Simple animal tale of bullying, empathy, and forgiveness.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Conveys characteristics of certain animals as well as the nature of name calling and bullying.

Positive messages

Name calling hurts an individual's feelings -- even a bully's. Once a bully can see how hurtful it is, he or she can stop the behavior, apologize and make friends.

Positive role models

The bull starts out mean and insulting but comes to understand how hurtful his behavior is -- learning empathy -- and apologizes. The other animals are friendly and ask the bull to play, and after he apologizes for insulting them, they are willing to forgive and play with him.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable

Insults and name calling, like "You stink," "Buzz off!" and "Slow poke!"

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Bully, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, author-illustrator of the Caldecott Honor Book Green, shows once again that she can make a big point with very few words and bold images. This simple story shows how a bullying bull can change his ways once he understands how hurtful insults and name calling can be. And it shows kids that even bullies have feelings and can appreciate forgiveness after they apologize. It's a great, easy-to-grasp lesson in empathy without being preachy.

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What's the story?

A bunny, chicken and turtle ask a bull, "Wanna play?" He makes a mean faces and yells, "No!" and proceeds to insult each animal that comes near him, for example, calling the turtle a "Slow poke!" and telling a skunk, "You stink!" and a bee, "Buzz off!" But then a goat walks away, calling him, "Bully!" The bull considers this and it shakes him up -- he has a worried face and seems to tumble upside down as he realizes what he's done and understands how it feels to have someone call you nasty name. Humbly, with a tear in his eye, he says in a small voice, "Sorry ..." Then he asks the animals, "Wanna play?" And the turtle says, "Okay," and the bunny, chicken, and turtle go off together.

Is it any good?


BULLY is a simple story that conveys all you need to know about bullying -- it's hurtful! -- and how having empathy for others can help you change your behavior in a positive way. It also shows that if you apologize for hurtful behavior, the ones you bullied will find it easier to forgive you, move on, and be friends.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger's simple story with bold images of animals rendered with thick black outlines and very few words effectively carries a nuanced message fit for the playground.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bullies. Have you ever been bullied? What can you do if someone is mean to you in a bullying way?

  • What in the picture of the bull shows you the bull's reaction to being called a bully?

  • Do you think you could forgive someone who bullied you if that person apologized? Would you be able to play with that person as quickly as the animals in the book are?

Book details

Author:Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Illustrator:Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Genre:Picture Book
Topics:Friendship, Horses and farm animals, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:July 16, 2013
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):3 - 7
Read aloud:3 - 7
Read alone:6 - 7
Available on:Nook, Hardback, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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