Happy Pink Shirt Day, everyone! I just spent the morning at Roncalli Elementary School in St. John’s, where Breakwater’s own Debbie Hanlon put on her Read-Along I’m No Bully! show for an ocean (or, at least, an auditorium’s-worth) of pink-shirted, anti-bullying cuties.
With the pages of Hanlon’s first book, The Adventures of Gus and Isaac: Backyard Bullies, projected up on the big screen, the 200+ crowd of kids were all treated to a read-along led by Miss Debbie herself.
“This is a story about Isaac the Cat,” Hanlon begins. ” Now, who knows what’s different about Isaac?”
“HE HAS NO TAIL!” all the kids holler back. Many of them already know the characters: Gus, the Seagull-Who’s-Afraid-Of-Heights, and Isaac the Bob-Tail Cat.
In this first adventure, Isaac is new to the neighbourhood and finds himself a target of the neighbourhood bullies: Vamps the Cat and his cronies, Berg and Flake.
“That’s right,” Hanlon says. “He’s a bob-tail cat, and that sure makes him different! And what sometimes happens to people who are different?”
The kids have had good Pink Shirt Day training, and they have lots of ideas about what makes people bullies: usually, bullies are pretty scared themselves. Scared of people who are different. But bullying isn’t the way to combat those fears. Hanlon leads the kids in a discussion of the “bystander” role in a bullying situation, and reiterates the two things every kid needs to do if they see someone being bullied:
1. Say something! “Stop! Bullying isn’t cool!” the kids yell.
2. Tell someone! “Find an adult — it can be your teacher, your Mom, your Dad — and tell them what’s going on. An adult will help you!” Hanlon says, before leading the kids in an anti-bullying ditty she’s written herself — accompanied, of course, by a pink ukelele.
Hanlon’s I’m No Bully show is a favourite at elementary schools across the region, with frequent performances in the St. John’s area, and a recent fall tour into Central Newfoundland. Next up, Hanlon plans to hit the west coast, with stops in Corner Brook and Stephenville.