January 2012
December 22, 2011

Check it out: Bystander

Author: by James Preller
Source: NYSUT United
Bystander bookcover

Recommended by: Katrina Williams, elementary school librarian, Greenwich Teacher's Association.

Suitable for: Grades 5-8

Why I chose it: Preller tackles the timely topic of school bullying in this fictionalized account that will resonate with students and teachers alike. Eric, the new kid, is uneasy when Griffin, the most popular boy in the seventh grade at Bellport Middle School, wants to befriend him. Very quickly, Eric realizes that Griffin is not the polite and charming young man all the teachers think he is.

Griffin has a dark side. He is a liar, a cheater, a thief and a bully. Griffin has set his sights on his next victim and wages a campaign of enormous cruelty against the awkward and overweight David. Uncomfortable with his new friendship, and not sure where he fits in, Eric struggles with the roles he plays in bullying — bystander, accomplice and victim — and is forced to make the choice between doing what is right and defending David, or doing nothing at all.

What I like best: Bystander is a fast-paced, readable book with characters students will easily identify with. The ending is sure to surprise!

How teachers can use this book: This book works well as a read aloud that is sure to provoke meaningful classroom discussion on the topic of bullying and the moral and ethical ramifications of being a bystander.

Author information: New York author James Preller has written more than 80 books for children. He is best known for the Jigsaw Jones Mysteries. Other titles include Along Came Spider and Ghost Cat and Other Spooky Tales. Visit www.jamespreller.com for more information.

"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians. Have a recommendation? School librarians may send your suggestions, along with your name and local union, to lfrenett@nysutmail.org.