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Teasing, taunting, gossiping, spreading rumors and exclusion are all forms of bullying that are often written off as a normal phase kids go through …but it's not. In fact, research shows that these forms of aggression are just as harmful as physical bullying, with long-lasting negative effects. ETC recently interviewed author Trudy Ludwig about her new children's book, My Secret Bully, which tackles the difficult issue of emotional bullying among friends. Because Trudy's book is generating much positive interest from leaders in education and counseling circles nationwide, we chose Trudy as our April 2004 Author of the Month.
Interview With Trudy Ludwig, March 24, 2004

My Secret Bully"
by Trudy Ludwig
Abigail Marble, Illustrator
Ages: 5-11 and all Parents

My Secret Bully instantly draws young readers into Monica’s world, where she is bullied by a friend and learns how to cope, survive, and thrive.

Relational aggression is an act of emotional bullying hidden among tightly knit networks of friends. Instead of using knives and fists to bully others, emotional bullies employ relationships, words and gestures as their weapons of attack. Emotional bullying is often dismissed as a normal rite of passage, but research shows it is as harmful as physical aggression, with devastating, long-term effects.

Name-calling, humiliation, exclusion, and manipulation are some bullying tactics Monica’s friend Katie employs. Monica learns to face her fears of betrayal and social isolation, and reclaims her power from the bully with the help of a supportive adult—her mother. Helpful tips, discussion questions, and additional resources are listed in the back of the book, which is a wonderful vehicle for parents, teachers, and counselors.
--RiverWood Books 2004

Making a Difference: A Note to Parents & Teachers
What Can a Victim Do?
An Opportunity for Discussion
List of Empowerment Organizations
Bullying Web sites
Recommeded Readings

Just Kidding
A joke that has a sharp edge to it can cut you to pieces. That’s what D.J. finds out from his encounters with Vince, a smart-aleck classmate whose biting humor is more hurtful than funny. With the help of his dad and teacher, D.J. learns how to stand up to put downs and make healthier friendship choices.
ORDER HERE [In Spanish - Solo Bromeaba]

For Additional Books on Bullying


Is My Secret Bully your first children's book?

Trudy Ludwig: Trudy LudwigYes, it is. Like many aspiring authors, I've always wanted to write a children's book but found myself intimidated by the creative process and the daunting task of finding a publisher to make it happen. Two years ago, I reached a point in my life where I was tired of shelving this dream, letting it collect dust while I continued my career as a freelance copywriter—cranking out ads, newsletters and direct mail about products and services that didn't inspire me. I wanted to write something special that would make a positive difference in children's lives. My Secret Bully, for me, was that something special.

ETC: What inspired you to write this book?

Trudy Ludwig: I owe my creative spark to what had happened to my daughter Allie. During her first week of second grade, Allie was bullied on the school playground by a group of friends who viciously taunted and teased her. Bullying is a very traumatic experience for anyone to go through. But what do you do as a parent when the kids who are bullying your child are her friends…and you're friends with these girls' parents? How do you help a young child cope with bullying friends?

These were the questions I asked myself after Allie's bullying incident. In my search for answers, I met parents, anti-bullying experts and counseling professionals who were on the lookout for tools to help them address this very issue. Because there really weren't any age-appropriate resources available, I decided to write My Secret Bully.

ETC: Have you ever been bullied?

Trudy Ludwig: Yes. Allie's experience triggered in me my own childhood memories as a target of a bullying friend. I still remember feeling helpless, confused and angry. As a parent, I found it even more painful to see those same feelings flutter across my daughter's face as she tried to cope with her bullying encounter.

ETC: Have you ever been a bully?

Trudy Ludwig: There are times in life when we make poor choices or learn inappropriate social behaviors from others and I'm no exception. In my case, I retaliated against a girl who was mean to me by giving her the silent treatment for the remainder of the school year. Was that the right thing to do? Absolutely not. I responded to the situation by becoming a bully myself. That type of behavior doesn't stop bullying…it perpetuates it.

ETC: My Secret Bully is more than just a story, isn't it?

Trudy Ludwig: Definitely. It's a story for children and a resource tool for adults. I like to think of my book as a springboard for discussion, information and further assistance for folks who need it.

ETC: What do you hope your book offers to young readers?

Trudy Ludwig: I hope My Secret Bully gives voice to what many children experience and helps them to connect with others—both young and old—who share similar stories. I want to empower children when it comes to making healthy friendship choices, encouraging them to choose friends who bring out the best in them and avoid others who don't appreciate them for how special they are.

