Hot Issues, Cool Choices
By Sandra McLeod Humphrey
Prometheus Books 133 pages
At the beginning of “Hot Issues, Cool Choices”, author Sandra McLeod Humphrey opens with a biblical quote: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; (Luke 6:31 NIV). Such a simple solution to an ongoing problem. Yet parents, educators, young adults and bullied children know that it isn’t that easy. Bullying goes back as far as Cave Man times. The biggest, strongest (and often stupidest) have always picked on the smaller, weaker or different, often for no other reason than they can—feeding their own bruised egos like parasites.
The increase of suicides caused by bullying led author Humphrey to offer a book written directly to children from grades K-8, that sets up short scenarios for the diverse types of bullying and other cruelties directed toward school children. Her book is not just geared to the bullied kids and the “cool’ kids, but is relegated to all of the problems children face in school. Kids will especially relate to the cartoon graphics within the book, showing the emotions on the faces of the children-anger, sadness, confusion and hurt. They may see themselves in many of these situations, but if they are hoping for an answer—which they’d probably not buy into, they won’t find it in the book. Rather, they are given five questions at the end of each story, requiring them to think about the best possible solution—no one answer is right for all children. The “What would you do?” questions are not easy. They do give the young readers a lot of choices and things to think about.
Children who don’t bully can give some thought on how to choose not to hurt a classmate’s feelings or make a friend feel rejected or unwanted. Humphrey notes that while some bullies may be self-centered and spoiled, many others come from abused households and are bullied at home. She aims this animated page turner book at young children because this is usually the first time they enter into a societal hierarchy—and for them this book can be a survival kit.
What does a nice boy like Eric, a sports enthusiast, do when Jeremy, whose interests lie in protecting the earth, asks if he can come to Eric’s Halloween Party? Eric is torn by not wanting to lose Jeremy as a friend or his sport’s buddies. Readers can try to find a viable solution to Eric’s problem.
In her afterword, Sandra McLeod Humphrey discusses bullying at length and how children can be guided by teachers and parents in helping them deal positively with being left out or bullied. She feels that children’s school years should not be miserable and bullies need to understand that they don’t need cruelty, exclusion or violence to make them feel accepted.
Once again, award-winning author of many children’s books, Sandra McLeod Humphrey, has written a well-researched in-depth book that should be required reading in schools and a tool for educators showing children how to find their way in the often biased, cruel world of schooling. Her follow-up to her beginning quote from the bible is perfectly summed up by her quote by Martin Luther King Jr.: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Reviewer: Micki Peluso, writer, journalist and author of . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang