Bully On Me by Edward Hemingway
Recently, while touring schools in the Midwest with my children’s book, “Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship”, I was asked a great question by a rather serious first grader.
“Mr. Hemingway, were you ever bullied?” she wondered.
What’s so great about that question, you ask? And what self-respecting children’s book author can honestly answer such a question in front of 200 kids without revealing he’s a total dork deep down inside?
And wait a second, do I look like someone who was bullied as a kid?
The answer to that last question is, of course I look like someone who was bullied as a kid, because just about everyone has been bullied at some point in their childhood-No matter how tall and arguably charming they grow up to be. (And yes, 6 feet is still considered tall.)
How often do we candidly talk about our experiences with bullies and bullying, at any age? Such heavy rocks seem much lighter when left unturned. But isn’t it a good idea share these stories with our children and bask in the communal sympathy and recognition such anecdotes reveal? Isn’t it time to mine those rocks for all the positive ore they might contain?
When I started writing “Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship”, I didn’t originally set out to tell a parable about bullying, I just wanted to show children how fun a unique and special friendship between two dissimilar characters could be. But as I wrote their story, bullying came naturally to the tale. Mac the apple and Will the worm are an anomaly in their small world, a perfect red apple with a green worm cohabiting in his noggin. They are two fast friends who finish each other’s sentences and inevitably end up setting other tongues wagging. Because when confronted with such a new and unusual pearing er, I mean pairing, the rest of the apples in the orchard can’t resist making fun of Mac and Will. If you’ll forgive me, we’ve all been there — and we didn’t like them apples…
Such bullying and name-calling echoes (my experiences with being the new kid in a new school).
Many years ago (too many to count, so I won’t even try) my family up and moved from New York City to a small town in Montana.
Suddenly I was the “city slicker” who’d never worn a pair of jeans, an outsider to be pitied for my ignorance of popular culture and uncool love of books. I may as well have had a worm coming out of my head.
But like many kids before and after me, I stood my ground and eventually made a group of friends and the teasing stopped. Like Mac and Will, I stayed true to my friends and they helped me become proud of my “city slicker” moniker — I ended up wearing it like a badge. I realized I liked being different.
So it wasn’t too hard for me to answer that young lady’s question about bullying, because while a little painful, my experience in school made me a stronger individual.
I loved sharing my answer to her great question with all the kids. Most of them could relate. And even if they didn’t, who doesn’t like a happy ending?
Dorky children’s book authors practically live by them.
Edward Hemingway is the youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway. He received his bachelor’s from Rhode Island School of Design and his master’s from the School of Visual Arts. Edward lives in Brooklyn, NY. edwardhemingway.com.