By: John Paul Padilla
Illustrated by: Victor Ramon Mojica
Publisher: Padilla Goldworks
Publication Date: April 2012
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 28, 2012
Johnny Big-Ears is excited! Coming home with his mom from the pizza parlor, he notices a moving van in front of the house next door. New neighbors! Maybe he’ll finally have a friend to play with. Johnny rushes off to meet the neighbors, soccer ball in hand, ready for an afternoon of fun games. Johnny is thrilled to meet Tatis Dancer, and they have a great time kicking the soccer ball around. But Tatis’s sister, Suzy, won’t come out to play. She’s a bit overweight and is afraid Johnny will make fun of her.
In Suzy's old town of Meannie-Apolis, all the kids made fun of her. They called her names and didn’t want to play with her. Suzy is afraid that here in the new town, people will be just as cruel. Suzy’s mother tries to cheer the little girl up but it’s no use; Suzy has been hurt too many times. She stays in her room while Tatis and Johnny play outside.
The following day is the first day of school and while Tatis is thrilled to be starting preschool, Suzy is shy and worried about kindergarten. Will the new kids make fun of her? But then Tatis introduces her sister to Johnny and Suzy quickly realizes that the boy with the big ears is not going to tease her. Instead, Johnny turns out to be just about the best friend a person could wish for because he has also endured teasing and bullying and knows how much it hurts. He sees Suzy for who she is, a special person, and he even invites her into the “Feel-Good Friends Club,” a club to help those who are bullied.
This is the second book in the Johnny Big-Ears series designed to help kids with self-esteem issues. With weight problems and bullying in the news almost every day, this book is quite timely. Young readers will see, and likely identify with, a young girl who has been hurt by bullying. Suzy’s mother gives her pep talks but that doesn’t help much when Suzy is on the playground and enduring the taunts of two other girls. It takes Johnny, and his friend Charlie, to help Suzy deal with the bullies. While real life situations may not end so harmoniously, reading this book can help the bullies see how hurtful they are, show bystanders how to help, and those bullied will see they are not alone. At the back of the book are a few pages with suggested questions “to start a dialogue with children about teasing and bullying,” as well as a few other fun activities. This book would be a useful tool in the classroom setting to get all the children talking about bullying.
Quill says: An excellent resource to help kids cope with bullying, get ideas on how to handle it, understand that they are not alone, and most importantly, to accept themselves as they are, special in every way.
For more information on Johnny Big-Ears Meets His New Neighbor Suzy, please visit the author's website at: www.JohnPaulPadilla.com