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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Teaches kids the power of the written word to help heal wounds, and the power of a teen-powered grassroots campaign to do something good for another kid who is a total stranger. It also gives kids a deeper understanding of bullying and the lasting psychological damage it can do, as well as many examples of the resilience of the human spirit.
The teen sisters who started the positive letter-writing campaign for Olivia demonstrate a great act of kindness for a total stranger. (They don't meet Olivia until three months into the campaign.) Letters pour in from people all over the country -- many from former bullies -- showing tremendous compassion and empathy. The letter writers -- most who have been targets of bullies, and some former bullies themselves -- offer positive messages of hope and understanding, and an assurance that "it gets better."
Positive Role Models
The sisters do not stand by when they learn about what happened to Olivia. They mobilize a letter-writing campaign for a total stranger, out of the goodness of their hearts. "We ... wanted to let her know that that she was not alone and that there were kids out there in the world who would be happy to be her friend," the sisters write in an Author's Note. Olivia is a positive role model, too, because she doesn't give up.
Violence & Scariness
Some incidents of pushing and shoving are described in the letters, including one in which an overweight boy with thick glasses is pushed into a pile of dog manure. Some letter writers recall being kicked, punched, or beat up. And some have their lunches smashed or backpacks dragged through the mud (as Olivia's was). But most of the anecdotes involve verbal abuse, threats, mocking, and taunting.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are some mentions of being bullied for being gay.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the letters in this book describe incidents of bullying, including cyberbullying and gay bashing as well as conventional mean-girl behavior and schoolyard taunting, threats, and humiliation -- mostly verbal but some physical. The letters are heartfelt, candid, and loving as the writers of all ages draw from their own experiences of bullying -- as target, bully, or bystander -- to encourage Olivia, the bullied girl of the title, to have hope and not give up.
Is It Any Good?
This is a profound testament to compassion of the two teenage sisters who started the letter-writing campaign, the kindness of strangers, and a substantive expose of how hurtful bullying can be. Most striking are the letters from older people who clearly still feel the sting of of schoolyard harassment decades later. A foreword clearly and succinctly explains the different types of bullying, the psychological motivation behind the cruel behavior, and the roles of each person in the bullying dynamic: the target, the bully, and the bystander.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.