THE TREE HUGGER – A STORY ABOUT BULLYING
In Debbie’s class, everyone’s scared of Susan and Leoni, two girls who think everybody should do what they do and look how they look. If the other girls don’t follow their lead they do their best to make their life hell. Everyone tries to keep in with them by doing what they want and Debbie is just as scared as everyone else.
When a new girl, Shalmalah, comes to school, Susan and Leonie hate her straight away. She is different. They spread rumours that Shalmalah never washes, has a head full of nits, wears the wrong clothes and lives in filth.
THE RIGHT TO BE DIFFERENT
Shalmalah is bright and individual and she doesn’t mind if people think she’s different. She doesn’t care what the bullies think. She accepts who she is and sees no need to change herself just to please two silly girls like Susan and Leoni.
Susan and Leonie want to make her care and they start picking on her every chance they get. They stop the other girls being friends with her as well so Shalmalah has to hang round all on her own. Debbie hates seeing Shalmalah getting bullied and left out but she also thinks she should try harder to ‘fit in’ so Susan and Leonie would leave her alone. But Shalmalah doesn’t care about fitting in. She’s proud to have a mind of her own. She doesn’t want to be like everybody else – she wants to be herself.
Debbie decides to ignore what’s going on but when she arrives home one day to find Shalmalah’s mother is now friends with her own mother, she finds herself in a very difficult position. She has to talk to Shalmalah now but how can she be friends with Shalmalah at home and not at school? She knows how two-faced that is.
Debbie can’t avoid the issue any more and soon she is forced to make a choice.
‘The Tree Hugger,’ is a contemporary story about bullying. Bullying isn’t just about the victim and the bully. There are always others involved and sadly most of them don’t do anything. In this story, when Debbie, the main character, sees a new girl, Shalmalah, being bullied she does nothing to help
Debbie doesn’t do anything about it because she’s afraid. She is scared of being bullied and left out herself. Debbie’s experience is far from rare and ‘The Tree Hugger’ explores the subject in a way that allows kids to learn about bullying, yet still enjoy a story without feeling they are being lectured. This isn’t just a story about bullying it’s also a lively, contemporary story about friendship.
DISCUSSION AND GUIDANCE
Most parents are very concerned about this issue and ‘The Tree Hugger’ is a great way introduce the subject and enable them to stimulate discussion and provide guidance.
Sharing and discussing ‘The Tree Hugger’ can encourage a child who is afraid to disclose that they are being bullied to open up to parents, or teachers and ask for the help they need.