago, there are no jaunts to the Hamptons for us, only trips to the Lake Michigan beaches.  But sometimes we manage to escape to other fabulous Midwest destinations, such as Mankato, Minnesota. I’m a big fan of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, so when the first-ever LauraPalooza academic conference and fan fair was announced at Minnesota State University, I knew I had to go.

A LauraPalooza Lecture

The conference was everything I’d hoped it would be and then some, with more than two dozen  presentations and a field trip to one of the Little House homesites in Walnut Grove, MN. I met scholars, book authors, independent researchers, teachers, illustrators, librarians, and even a meterologist who gave a great talk on the weather conditions behind The Long Winter. (And yes, I met some people who were wearing sunbonnets, too.) Continue reading “What Children’s Book Editors Do on Their Summer Vacations”

What Children’s Book Editors Do on Their Summer Vacations