This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills expresses her admiration for the raptors that “wheel on currents of air high above the La Verkin Overlook” near her new home in Utah. She marvels in their flight and challenges writers to let their imaginations take wing and soar.
Australia, too, is home to a large number of raptors, many endemic, several threatened. You can read about them in this Conservation Statement by Penny Olsen: Australia’s Raptors: Diurnal Birds of Prey and Owls, or in one of Dr Olsen’s many other publications.
Narelle Oliver’s beautiful picture book Home, which I wrote about in this post, celebrates one of these Australian raptors, the peregrine falcon. The book is based on a true story of a pair of peregrine falcons that nested at the top of a 27-storey building in Brisbane city. The birds, named Frodo and Frieda, fascinated a city and, for a while, had their own reality show “Frodocam”.
As often occurs, my thoughts head off in a different direction when thinking of Charli’s prompt. Rather than the beauty and magnificence of these amazing birds, it was the word “prey” that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It pummelled me into submission, like a bully that seeks out the vulnerable when targeting prey.
This may be due to the promotion of October as National Bullying Prevention Month in the US. There the program is called Stomp Out Bullying. In Australia, the The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence is held on the third Friday of March each year with a program called Bullying. No Way! I wrote about that here. Websites for both programs are packed with useful information and resources for teachers and parents.
It is probably a good thing that these dates don’t align, as there is no time that is not a good time to eradicate bullying.
I have previously written about bullying in posts and flash fiction stories, especially those concerning Marnie, about whom I wrote several stories, collected here. Stories about bullying specifically include these:
· Not funny at all! from the post Bully for you!
In this post, I listed books that feature bullies, including:
The fairy tales Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin,
Roald Dahl’s stories Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits, and
Anthony Browne’s Willy the Wimp.
· Symptoms from the post Displaying symptoms or true colours
In this post, I shared information about a rap version of “True Colours” with additional original anti-bullying content written by 12-year-old MattyB to support his younger sister who is excluded and bullied because of her “symptoms”. Here is the song. Check back to the post for more information.
· Art class from The story behind brown paint
For this post I wrote a longer story to provide more information about Marnie and the bullying to which she was subjected.
· Motives from It’s a steal
In this post, I suggested that children who tease, torment and bully are often themselves victims of similar behaviour. They may feel powerless and lack control in their own lives. They are possibly lowest in the pecking order at home, and targeting someone more vulnerable provides an opportunity to find a sense of power; for a while at least.
One of the most effective ways of reducing the incidence of bullying is through the development of social-emotional skills; including helping children develop
- friendship skills and
in an environment in which they feel welcome, valued, and supported.
We need to model the behaviour we want children to develop, provide them with alternatives to inappropriate behaviour, and teach them how to respond when the behaviour of others upsets them.
It is also important to teach children to recognise bullying and to seek help if they see it occurring. Observing and doing nothing is a way of condoning the behaviour, and the bullying may escalate if an audience gathers. Ignoring bullying in a way also condones it. It is important to take action to prevent or stop it.
Karen Tyrrell, “an award winning Brisbane resilience author who empowers you and your children to live strong”, has written books for both adults and children about bullying. Having been on the receiving end of bullying herself, Karen understands what it is like to be targeted.
Karen’s books STOP the Bully, for 9 to 12-year-olds and Song Bird for children of 7+ years, both explore issues related to bullying.
Karen told me that “The little boy in the photo read STOP the Bully 6 months earlier after my first book shop visit. Then found me again 6 months later to say thank you when Song Bird came out.”
If you are looking for resources to initiate the discussion about bullying, Karen’s are a good place to start. You may also like to access the free teacher resources and free kids activities Karen has available on her website.
Now back to Charli and her birds of prey prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor.
With apologies to the magnificent birds, I offer my response about a child in need of understanding, and of learning friendship skills such as getting along, caring for others, and empathy.
Children chattered like birdsong – not a ruffled feather in sight. If only all playtimes were as peaceful. Sudden realisation. She scanned the children. Anxiety stirred.
“Has anyone seen Zane?”
Thomas pointed to a distant figure flitting and swooping, arms outstretched.
She couldn’t leave him there. Could she?
“I’ll get him, Miss.”
As Thomas approached, Zane screeched and rushed towards him. Thomas fled, missed his footing, and fell. Zane, still screeching, pounced, pinning him down.
“Zane! Let him go!”
“I’m a raptor. He’s my prey.”
Thomas cried. “I’m not playing.”
If he was, it would be more fun.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.