It was a truly magical experience where authors and readers of all ages got together, where many of us spoke of deeply personal experiences in a safe and nurturing environment. It was the Less Than Three Conference.
Don’t get me wrong – there were moments of great levity (let’s not talk about a certain cartwheel except to remind any of you foolish enough to turn one after XX years to stretch your hamstrings). Humor, though, only worked to deepen the comfort zone and punctuate the remarkable anti-bullying dialogue.
I will not run a recap of the event (if you do an online search, you’ll come up with many hits), but I need to say that it was such an honor to be asked by the amazingly amazing Heather Brewer (the one who put this whole thing together) to serve as a moderator for one of the four panels. In preparation for that, I read a book from each of my authors. Some of the books hit the bullying issue more than others, but they were all made even more special after meeting the wonderful people behind the words. I recommend every book.
HECK: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye
Marlo had always been a bad seed. Her brother Milton had never done anything wrong. But when a marshmallow bear exploded and killed them, they were sent to the afterlife reform school to be judged. While most kids seem powerless to do anything but serve their terms, Marlo and Milton look for a means to escape. The hysterical-in-person Dale Basye has given us an utterly hilarious, pun-filled, Looney Tunes-esque (in that adults will understand more of the jokes than many kids) middle grade story. This is the first book in a series.
When Valerie’s boyfriends shoots and kills six students and a teacher then turns the gun on himself, Valerie becomes the target of much hatred. After all, she’d helped him create a “hate list” he’d use to fuel his shooting spree. It didn’t matter that the police cleared Val of any involvement in the crime and that she, herself, had been struck by a bullet, Val finds she must come to terms with what happened and figure out how to move on with her life. The warm and wonderful Jennifer Brown has written a riveting story.
KEEP HOLDING ON by Susane Colasanti
In short, Noelle doesn’t fit in at school. She’s poor. And it’s not that she lacks trendy clothes. It’s more that her mom chooses not to buy her the necessities – deodorant, feminine hygiene product or even food. Her lunch sandwiches are nothing more than white bread, lettuce, and mayo. So why is the amazing Julian Porter paying attention to her, in a good way? The thought of being with him is almost scarier than enduring the day-to-day bullying. But when circumstances grow even worse, Noelle may need to take a stand. This is based on the very brave and beautiful Susane Colasant’s personal story.
ENCHANTED by Alethea Kontis
Using bits and pieces of many fairy tales then turning them on their heads, the bright, smiling, tiara-clad Alethea Kontis takes us to the heart and mind of a woodcutter’s daughter whose pedigree is not as ordinary as may first appear. When Sunday kisses the frog she’s fallen in love with, he doesn’t change into a prince, at least not before her eyes. All that, though, serves to make this enchanted tale even more delicious. Also the first of a series.
This post is in connection with Barrie Summy’s wonderful Book Review Club.