For more information about Trudy, her book, and additional resources on relational aggression, visit her website

Sorry! by Trudy LudwigSORRY! by Trudy Ludwig
Maurie J. Manning, Illustrator
Jack's friend, Charlie, knows how to get away with just about everything: “If you get caught, just say you're sorry.” But does an apology count if you don't really mean it? And what happens when the person you've hurt knows you didn't mean it? Jack's about to find out there's a whole lot more to a real apology than a simple “sorry!”
Ages 5 and Up
Afterwood by apology expert Dr. Aaron Lazare
Note from the author
Discussion Questions
Dos and Don'ts of apologizing
Too Perfect by Trudy Ludwig
Too Perfect by Trudy Ludwig
Ages 6-9
Maisie thinks Kayla is perfect. Kayla is pretty and thin, has cool clothes, gets great grades, and she's a star on the soccer field. But is she happy? The more time Maisie spends with Kayla, the more she wonders if there's really any such thing as perfect.

In her latest book for kids, acclaimed speaker and child advocate Trudy Ludwig explores the relentless and destructive drive for perfection that is impacting even younger children, and the freedom that comes from accepting one's self.

Trouble Talk
Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig
Ages 7-9
Maya's friend Bailey loves to talk about everything and everyone. At first, Maya thinks Bailey is funny. But when Bailey's talk leads to harmful rumors and hurt feelings, Maya begins to think twice about their friendship. In her fourth book for children, relational aggression expert Trudy Ludwig acquaints readers with the damaging consequences of "trouble talk"--talking to others about someone else's troubles in order to establish connection and gain attention. Includes additional resources for kids, parents, and teachers, as well as advice from Trudy about how to combat trouble talk.

Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig
Ages 5-8

Jake's bragging is really starting to get to his neighbor Tyler. Tyler can't show Jake a basketball move, a school assignment, or a new toy without Jake saying he can do better. Tyler starts to wonder: Is something wrong with him? Is he really such a loser? Is Jake really better than him at everything? Or is Jake the one with the problem? With the help of his uncle Kevin, Tyler begins to understand that Jake's bragging has nothing to do with Tyler's own abilities and that puffing yourself up leaves little room for friends.

About Abigail Marble, Illustrator

A little bit about my background

I grew up just outside Portland, Oregon, and I still live in Portland today. It's a great place to live - lots of 'struggling artists' live here, because it is relatively affordable, and there is a lot of community support for art and all kinds of creativity.

Abigail MarbleUnlike many artists, I was very lucky in that my interest in art was supported from day one - my mom works in watercolor, her dad was a commercial illustrator, and my dad's mom is an avid photographer, so I always had plenty of encouragement. When I was very young, I tagged along to my mom's painting and calligraphy classes, and later I took many drawing and painting classes on my own.

As early as second grade I began to write and illustrate stories, and I've always dreamt of illustrating children's books. In college I was an art major, with a focus on book arts, printmaking, and painting. After college, I needed to make a living, so I turned my attention to graphic design, and learned how to use Photoshop, Quark and Illustrator. My wonderful clients are mostly nonprofit agencies and arts organizations in and around Portland.

I have worked as a freelance graphic designer for about 8 years now, but I have continued to work on my illustration portfolio whenever I have had the opportunity.

How I work

My illustration style is realistic, but not photo-realistic. I work primarily in watercolor, and I strive to maintain the looseness of the medium, while achieving consistency of color and detail from one page to the next. When I start a project, I spend a lot of time drawing my characters' faces and figures over and over until I know them by heart. Then I start breaking the text down into spreads, and I draw thumbnail sketches to determine how the action will flow through the book. Sometimes I scan the thumbnails and enlarge them on my computer, and sometimes I just redraw them at a larger size. Then I finalize the composition and details on each spread.

For the finished art, I like to use watercolor on hot-pressed (smooth surface) Lanaquarelle paper. Watercolor is challenging for many reasons, and if I make a mistake, I sometimes have to start all over again. But I love the transparency and lightness of watercolor, and the 'happy accidents' that come when colors overlap or wash together, so I keep using it.

My Secret Bully was my first published book. I was drawn to the story because I was sure it could be a wonderful tool for parents, counselors, teachers, and kids who are struggling with emotional bullying. I know I played all three roles from time to time - bully, victim, and bystander. In 6th grade it got so bad that I wanted nothing more than to reach end of the school year so I could move on to the larger junior high school and make a fresh start. Luckily, that's what happened for me, and I made new friends in 7th grade who are still good friends today. Everyone I know seems to remember a bullying incident from childhood - some of which left lasting psychological scars.

Although I have made many sample illustrations and dummy books (sketches for a whole story along with a few pieces of finished artwork), this was the first time I created finished art for an entire picture book. It was a huge challenge! For one thing, the timeframe was tight. Another challenge lay in the story itself - in this book, the action is very quiet: it is mostly a story of emotion. Monica struggles with a subtle range of feelings, from self-doubt to sadness to anger to hope, so my challenge was to make her face very expressive, conveying her vulnerability as she managed each situation. To do this, I had to work in a style that was a little tighter than illustrations I have done in the past for lighter stories with more physical action.

I have been very excited to see the strong positive response to the book from readers and the media - it confirms my belief that this book was needed, and I'm thrilled to know that it's out there being used to help kids struggling with the same things Monica goes through.