Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No need to wonder about the power of this movie December 14, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
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IF EVER THERE’S a current movie everyone should see, it’s “Wonder.”

And for me to state that is noteworthy. “Wonder” is the first movie I’ve viewed in a theater since 2011. Yes, I really have not been inside a cinema since I last saw “The Help,” another memorable movie, six years ago. Most movies don’t interest me. Too much violence and genres that don’t appeal to me. I prefer movies with a message, with a purpose other than to simply entertain and with content that moves me.

“Wonder” fits those criteria.

Based on the New York Times bestselling book by R. J. Palacio, “Wonder” tells the story of 10-year-old Auggie Pullman, born with facial deformities and entering school for the first time after being homeschooled. As you would expect, Auggie faces incredible challenges, including bullying.

This film shows the real-life psychological harm of peer pressure and bullying to individuals and to families and then presents multiple ways people address it. And not always in good ways, just like in real life.

“Wonder” should be required viewing for every child, teen and adult. The book was assigned reading at my eighth grade great nephew’s Minnesota school, followed by a class field trip to see the movie. I applaud educators like those in Tristan’s school who realize the value in this film as a teaching tool and as an opportunity to open up conversations on differences, bullying, peer pressure, kindness, compassion and more.

As a survivor of junior high school bullying and even bullying as an adult, I understand this issue all too well. I refuse to tolerate bullying (and abuse) on any level. “Wonder” champions strength to rise and to overcome, making it one powerful movie.

 

FYI: If you haven’t read about the recent bullying of a young boy in a Tennessee school, then click here and read Keaton’s story. It breaks my heart. Decades ago, this was me. Crying. Suffering. Unable to stop the bullying. I was not bullied in the same ways as Keaton. But the bullying I experienced in junior high school hurt me. Deeply. Just like Keaton. This behavior needs to stop.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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It’s OK if you don’t have pickle bumps September 23, 2010

I’LL ADMIT TO MORE than a bit of skepticism about a children’s picture book titled Pickle Bumps for Baby Dill. “What kind of book is that?” I wondered before calling the author, Bob Fulton.

Well, exactly as the title suggests, this is a story about Baby Dill, a pickle born without bumps. But that’s not all. You see, after speaking with Fulton and upon reading his book, I learned the real purpose. And it’s much more than a story about cute, talking pickles.

Fulton delivers a strong message via the Dill family and Baby Dill’s friends. The message: “It’s OK to be different.”

That’s a message especially fitting for this time of year, the beginning of school.

I would speculate that many students have, in recent weeks, felt like they don’t quite fit in with their classmates. Maybe they aren’t wearing the latest fashions. Maybe they’re in a new school, struggling to make friends. Maybe they’re shy, quiet. Maybe their hair or their skin is the “wrong” color. Maybe they’re struggling with learning.

Maybe, like Baby Dill, they wonder why they are different from everyone else.

Fulton addresses that concern, which leads the Dill family on a shopping trip for pickle bumps. In the end, Baby Dill decides, with the support of his friends, that he would rather remain bump less.

While Fulton’s story has a positive ending, I know that isn’t always reality. In real life, kids bully, tease, make fun of, pick on, humiliate—whatever words you want to choose—those who are different. For all too many kids, there are no understanding friends to stand by and support them.

A book like Fulton’s offers encouragement. “We like you just the way you are,” Baby Dill’s friends tell him. That’s a message that needs to reverberate through-out our schools, our homes, our communities.

Pickle Bumps for Baby Dill would be a good addition to any elementary school classroom or library. While aimed at preschoolers and lower elementary students, the story also appeals to 10 – 12-year-olds, Fulton says. Having experienced bullying myself while in junior high school, I applaud any efforts to help students, parents and teachers address the issue.

The college educator—he taught chemistry for 39 years at St. John’s University and The College of Saint Benedict—has even added a list of 12 questions at the end of his book to prompt discussion.

He shares, too, that his book evolved from telling stories to his grandchildren and a specific request from his youngest grandson to “Tell us a story about a pickle.”

Fulton did and then put his tale into writing in Pickle Bumps for Baby Dill, published by Pickle Bump Press. Melissa Meyer, originally from Saint Joseph, Minn., illustrated the book.

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AS A SIDE NOTE, please be aware that October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Check out the PACER Center Web site for information that can help you address bullying. Perhaps by working together, through understanding and listening and empathy, we can help reduce the bullying that is all too prevalent in our society, especially in our schools.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling