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Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite
In "Johnny Big-Ears Meets His New Neighbor Suzy", we meet Suzy and Tatis Dancer. Suzy was afraid to meet Johnny because the kids at her last school called her ChunkySaurus. They hurt her feelings. At school Johnny greeted Suzy and introduced himself. He explained that the kids at school nicknamed him Johnny Big-Ears and teased him. He no longer let the name bother him because, “I like who I am. I am happy being me.” Johnny invited Suzy to join the Feel-Good Friends club. On the playground two girls made fun of and teased Suzy about her weight. When Johnny saw what was happening he reproached the girls for their behavior. The girls felt sorry for what they had done and asked Suzy to forgive them and to be their friend.
"Johnny Big-Ears" may be one of the most important books a parent can share with their children. Bullying has long been a tragic problem that children face and it often carries over into adulthood. If we can stop or prevent bullying in schools we can possibly prevent it in adults. This is the second 'Johnny Big-Ears' book. I must commend John Paul Padilla for broaching this problem in such an effective manner. The illustrations in this book are delightful. I was particularly impressed with the way Suzy’s look changed. When she felt good about herself, she stood up straight and looked slimmer; when she felt bad she looked heavier and shorter. That shows how our self-image makes a difference in how we carry ourselves and our in our very appearance. However, the positive lessons in this book do not stop there: we see Johnny embrace who he is, we see him take action to stop the bullying, and we see Molly Toobad and Jenny Meanface asking for forgiveness and Suzy giving it. I saved the butterfly analog for the last because it was my favorite part of this book. Suzy likes butterflies and her mother calls her a butterfly. To me this had very special meaning. Butterflies start out as a caterpillar, they enter a cocoon, and when they emerge they are beautiful butterflies. As humans we too are changing and what we are today is not what we may be tomorrow. The author has provided discussion questions at the end of this book. The 'Johnny Big-Ears' books should be in all elementary classrooms. I also recommend this book as a gift for your favorite child. I would like to end this review with a quote from the author: “By teaching children the importance of self-love and tolerance for others, teasing and bullying can often be prevented. If each young child is taught not only to love himself unconditionally but to respect others as they are, he or she will feel more secure and confident in his or her own skin, and less likely to think of teasing or bullying others. If a child is happy, he or she will do better in school and have a greater chance of growing up to be a successful adult.”