Glee actress Jane Lynch takes a look at bullying head-on in her first picture book. Marlene is the self-appointed queen of the playground, the sidewalk, and the school. She is small but mighty . . . intimidating! Known for her cruel ways, the little Queen of Mean has kids cowering in fear—until big Freddy stands up to her and says what everyone has been too fearful to say. In Seussian rhyme, actress Jane Lynch, clinical psychologist Lara Embry, and former children’s book editor A. E. Mikesell gently and comically depict the undoing of a bully and her efforts to reform. Tricia Tusa’s charming illustrations make the story an even more accessible conversation starter for all ages.
Marlene is a bully, simultaneously creative and cruel in her mischievous torture of her schoolmates. When Big Freddy stands up to her (hooray!) her reactions are incredibly raw and emotional and she seems to see the error of her ways, but while the remainder of the story shows up that standing up to bully’s can remove their power, a heroic action in real-life, as in this book, does not change people overnight resulting in a happily ever after. Reading this in picture book mode, I initially felt a little off-put by the realism of the lack of an immediate happily ever after, but the message that change takes effort, but there will be relapses is an important one, though perhaps best understood by slightly older children.
I like that this book dissects Marlene the Queen of Mean until the others realize that she’s really not that scary, and then that Marlene tries to be better. I also love the message that standing up to the bully and not being scared of them takes away their power. The other children are really forgiving of her and seem to be understanding of her trying to be better, but I wish that Marlene would have said sorry more in the story.
Tricia Tusa is an award-winning writer and illustrator of over forty books for young readers, including In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, The Magic Hat by Mem Fox, and Follow Me, which she wrote and illustrated. She loves to make things, draw, paint, and print. This is Tricia’s first book for Roaring Brook Press. She lives in New Mexico.View Illustrator