Important Young Reader Books That Deep Dive on Bullying

Bullying is a sad fact of adolescent life, one that harms for years. Let’s take a look at some children’s novels that help those suffering from bullying.

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There are many forms of bullying that someone could go through, it is a serious topic that is unfortunately popularized in adolescence. Cyber, emotional, physical, social, and many other forms of bullying are found in any situation involving children. It’s been in schools, it’s been in sports, and it has been in homes. Bullying is no joking matter, especially for younger audiences. Bullying ruins lives, and it can feel impossible to stop it. This piece will examine young readers’ books that fight bullying head-on. Countless books in children’s classics discuss the seriousness of bullying, so let’s deep dive into some representations.

Posted by John Anderson

Following a friend group and their struggle with an unusual form of bullying, Posted is an impactful book that is suited for middle schoolers who are dealing with this social abuse. Frost, the main character, tells the tales of himself and his friends Wolf, Deedee, Bench, and new girl Rose. When their school bans phones from all students, the group decides to use sticky notes on their lockers to communicate for fun. This becomes a prevalent trend in the school, and it’s all fun and games until mean notes start popping up all over the group’s lockers. Situations become so serious, that a friend must leave the school and switch to a new education facility.

Book cover of Posted by John David Anderson, showing a locker covered with post-its, all with various messages written on them.

The friends face many forms of bullying throughout the book, but their friendships help these struggles become minuscule. To me, this is the entire theme of the book. Though the friend group fears many foes, they do everything they can to help each other through it. Their friendships help each other beat the bullies and encourage each other to stand up for themselves and their best buddies. However, There is an ongoing struggle with one of the friends, Bench. You can feel the tension building between Bench and his friends as the book continues and the bullies become more present in the group’s lives. It is realistic that friends might disappear when bullying gets involved in a friend group. Some might become fearful for themselves, and instead of fighting for their friends, they fight to save their own skin.

Though Bench’s approach is ideally not what someone should do in a similar situation, the remaining group friendships significantly represent how to handle a bully. They stand up for their friends, and they, of course, take their bullying to the school’s educators for extra help. This book is extremely realistic as to what bullying may do to a group of friends. I think it is a great read, and it can help others understand how severe bullying can be.

The Bug Girl by Margaret McNamara and Sophia Spencer

All bugs must live.

The Bug Girl

This book is a perfect read for a younger audience, maybe in a classroom setting for the teacher readers. It is a true story following a young bug enthusiast, Sophia Spencer, who grew up obsessing over bugs. She finds happiness by learning all about the bugs of the world, and while growing up, peers her age begin to torment her and her interests. This discourages Sophia from her passion, and she almost gives up on her dream until her mom encourages her to send emails out to the bug scientist community for inspiration. After a few days, emails flood the Spencer household, and the bug girl returns.

Cover of The Bug Girl. Cover contains a happy girl holding a jar hoping to catch a butterfly close by. Background is covered in green and flowers.

I consider myself an emotional person, and this book had me tearing up at the end. This is a perfect picture book to have on the shelf for any younger kids out there. It gives a sense of encouragement to its readers, especially because it is based on a true story. The illustrations are super cute and have a cozy aesthetic, and Sophia’s story is truly inspiring for anyone who has a passion.

Smile By Raina Telgemeier

“I do look like a baby. But do I really care what anyone else thinks? … Yes.”


This was a classic book in my household growing up and a significant example of standing up to bullies you’d never expect. This novel follows Raina and her continuing struggle to survive sixth grade to high school. Like many other kids, Raina must wear braces, and the book follows her long journey of fixing her teeth. Though Raina has many friends initially, you slowly begin to see who her friends really are as the book continues and Raina becomes older. Raina’s group of friends start to pick on her for silly reasons. Insecurities, crushes, and Raina’s battle with her braces make her an easy target for her foes.

Cover of Smile book by Raina Telgemeier. Image contains a cartoon smile with braces.

