Lynn: Kids have dealt with bullying through the ages and many youth books involve that issue. So while it is not unusual to address bullying, it is rare to find a new approach to an old but serious issue. Kathryn Otoshi does just that in her new book, Lunch Every Day (KO Kids Books, 2022)
Powerful and emotional, Otoshi’s remarkable picture book is told from a young bully’s point of view, providing readers with a glimpse of what may propel his actions targeting “skinny kid.” Without excusing the bullying, the story asks readers to consider the large issues of abuse, bullying, power, and empathy. That is a lot in one short picture book but Otoshi does it brilliantly and in a pitch-perfect voice for young readers.
The moving act of kindness by skinny boy’s mother moved me to tears and is all the more remarkable as this story is based on the real-life experience of Jim Perez, a well-known anti-bullying educator.
What a discussion starter this book is!!!! Perfect for story-hours and classrooms!
Cindy: The fall holiday food drives are upon us, and it was always hard to watch the homeroom competitions for highest contributions when I knew that more than half of our student population qualified for free or reduced lunches due to poverty level. I’m always reminded of a rant that singer-songwriter Harry Chapin did on a live album. “What are these kids going to eat the next day?” Solving world hunger is a bigger problem than one picture book can address, but the act of kindness here is a good start. And so is showing that bullying almost always stems from deeper problems.
In addition to the moving story, Otoshi’s illustrations are strikingly effective and create a feel of smudgy chalk. Bold lines and intense colors provide a sense of mood while the facial details are often indistinct. This changes abruptly in the scenes with the mother talking to the bully in a subtle choice that emphasizes the power of the moment.
I do hope that Otoshi and Perez’s story makes it into every school library and classroom. Every kid should have Lunch Every Day.