Myrtle

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Myrtle Book Poster Image
Affirming story of a little rat standing up to a bully.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Presents some useful strategies for standing up to a bully and avoiding feeling like a victim. Exposes kids to some African culture through masks and native dress.

Positive Messages

Even after you've been bullied, there are ways to stand up for yourself and avoid being hurt by bullying. This book also shows how a kid can get help and inspiration from grown-ups when having a rough time with another kid. Myrtle's parents are sympathetic, and they bring in Aunt Tizzy to help. Tizzy's suggestions work, and they help Myrtle feel "bigger and stronger," rather than powerless.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Myrtle's Aunt Tizzy, just back from a safari in Africa, is a great role model: kind, spunky, fearless, and fun. She helps Tizzy deal with the bully next door, while offering a bit of comic relief as well. However, her admission that she would sometimes "roar back" at rude lions she encountered on safari is not the safest behavior to model.

Violence & Scariness

Frances, the bully next door, pretends to be a monster and scares Myrtle and Myrtle's baby brother so much that they resolve to remain inside. But their Aunt Tizzy helps them feel brave and capable of facing the bully again.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this cute picture books about a little girl rat and the rat bully who moves in next door deals with the issue of bullying in terms a little kid can understand and relate to.

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What's the story?

A little rat named Myrtle has a happy life -- until a mean rat named Frances moves in next store. When Myrtle and her baby brother go outside to play, Frances sings mean songs about them, ambushes them, and scares them so much they decide to just stay indoors. Their parents bring in the kids' spunky Aunt Tizzy, just back from a safari in Africa, who, with her stories of bravery and some African masks, helps Myrtle fell strong enough to stand up to Frances. Myrtle asks Aunt Tizzy if she was scared of the lions in Africa, and Tizzy says when they roared, \"I told them to stop being rude, and if they continued, I'd simply roar back. ... Or sometimes,\" she adds, \"I would just sing and dance until they were gone.\" Myrtle tries both strategies and finds they work.

Is it any good?

MYRTLE does an excellent job of tackling the bullying issue at a little kid's level. The art is irresistible, from the soft pastel tones of Myrtle's world to the bright African dress and masks of Aunt Tizzy. It' not always easy for kids to articulate their emotions, especially fear, but this story helps draw them out in Myrtle, and should do the same for readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own experiences of bullying, and what they think would be the most effective strategies to deal with it. Would you let a grown-up know if it was happening to you?

  • Eight-year-olds (on the high end of the age range for this book) may have some experience online and may have heard about cyberbullying. Could the kind of bullying that Myrtle experiences -- like when Frances sings mean songs about her -- happen to a person on the computer? Do you think that would hurt just as much?

  • Aunt Tizzy has Myrtle and her little brother put on African masks to help them deal with their fearful feelings and start to feel brave again. How does putting on a mask or a costume help you express emotions? Is it easier to feel brave when you are in a scary costume?

Book details

For kids who love stories about friends and feelings

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