Monday, June 23, 2014

A Book About Bullying

Today's special guest is Catherine DePino, who has sold thirteen books for parents, teachers, and children to mainstream publishers. She self-published her fourteenth book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying because she wanted to give it a wider forum. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a Master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as an English teacher, department head of English and world languages, disciplinarian, and curriculum writer in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor.

Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.

For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.  She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Her new self-help book, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement, appeared on the market in March, 2014.


I asked Catherine how we can recognize someone is being bullied, and what the average person can do to help stop bullying. Here is her response:
My latest book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying, features a student who is bullied by his ninth grade peers. Elliot is overweight and lives on top of the family business, a funeral home his father operates. He also lives with his busy-body but lovable Grandmother, Nonna. Since his parents are divorced, his mom has lived on the west coast, struggling to make a living doing commercials. With the help of the school custodian and two close friends, Elliot is able to explore solutions to his bullying issues. Will he win out over the bullies? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.
I’ve written four other books about bullying: two for kids, one for teachers to use in their bully prevention programs, and one for parents to help children cope with bullying. All of these books, in addition to my latest one for middle school kids referenced here, stress proactive behavior on the part of kids, parents, and teachers alike. Most tragedies in bullying situations occur because there wasn’t strong enough communication between the child, the home, and the school. The child wasn’t able to verbalize the degree of anguish experienced or the home and school simply weren’t aware of it. In all my books I stress the importance of open communication and some basic tools that every child should have in order to combat bullying.
How can we recognize if someone is being bullied? The truth is that sometimes we can. However, many children try to hide the fact they’re experiencing bullying from their families and school personnel. Some bullied kids withdraw and stop participating in activities they love; some get depressed; others act out; and some overeat or don’t eat enough. There’s no one answer. Every child reacts to bullying differently, but these are some common signs you can look for.
What can you do about kids who show no signs of being bullied when you have your suspicions? One thing you can do as a parent or family member is keep the lines of communication open. Ask about how things are going in school and if everything’s okay. If you suspect a child’s being bullied but won’t open up, talk to teachers and administrators to see if they have any insights into what’s going on with your child at school. There needs to be a concerted effort between home and school to stop bullying before it intensifies. If you suspect bullying, first have your child see the school counselor. If you see your child’s bullying situation getting worse, seek professional help with a psychologist. The most important thing you can do is work together with the school to find a resolution to your child’s problem.
Kids can also do a lot themselves to help stave off bullies. They can respond to the bully in short sound bites rather than long sentences, which tends to make them look weak and powerless. Sometimes phrases such as “I need you to stop now,” and “Go away” can send the bully a strong message that your child won’t tolerate mistreatment. Backing words up with body language is also important. The child pestered by a bully needs to look assertive and authoritative, but not confrontational. Most important, you and your children need to keep the lines of communication open. It’s also vital for your child to know that it’s imperative to tell you and a teacher or administrator exactly what’s going on with a bully. Kids definitely need to tell when they’re in physical or psychological harm. They also need reassurance from you and the school staff that what they say will be kept in confidence so that retaliation doesn’t follow.

The kids at Ralph Bunche Middle School love to pick on Elliot Kravitz-Carnucci. He struggles with his weight, looks like a geek, makes top honors, and lives above the Carnucci Home for Funerals in South Philadelphia with his distant, workaholic father and Nonna, his quirky, overbearing grandmother.
Since his parents divorced, he splits spending his time with his funeral director father and his mother Rayna, who dreams of becoming the queen of commercials on the west coast.
At the hands of his peers, Elliot experiences a series of bullying episodes that escalate from entrapment in a school supply closet to a brutal “swirly” (head dunk in the toilet) that lands him in the hospital emergency room.
Elliot has a small circle of loyal friends and a mentor named Duke, an aging school custodian, who root for him to overcome his bullying issues so that he can enjoy his life as a teenager and a budding singer/performer. Can Elliot win his fight against the nasty bullies, or is he doomed forever? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.


“Help–I can’t breathe–let me out. Somebody help...”

I pounded the inside of the musty supply closet until my knuckles turned blue. Did anybody even have the key?
What if they don’t come? What if I’m trapped here all night?
I could hear loud voices and laughing, so I knew Kyle Canfield and one of his friends from the basketball team were there, waiting to see if I would cave in and plead for mercy.
The bell blared. Classes changed. Kids stampeded through the halls. Then, silence.

Finally I heard someone shout, “I’ve got the key, Doc.” 
“Thanks, Duke,” Doc Greely, the assistant principal, said to Mr. Boardly, the man who’d sprung me loose.

