November is anti-bullying month, with a focus this year on cyberbullying. Bullying doesn’t stop at the schoolgates. It follows children home and pops up on their phones and tablets. So its great that there is so much work going on to stop this. You can find lots of information about Anti-bullying week (including free resources and ideas for how to run your own anti-bullying events) at http://www.antibullyingweek.co.uk/.
When I started writing Arthur and Me I didn’t set out to write a book about bullying. I just thought I would write a book about a boy who meets one of the old heroes. But as Tomos was created, I quickly began to realise that one of the things that might make him want to wake Arthur up and drag him off to school would be to sort out some problems for him, and what sort of problems might Tomos have? So Gwion Gruffydd was born – bully and all-round meanie, with his sister egging him on.
I knew I didn’t want Arthur to storm in and rescue Tomos, though. One of the things that Children’s literature must do is help children to see how they can solve their own problems, show them that the resources of courage and wit and kindness and love and resolve that they have are much much deeper than they ever believe. Having Arthur rock up at the school joust and sort out Gwion would have ruined that.
But Arthur as we know him from the old legends would have done just that – so what was I to do.
As ever, a problem in writing is only an improvement in disguise – and so I had Arthur the cowering victim of bullying by the knights of the Round Table, with Lancelot as the ringleader in chief. Adults get bullied too, and I was glad that Tomos and Arthur had this connection, and that through it, and their friendship, they were able to find ways to solve their problems and find the courage and self-belief that they both, misguidedly, thought they lacked.
So I didn’t set out to write a book about bullying, but I’m glad I did. It’s a subject we need to think about and tackle. Over the next few days I’ll be posting reviews of some of my favourite books about bullying, and you can find more resources and information on the anti bullying week website and by following the hashtag #antibullyingweek on Twitter, where there is a mass of information, links, videos and book recommendations from a whole host of people. It’s a huge encouragement to see it – together we can reach out and help our young people to find solutions and end bullying for good.