Tag Archives: Buddha Boy

Buddha Boy

By Kathe Koja
Classification:  YA Literature
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Age Level:  10+
Subjects:  high school, bullying, friendship

“’They’re called pretas,’ he said.  ‘Hungry ghosts.  Big big bodies and little tiny mouths, they eat all the time but they never get full.  Like when you have a lot of stuff, you have everything, but all you want is more.’” ~ from Buddha Boy

Summary:  Jinsen is a new kid at school, tormented for his oddities which include oversized tie-dyed tshirts with dragon motifs, his shaved head, and his serene smile.  Justin is less than thrilled to find himself paired with Jinsen for an economics project, but quickly discovers Jinsen’s remarkable artistic talent.  As Justin gets to know Jinsen and the reasons for his behaviors, Justin finds himself inspired by his new friend’s equanimity—a result of Jinsen’s understanding of Buddhist philosophy.  But when classmates go too far, both Jinsen and Justin find out how hard it is to stick by one’s convictions in the face of extreme provocation.

Notes:  A very spare amount of Buddhist philosophy is introduced in this story.  In fact, the Buddhist elements seem contrived—a reader looking to glean anything insightful in regard to the Four Nobel Truths will be disappointed.  Koja does little more than toss out these concepts in a thin attempt at character development.  On the other hand, the issue of bullying is highly relevant.  Young readers will likely relate to any number of characters as the increasingly malicious taunting plays out and adult readers can use the plot to frame dialogue with tweens and teens about the subject.
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Booklist: Bullying

I’ve been following the case of Phoebe Prince, the 15 year-old Irish girl who committed suicide in January of this year after enduring a months-long bullying campaign staged by her Massachusetts high school peers.

Certainly there are numerous articles containing “tips” on how to identify, cope with and prevent bullying.  This booklist is intended to open up dialogue at various age levels on the subject.

For 4-8 year olds:

Hugo and the Bully Frogs
Written by Francesca Simon
Illustrated by Caroline Jean Church

Hugo is a little frog with a little croak.  He lives in a deep, muddy pond.  And he’s constantly tormented by Pop-Eyes, the biggest, meanest frog Hugo has ever met.  Pop-Eyes snatches Hugo’s toys, calls him names, and drops him head-first into the pond.  How will Hugo ever stand up to such a bully?
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The Recess Queen
Written by Alexis O’Neill
Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

Mean Jean dominates the playground.  She goes first at swinging, bouncing and kicking, and no one risks challenging her.  Then a new kid arrives at school.  Katie Sue doesn’t know that Jean is the reigning recess queen.  So what will happen when Katie Sue decides to swing, bounce and kick first?
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For Ages 9+

Buddha Boy
by Kathe Koja

Jinsen, known around school as “Buddha Boy,” is increasingly targeted in mean-spirited, violent bullying by the popular crowd.  Read the full review here.
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For Ages 15+

Twisted
by Laurie Halse Anderson

After years of being bullied, Tyler considers using violence to make himself heard.
Read the full review here.
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For Parents and Educators

The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander
by Barbara Coloroso

Coloroso discusses in depth the parts enacted in each incident of bullying (including cyberbullying):  the perpetrator, the victim, the bystander, the adults, and the community context.  This book emphasizes ways in which the cycle of bullying can be broken.  Read the full review here.
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For Deeper Reflection

Tikkun Passover Supplement 2010 (Click to link to the full text.)

“As we sit at the Seder table we need to discuss how ancient liberation for the Jews can inspire liberation today for all people.”  So begins the Passover supplement.

How are the Seder and Jewish liberation relevant for non-Jews?  Why is this Passover supplement included on a reading list about bullying?

This piece of reflection from Rabbi Michael Lerner calls the Jewish people—indeed, all people– to open “their eyes to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, the Palestinians,”  to “the ways in which we…have been acting as Pharoah to another people.”  Clearly, bullying is not a problem contained on school grounds.

In fact, bullying occurs on school grounds precisely because it happens on a larger scale in our communities.  Prosperous nations bully developing nations, and powerful companies bully smaller businesses.  Certain adults bully those weaker than themselves.

In all its manifestations, bullying is nothing less than a serious form of oppression.  And so discussion of liberation can move us forward, closer to “communal vision of what messianic redemption would look like,” no matter what our particular faith tradition might be.

As Rabbi Lerner writes, “Instead of relying on domination, we know both from our holy texts and from our real-world experience that it is generosity, kindness, compassion, and caring for others that will be the key to our success and survival.”

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