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?