This book stands out because the bullies are not what you would first imagine when thinking of a bully. When the term bully comes to the topic, they are not friends, not family, but another person with no emotional connection to their prey. That can be, however, not the case in some situations. In this book, we see Raina get brought down by her friends. It is firstly subtle and comes off as friendly banter. But you can see a sudden change in Raina’s behavior when her friend’s comments get to her.

After years of dealing with her group’s toxic comments and isolation, she begins to crack. She suddenly breaks when she is pants in her high school schoolyard by her closest friends. Expecting her to shrug it off, they giggle at her tears, leaving Raina to tell her friends how she really feels. Raina bravely leaves the group, and she continues her school journey solo until she finds a supportive and loving group of friends she deserves. I love this book with all my heart, it’s so relatablely young adult, and it can help its readers understand that bullying can come in the people you would least suspect.

Bully by Patricia Polacco

Lyla is a new girl looking for her perfect group of friends. On her first day of school, she meets another new kid, Jamie, who welcomes her with open arms. The two quickly become best friends and begin their new school journey together. As the school year comes and goes, Lyla becomes close with the most popular girls in school. Gage, the most popular, is constantly vicious to other kids in the school, though the previous year, she lost her parents in a car accident. As Lyla becomes closer to the girls, she allows them to take control of her life. But she soon learns the severity of the situation after watching the girls cyberbully fellow classmates, including Jamie. When Lyla finally stands up to Gage, Lyla mysteriously is blamed for stealing a missing test from the school, making her the new target both in school and online.

Patricia Polacco's Bully book cover, showing three girls gossiping about a fourth girl, background covered in mean words such as 'loser' and 'hate you'

When Lyla is at her lowest, she turns to Jamie for help, and he does everything he can to help his friend. The book ends with an open-ended sentence “What would you do?” This piece gives a lot of important information about bullying. This includes using cyberbullying as an example, and also Gage’s character and her previous struggle with her parents passing. A lot of bullying comes out of people because of their own self-battles. It is no excuse, but it is a cause-and-effect scenario, which is always important to keep in mind when dealing with a bully. Another thing I find different from this book is the ending. Leaving the readers with this question leads to a discussion, and having a talk on what to do with bullies can be the first start to stopping it.

Blubber by Judy Blume

(TW: Physical Assault, Discrimination)

 Though this title is meant for children, I would recommend this book for an older young reader audience. This book gives similarities to the previous title, Smile, as it involves seeing bullying in a friend group. However, this book follows a girl who is not being bullied but a bystander. Jill, the main character, must dive deep into her relationships when her best friends torment a classmate. After Linda, the victim gives a presentation on whales, the entire class (led by Jill’s best friend Wendy and her fellow group of friends) bewilders her with name-calling, rude comments, and physical harm. 

Blubber book cover, image showing a whales tale with a small hear on the bottom with the word blubber written in it.

This is a tough read, but I want to mention it because of its nakedness and bluntness. Many children’s books that involve bullying can be cushioned for their audience. For example, in books aimed at very young readers, of course, there should be some softness to a bully character. But, I think it is beneficial to have some books out there that have a realistic tone to their bully characters.

The main character is impossible to like: Jill represents the thousands of bystanders who would rather join in on the torture than be tortured. The realism of the corrupted school system in the book is shocking but, once again, realistic. Sometimes, telling the teacher can make it worse for the victim. And in this book, it’s the truth. The book ends with no happy ending and scatters its readers to wonder, what good comes out of bullying? Is there no ending to the cycle?

Blubber is a fairly old title, as it was published in 1974, and it is crucially vulgar. There needs to be realistic books out there for readers to understand the severity that bullying has on others. This book is a perfect example, and though it could be unpopularized due to vulgar bullying being taken too far, I think it’s one of many books that should be read for a better understanding of what bullying could feel like. People need to know that bullying is no fairytale, and stories like Blubber will hopefully help others understand its severity.

Books can open our eyes to places we have never seen. These titles are emotional, impactful, and powerful for young readers. Though some have a laugh, books like these dissect what bullying does to a person and should be read sincerely. I encourage the young readers out there to give one of these books a chance and see if they can learn more about how to help stop bullying.

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