A One-of-a-Kind Find

By Barbara Gruener

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

If you’re looking for a gourmet bullying-prevention resource, try this tasty morsel from Maria Dismondy and Nelson Publishing. With irresistible illustrations by Kimberly Shaw-Peterson, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are is a spicy story about Lucy, a wide-eyed, curly-locked child with a uniquely-flavored zest for life. Her caretaker, Papa Gino, has modeled celebrating differences, repeatedly telling Lucy that everyone has a heart with feelings. Well, if her classmate Ralph really does have heart, then why is he so mean?

After reading this entree aloud, ask the students, “Is Ralph a bully?” followed by, “How can you tell?” Review the definition of a bully using this formula: Are Ralph’s mean actions and words REPEATED? Are his behaviors toward Lucy causing INTENTIONAL harm? Is he using words and actions to purposefully create an imbalance of POWER? If the answer is yes to all three of these, Ralph is, by definition, bullying.

This delicious delight will serve up a discussion about dealing with bullying behaviors. Did Lucy use an anti-bullying strategy like Talk, Walk, Then Tell? If so, which parts did she try and how did they work for her? What else could Lucy have done to solve her problem with Ralph? Are there other children with bullying behaviors in the story?

More food for thought: Bullies will do what bystanders allow. Who are the bystanders in Lucy’s story? What, if anything, could they have done to help Lucy? Isolate some pages; how does Ralph feel when he’s sitting alone on the bus? One of my students thought that maybe he just didn’t know how to make friends appropriately. Isn’t that insightful? Another said Ralph was angry because he was all alone. Find out what your students might suggest to help Ralph get along with others better.

You can also review the Respect pillar by finding out how many times your students saw the Golden Rule in this tale. Ask your students to research the Golden Rule to find out how many cultural variations of Treat others the way you want to be treated there are.

Finally, ketchup on toast? Explore what kinds of creative concoctions your students have tried and liked; mayo on your French fries, anyone?


Check out this book and treat yourself to an authentically savory story! And don’t miss The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others, a sequel by the same amazing author/illustrator duo.

Barbara Gruener is a school counselor at Westwood Elementary in Friendswood, TX, a winner of the 2009 CEP National School of Character Award. For more information on Westwood’s program, visit its website.

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