Pull Up a Couch and Stay Awhile

There’s been a lot of talk about Kade’s hair prowess, but Charlotte’s hair definitely earns points on this cover!

Welcome to Day Two of the Release Week Fiesta for League of Strays by L.B. Schulman! In this page-turner of a young adult novel, L.B. Schulman has created Charlotte, a likable teen who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere in the World of High School. Charlotte finally finds kinship in the League of Strays, a group of misfits led by Kade, a charming psychopath with, um, really great hair.

For some insight on how today’s teens navigate adolescent land mines like bullying, take a seat on the couch in the office of Ms. Kelly Winningham, guidance counselor at a high school in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

Emu’s Debuts: Welcome, Ms. Winningham!

In League of Strays, the bullied become the bullies. We would have thought that kids who’ve been bullied would be the least likely ones to turn around and bully someone else. How often does this happen, and why?

Ms. Winningham: I don’t think that this type of situation happens as often. When it does happen, I think it’s because a child has been hurt by someone else and they want someone else to experience the same feeling. There is a saying that we learn in our counseling program that has stuck with me, and that is, “Hurt people hurt people.” When children do not find positive ways to resolve a bullying situation, then it usually leads to other destructive behaviors. Bullying other kids is one of those destructive behaviors.

Emu’s Debuts: In the book, main character Charlotte struggles between wanting to fit in and going along with actions that she doesn’t feel comfortable with. What advice do you give students who are going through similar struggles?

Ms. Winningham: This is always a challenge. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be liked or to fit in with a group of people. What I usually tell students is to find one or two friends that you have something in common with and who deserve your trust and friendship. There is more meaning in those types of relationships than in anything that can be offered from fitting into a crowd. Also, students have to listen and trust their inner voice. It always lets them know when something doesn’t feel right, and if it doesn’t feel right, then they shouldn’t do it. It may also help for students to talk to an adult whom they trust to help them make the best choice when it comes to going along with actions that they may later regret.

Emu’s Debuts: For kids who bully or who are being bullied, how important is literature in the lives of these kids? Do you think reading about bullying leads to more bullying, or does it make readers more empathetic?

Ms. Winningham: I think that literature about bullying is important. Sometimes, kids who are bullied think that they are the only ones going through this difficult situation. It gives students a chance to read about possible positive solutions to resolve the problem if they are being bullied. I also think that students who bully get something out of reading these types of books. It causes them to think about their actions and how it affects others. Of course, one would hope that bullies who read these books would be more empathetic. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but at least these books provide another avenue to try to reduce the bullying that happens in thousands of schools across the country.

Thank you so much for your insight, Ms. Winningham!

I’m now taking off my author/Emu hat and putting on my teacher’s hat to say this: League of Strays would make a great book club pick for kids who need to talk about bullying—from all sides of the issue.

Now it’s time for our readers to weigh in for a chance to win a signed copy of L.B. Schulman’s League of Strays! Ms. Winningham could have given Charlotte and the League of Strays some sound advice. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or received on the topic of bullying?

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18 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, Happiness

18 responses to “Pull Up a Couch and Stay Awhile

  1. Cynthia Levinson

    What an excellent idea to interview a school guidance counselor! Ms. Winningham sounds especially informed. I found that LEAGUE OF STRAYS drew me in, just as those who are victimized by bullying might feel drawn in to bully.

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Agreed, Cynthia–I was totally drawn into Charlotte’s plight! Also agreed about Ms. Winningham–I worked with her at our school for several years, and she’s top notch.

      Like

    • Kelly Winningham

      Thanks to both of you! Bullying is such a hard topic to help our students overcome. It always helps to listen to and be honest with them.

      Like

  2. We’re dealing with this now, with some bullying of my kids going on in school. It’s such a difficult situation but, thankfully, the school is handling it well (so far). I have been trying to make sure that my kids don’t take the bullying to heart, that the words other people use to denigrate them don’t have to mean as much as they might seem to at the time. It’s truly heart-breaking sometimes to hear about some of the nastiness that is going on even among the very young…bullying can start really early and I hope some of these bullies can be taught better behavior soon.

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Hugs to your kids, Peter. Bullying is truly heart-breaking. I’m glad your kids’ school is handling it well. I’ll keep all of them in my thoughts.

      Like

  3. Great interview, Natalie! And thanks, L.B. for tackling such an important issue!

    Like

  4. Mike Jung

    A book club discussion about bullying would be perfect for LEAGUE OF STRAYS – it’s a sadly evergreen topic, and L.B.’s book does an excellent job of showing how complex the interpersonal dynamics in those situations can be.

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Right you are, Mike. Bullying really does have many factors, and L.B.’s book opens the doors to discussion on so many levels.

      Like

  5. L.B. Schulman

    Bullying comes in all forms, too. It’s not always rough and obvious. Girls, in particular, in my experience are good at subtle emotional bullying. And sadly, cyber-bullying is all too easy to do these days. I think schools need to address the subtle ways that kids mistreat each other, as well as the more obvious mistreatment. Great interview with Ms. Winningham, Natalie. Ms. Winningham, if you are reading this, thank you for offering your expertise.

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      You’re so right, Lisa. Psychological scars are often the last to heal. Kids who can turn to guidance counselors like Ms. Winningham are fortunate, because they can get the support and strategies that they need to feel good about themselves.

      Like

    • Kelly Winningham

      Thank you! I still have much to learn, though!

      Like

  6. Kudos to everyone who sheds more light on bullying and tries to curb it–authors, counselors, parents, and kids. What Ms. Winningham says about focusing on one or two friends who are really worth your trust is such good advice–and so hard to accept when you’re an actual teen.

    Great interview, Natalie, and a great way to continue the celebration for LEAGUE OF STRAYS’s release!

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Tara, but *my* thanks goes to Ms. Winningham! Wish you all could see her in action–she’s a dynamo. The kids at her school are so lucky to be able to benefit from her expertise.

      Like

  7. A great interview. I agree, this could be an interesting book club book. It’s easy to get emotionally envolved in what the kids are doing wrong, so I bet you would have some really lively discussions!

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  8. This was an interesting interview–thanks, Natalie. It’s wonderful that teachers/schools intervene these days to try and curb bullying. When I was growing up, it was simply “part of growing up.” A lot is being done these days to try and curb bullys’ behavior, but I think it’s important to get the message out (as Peter said) that the words of another are not necessarlity true. We need to teach anti-bullying but we also need to be teaching resilience as well.

    Like

  9. One of the oddest pieces of bullying advice was from a friend of mine to his daughter when the girl was in elementary school. They had gone through the usual routes of talking with teachers and administration, but this other girl was both relentless and subtle. So my friend told his daughter, “Well, I think that you’re going to have to hit her.” When he got to that part of the story, I just stared at him. “Really? You said THAT?”

    But the next step was interesting and important. The daughter was supposed to go promptly to the nearest teacher, confess, and apologize.

    She did. It worked. Very strange. I don’t know that I’d advocate it.

    Like

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