Be Bigger Book Summary
In Be Bigger, a girl's feelings are hurt because she thinks her friend ignored her on purpose. She plans to exclude her friend from a playdate until a wise old tree points out that she is actually being mean to get even with her friend. (Topics include relational aggression bullying, kindness and respect)
The tree uses a story about the girl's grandmother in a similar situation to show the girl she is not alone in facing these friendship troubles. By the grandmother's example, the tree teaches the girl how to resolve conflict in a more positive way. (character building topics: perseverance, conflict resolution, treating others the way you want to be treated, caring, respect)
The girl feels that talking things through with her friend will be too hard, so the tree helps the girl build her self confidence to face the challenge. (character trait issues: self-esteem and self-confidence)
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Discussion Guide Answers
The tree says to the girl, "I understand your heart and your stomach are tied up in knots." Have you ever felt that way? Why?
(Help children notice the clues their body gives them to help them sort out their feelings. You can also refer to other descriptions or pictures in the book to compare anger, sadness, pride.)
When your heart and stomach are tied up in knots, your body is telling you that something isn't right. It's a good idea to try to figure out what is making your heart and stomach so uneasy. Maybe there's something you are sad about, or worried about.
What does it mean to "be bigger"? Does it mean you need to grow taller or does it mean you can choose to rise above your anger and hurt to make a good choice?
(Self esteem and self confidence come from children knowing they can make choices that are in-line with their values. Feeling "right" about how you behave helps kids overcome obstacles. Character traits / values: respect for self and others, caring, self control).
No matter how tall (or little) someone is, they can "be bigger". Being bigger means that even though you are feeling hurt or angry, you don't have to act out of hurt and anger. You can be like a superhero who does what's right, treating others respectfully, even though it can be hard. Your reward is in knowing you did the right thing. You can't control how other people act, but you can feel good about how you react.
In the story about the girl's grandma, we see Gran had her feelings hurt. How did she handle it? What could she have done differently?
(Help children see the cycle that comes from hurt feelings and retaliation. Feeling left out or excluded doesn't feel good to anyone- it's a form of bullying called relational aggression. Character traits/values: respect, caring / forgiveness)
When gran's feelings were hurt, she hurt her friend right back. Then her friend's feelings were hurt and she hurt Gran again. The hurt feelings just kept building on each other until each girl shared how she was feeling and sorted what was really going on. Because both girls talked respectfully about how they felt, without accusing the other or trying to make her feel more hurt, they were able to work through the issues instead of causing more hurt feelings.
The tree talks with the girl about choosing between "the easy way" and "the right way". Have you ever been in a situation when you could choose the easy way out, but decided to do the right thing, even though it was hard?
(Explore this topic in terms of talking to friends or other with respect, but also more broadly as a guiding principle for how to make wise choices. Character traits / values: honesty, respect, self control, perseverance)
Kids face lots of situations when they might not be sure what to do. Maybe you saw someone saying something about a friend that you knew wasn't true, maybe you saw someone cheating, maybe you'd rather skip doing your homework because you aren't sure what the teacher wanted you to do. There are lots of times when you may have to make tough choices about how to handle a situation. Even though doing the right thing might be harder right now, in time, your heart will feel a lot better for having made a good choice.