Mr. Boardly, the head custodian, better known as Duke, offered me his arm, and I stumbled out of the closet. He was as thin as his mop handle, but all muscle–no flab like me. A scruffy white beard covered half his face.
He slammed the closet door shut and bolted the lock. “One of the hall guards reported noise coming from this area. We came as soon as we heard.”
Duke patted my shoulder. “Let me know if I can help, Elliot.” I could hear his keys clanging as he walked down the hall humming “Duke of Earl,” that old sixties song he loved. That’s where he got his nickname.

“Up to their old tricks again, Elliot?” Doc asked on the way to his office.


Visit her website at


Fire Up Your Life: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves

Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying

Excuse Me, Your Participle’s Dangling: How to Use Grammar to Make Your Writing Powers Soar

Who Says Bullies Rule?: Common Sense Tips to Help Your Child Cope

Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for teenage girls

Real Life Bully Prevention for Real Kids

In Your Face, Pizza Face: A Girl’s Bully-Busting Book                                                                                                                           

101 Ways to Help Preschoolers Excel in Reading, Writing, and Speaking

Quick and Easy Grammar Games to Boost Writing Power

Blue Cheese Breath and Stinky Feet: How to Deal with Bullies

Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for Teenage Boys

Ready, Get Set, Go, Grammar!

Grammar Workout: Twenty-Eight Lessons, Exercises, and Activities to Jumpstart Your Writing

Catherine will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: 


Mary Preston said...

I have no time for bullys. Such a sad excerpt.


Catherine DePino said...

Thanks, Mary. You can see that I totally agree!

Catherine DePino said...

Thanks for hosting me. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss bullying with you.

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

p.m.terrell said...

Thanks so much for joining us here today. I applaud your efforts to bring new light to bullying. I used to think kids outgrew such behavior, until I discovered bullies in the workforce. Some of them were 60 years old and still bullying like they were 12. Any ideas on what society needs to do to reverse this trend?

Catherine DePino said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Patricia. I agree that bullying involves many age groups, such as the one you mentioned. I think newspapers, books, and magazines need to keep publicizing how pervasive the problem actually is and to give practical tips to counteract it. We also need mechanisms in the workplace to deal with bullying. Above all, bullied employees should not stand for abusive treatment. They'd be well-advised to use some of the bully-prevention techniques I've mentioned such as not engaging the bully in prolonged conversation and using body language to back up words. If it becomes problematic, they need to discuss it with their employer. Yes, it's sad, but true that bullies come in all ages.

Popple said...

Catherine, I appreciate you writing these books for bullying. I had a tough time with schoolyard bullies when I was growing up, and more then once, my mother scolded the principal for not getting a handle on the unruly students. Back in the 60s and 70s, people didn't take bully seriously. In some cases I have to wonder if homeschooling would be the best option. ~ Barbara of the Balloons

amy bowens said...

As a mother of 2 young children I have not had any bullying problems with my children. However we have discussed this in full detail. Very sad to see that this is a conversation you have to have with your child nowadays. The world is no place for bullys. Thanks for sharing.

Catherine DePino said...

Barbara, I'm very sorry you had to put up with bullying when you were in school. Your mom did the right thing when she took the principal to task for not stopping those students. She sounds like a very strong parent who loved you very much.

A lot of people opt for home schooling, but even though there's always the chance of nasty kids bullying innocent kids, I believe that a classroom environment is best for learning as children get a chance to interact and help one another learn.

Catherine DePino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine DePino said...

Hi, Amy, it's great that you've discussed bullying with your children. It shows that you are a proactive parent who covers all bases so that your kids will grow up happy and well-adjusted. Thanks for writing!

S. Kudgis said...

Do you think bullying starts at home with siblings? How does a parent handle bullying with their own children? I applaud you for tackling such an important topic. You seem very insightful. Do you think it was from your years of teaching that you gained so much knowledge on the topic? As a school counselor, I am eager to read your book and share it with my students and their parents.

Catherine DePino said...

Hi, S.K. Sometimes it does start with siblings. I believe that parents need to set boundaries for what's acceptable and not acceptable with the way siblings relate to one other. In other words, they need to set boundaries that speak loudly against sibling bullying. And when it does happen, there should be consequences.

During my teaching years, I saw bullying that ranged from teasing to outright physical abuse. However, I also know that bullying touches all segments of society from children, to adults in the workplace, to people in retirement villages.

Thanks for sharing your ideas today!

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