Kids may say the darndest things, but left to their own devices they also say some of the meanest. If yours has even the tiniest flaw or any characteristic that makes them remotely different (and, assuming you had a human child, welcome to the club, kid), chances are they’ll have to face some bully who hasn’t yet learned that nobody thinks they’re funny. Since you already know that helicopter parenting definitely doesn’t work, you’ve got to at least try and prepare them for real life. Read them these 9 books and they’ll never have to Houdini their way out of their locker.
Enemy PieA bully named Jeremy Ross moves into the neighborhood and forces the narrator to craft his first “Enemies List.” Summer is ruined until dad comes up with the perfect plan: “Enemy Pie.” The one catch: no dessert until you’ve spent a full day with your enemy, which teaches the ultimate lesson in making friends. That’s predictable, but at least it doesn’t end the same way as Cartman’s “Enemy Chili.”
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson and Tara Calahan King ($9)
The Hundred DressesSince 1945, Eleanor Estes’ Newbery Honor classic has been the gold standard for making kids feel horrible about being such wretched little jerks. If you love your child but suspect they might be just a bit of a dick, read them the story of how bad Maddie feels after her classmate, Wanda Petronski, is forced to skip town due to the other girls’ merciless teasing. They ought to take it easy on you after that.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and Louis Slobodkin ($6)
BullyWhile calling a hen “CHICKEN!” or telling a skunk, “YOU STINK!” might technically be just as literal as it is mean, this bull is definitely being a total punk to every animal on the farm. The bull (and his ego) grow with every insult he spews until a goat calls him out — “BULLY!” — which is again both literal and insulting, and he deflates, because he just got owned by a goat.
Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger ($13)
Spaghetti In A Hot Dog BunWhen the tables are turned and Ralph the bully needs help, Lucy steps up, because Lucy trusts her values even after suffering endless taunts about her curly locks and unique sandwich preferences (which, incidentally, a very real, very successful person impossibly shares). Lucy becomes a leader among her peers by being confident in herself and remembering, as her grandfather says, “What a boring world it would be if we were exactly alike.”
Spaghetti In A Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy and Kimberly Shaw-Peterson ($7)
Confessions Of A Former BullyThrough weekly meetings, a patient school counselor named Mrs. Petrowski (which has to be an homage to The Hundred Dresses) helps a bully named Katie (which is probably just a coincidence to Mean Girls) see the error of her ways. The story unfolds as if Katie is narrating journal entries of those meetings in a style you’ll find familiar if your kid likes the Wimpy Kid series (which they definitely do).
Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig and Beth Adams ($8)
Eddie LongpantsEddie gets ruthlessly tormented for his enormous stature by a little twit named Pete who apparently hasn’t learned yet that NBA players get paid extremely well. When Pete finds himself up a tree without a ladder, it’s Eddie who comes to his aid. He’s the bigger man after all. Zing! Presumably, this experience helped Eddie to grow as a person and live a happy productive life in Springfield.
Eddie Longpants by Mireille Levert ($9)
The Juice Box BullyThese books have covered dealing with your bully and avoiding becoming one, but not what to do if you witness bullying. The bystander is the focus of The Juice Box Bully and “The Promise” Pete’s classmates teach him when he starts acting a fool. Make sure your kid is the one who speaks up when they see unacceptable behavior like bullying or wearing socks with sandals. Sorry, you needed to know.
The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson, Maria Dismondy, and Kim Shaw ($8)
The Tease MonsterAfter finishing The Tease Monster, your child will know the difference between laughing at someone (bullying) and laughing with someone (teasing). Once they’re armed with this knowledge, all your hilarious jokes about them will have to wait until after they’ve fallen asleep .
The Tease Monster by Julia Cook ($8)
Llama Llama And Bully GoatIf you have a kid who’s new to school, Llama Llama has a few rhyming quips they can use to diffuse any potential new kid bullying scenarios, and even get everyone to be friends again by recess. Alternatively, you can teach them just to hold out until sweet, sweet nap time.
Llama Llama And The Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney ($14)