CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 16 . . . . December 22, 2017
So begins the story of a girl who is bullied and her journey to turn the bullying into a lesson in kindness. As the story progresses, Brad Lugsley continues to bully the main character, despite the fact that she tells authority figures in her life, like her teacher and her mom about the problem. Eventually, she gets a creative idea and solves the bullying with a positive solution, and Brad becomes her friend.
Let me first say, the intent of this book is well-meaning. It is a book designed to help children find kind and creative solutions for bullying. The author Kathleen Gauer is a Programming Educational Assistant in Special Education with the Toronto District School Board. In addition, the illustrator Sari Richter is employed as an art therapist and works with transitional aged youth in a mental health day treatment setting so both creators know their subject well and have imbued the book with a positive message.
Reading this purely as a story, rather than in a classroom, is problematic however. The didactic overtones become increasingly annoying as the book progresses. If I was a child listening to this story read out loud, I would say "Okay, okay, I get it – it was for no reason!" which is repeated over and over for emphasis in the story. As well, although it is positive that the main character solves the bullying issue on her own, it is worrying that the grownups in her life did not give her assistance or provide help when she needed it.
The watercolour illustrations are very obviously part of the message of the book. Every demographic of child is represented, and, although it is great for children to see the diversity in their classrooms and their world represented on the page, by the very nature of what Richter was trying to do (have a child in a wheelchair, wearing a yarmulke, having a different skin colour, etc.), it comes across as artificial.
I would recommend For No Reason only to be used in a classroom setting as a stepping-off point for a lesson/unit on bullying. There are questions at the end of the book that will fuel a discussion with children and grownups, and there are suggestions for promoting positive outcomes, like duplicating the posters found throughout the story.
Recommended with Reservations.
Jill Griffith is the Youth Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, Alberta.