Book review: Friends, Bullies and Staying Safe

Kupecky_Friends-Bullies_978-1-84905-763-9_colourjpg-printFriends, Bullies and Staying Safe by Regina Kupecky is one of a 5-part series of workbooks written for therapists and counsellors who work with adopted children.

The books’ focus is a group of fictional adopted American children, aged between 9 and 13, who get together regularly with their school counselor and an adult adoptee/teacher to discuss adoption issues within a regular ‘Adoption Club’.

The characters in this book all come at adoption from different angles so every box is ticked: There is an example of a child from a mixed race international adoption, a single parent adoption, a child who has regular direct contact with her birth family, a sibling pair who have had multiple foster placements, a child with a physical disability and a kinship adoption. This mix of children and the Adoption Club context provides the perfect vehicle for discussing a range of adoption-related friendship issues: ‘types’ of friendship; whether siblings can be friends; talking about adoption; teasing and being teased; what being a friend actually means and what makes it hard – all explored from differently adopted children’s points of view.

At first glance, I thought the stories looked a bit twee and the illustrations seemed rather old fashioned. Maybe I was prejudiced by the photograph of the very homely looking Mrs Kupecky on the back cover. But I am glad I persevered (it really wasn’t hard, the book is less than 50 pages long) because I think this little book has lots to offer therapeutic parents and their children.

It is mainly aimed at primary aged children, so I asked my sibling pair for their opinions: My daughter Red (11) said she liked the fact that all the characters were adopted but didn’t think the black and white line illustrations were very good (though she took that back when I told her she could colour them in). One morning on the way to school, our son Blue (12) started to talk about his different types of friends and I realized he had read the book without me knowing. On further probing, he said he liked the fact that his opinion was asked for in a book and that there was space for him to write and draw about how he felt.

If pushed, I would take issue with the word ‘Bullies’ in the title. The extent of the bullying is one girl being asked repeatedly about her birth family, so don’t buy it as a miracle antidote to any serious bullying your children may be experiencing. I think our children find it difficult enough to distinguish between bullying, teasing and open questions as it is – but that’s another story! Still, it’s worth both a quick read and a more leisurely exploration with your child and definitely helped mine name and voice some of their own concerns around friendships. I recommend it.

Rating: **** (out of 5): More than worth a go!

This book is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers here.

Very many thanks to @plumstickle who has reviewed this book. No fee was paid for this honest review, but @plumstickle received a free copy of the title.

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