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on September 7, 2006
This is a great book for both the home and the classroom. The story itself is realistic and poignant and makes the distinction between "tattling" and "reporting." When D.J. is teased unmercifully by Vince, D.J.'s life becomes miserable and he begins to feel like a "loser." Fortunately, he finds support from both his family and his teacher, and they help him develop some coping skills which not only enable him to deal constructively with the bully but also enable him to support his friends when they are the objects of the bully's attacks. The Foreward by Stan Davis, founder of [...] provides a valuable overview of the issue of bullying as well as suggestions about how to help family members deal with the problem. This is a valuable resource for both the home and the classroom. Highly Recommended!
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VINE VOICEon January 14, 2007
Trudy Ludwig is a genius and understands the deleterious effect of teasing and peer cruelty and bullying. Bullying is not limited to children. In some cases, teachers, bosses and co-workers have also been involved in bullying tactics. Many companies provide handbooks of unacceptable behavior, among which is often included "blocking somebody's path; verbal or physical coercion of any person on these premises or during the usual course of business...zero tolerance policy."

D.J., a tween (8-12 years) faces his nemesis Vince, who hounds, heckles and harasses him. Whenever D.J. complains that Vince is verbally drawing blood, the latter gives him the stock comment of he's just kidding and can't D.J. take a joke. I have known adults do this to children and believe me, that does NOT engender good feelings nor teach humor. When adults do this to children, it makes children feel like they have no recourse and that "sense of humor" means endure somebody having fun at their expense. It teaches deceit, e.g. going along and pretending to find it funny; avoiding dressing downs and questioning the existence of their OWN senses of humor when all the while resentment and erosion of esteem is building.

However, peer teasing escalates to physical violence as is shown in this story. Vince steps up his verbal abuse of D.J. and humiliates him in front of their teammates. That is bad enough, but when he starts hitting D.J. on the bus, D.J. knows he has to take his concerns to someone who can help.

D.J.'s dad gives him bad advice when he says D.J. can't fight back verbally or physically to Vince. We all know that ignoring bullies often steps up their harassment campaign. Luckily, the boy's father takes D.J.'s concerns to his teacher, who wisely includes the school counselor.

I've been targeted by bullies and I've seen this time and again. I was told to "deal with it;" "s/he's only kidding;" "can't you take a joke;" "where's your sense of humor" and I even had teachers do this. In one case, a teacher wrote that a child was "happier than ever" because the child stopped verbally objecting to the teacher's snide personal comments, cloaked in the guise of "humor." Whenever that child objected, the child was upbraided for not having a sense of humor and how important it is to laugh at oneself. Horse feathers! The child was NOT happier than ever; this was a child with Asperger's who was "giving the desired response" so as to avoid disfavor and further repercussions, all of which was disclosed during later interviews.

That is what NOT to do when a child is being hounded by bullies. No child should be taught to be a silent, emotional masochist and accept this kind of treatment from anyone. There is NO excuse for it and it is paramount to defend one's own child instead of making excuses for Other People's Children. In recent years, I have seen adults on talk shows describe how heckling and harmful peers have impacted their current lives and hurt their esteem.

I recommend this book along with MY SECRET BULLY and SORRY. No parent or educator should be without these three gems of wisdom.
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on October 4, 2006
In Just Kidding, author Trudy Ludwig addresses the painful topic of teasing and peer exclusion.

How does a child handle teasing when the laughter stops and hurt feelings begin? This is exactly what D.J. must face when his friend Vince takes teasing too far. First it begins with Vince calling D.J. a loser, but then escalates the teasing by making fun of D.J. in front of their soccer teammates. The final straw comeswhen Vince moves from verbal taunting to physical harassment on the school bus. Feeling angry and frustrated, D.J. turns to his dad for help.

With coaching from his dad and brother, D.J. learns to diffuse Vince's attacks with humor and non-rebuttal. His dad reminds him that, "You can't say or do anything mean back to the teaser." But when those skills don't work, D.J.'s dad addresses the problem with his teacher, which ultimately causes Vince to meet with the school counselor in order to address the problem of bullying his classmates.

As a mother I've seen and heard the taunts that children use against one another. Too many times I've heard parents tell their crying child to "deal with it" or to "just ignore whoever is bothering you", but that advice doesn't lend itself to resolving the issue at hand. In fact, more times than not, children who tease, only increase their taunts when they're ignored.

As parents and educators, it is important that we listen to the children in our lives and step in to protect them when others are abusive and purposefully hurtful. There is never an excuse for bullying and our children should not be taught to ignore or tolerate this behavior from others.

If you want an excellent book that addresses this sticky topic, I highly recommend Just Kidding. This straightforward story will open the door to the world of teasing, enabling parents and teachers to help put a stop to this negative behavior.

Armchair Interviews says: The skill sets shared in this book will help empower our children to interact with each other in a fun, caring and compassionate manner
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on May 1, 2006
As a mother of four boys (ages 6 - 14), I rejoiced in discovering the book Just Kidding! Whether it is at school, home, or in the community, Trudy Ludwig has accurately addressed the challenging and sometimes hurtful relationships that our children inevitably experience. Whether a child is teased, bullied, or simply the subject of a joke, the book shows him or her that they are not alone and gives practical strategies to turn a bad situation around. It so skillfully teaches parents and other adults what they can do to help children through these all-too-common circumstances. It is enlightening to realize that so many of the things that we (adults) are in the habit of saying in response to a child asking for help are actually adding to the growing problem of bullying and relational aggression! Every home and classroom would benefit from embracing the concepts and putting the strategies into practice. A real treasure!
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on March 25, 2010
I am a school counselor and I love this book up and down! What a fantastic book. I don't know how many times I have heard after a put down has been given - 'I was just kidding!' or 'I was just playin'!' I have used Just Kidding in multiple fashions. It's a great book to help students not be targets. It's also a great way to 'call out' those kids who are using the words 'just kidding' to get out of trouble and not have to apologize. In one class discussion, the kids decided that saying 'Just Kidding' to someone is a double put down. Kids are smart! I also like that the father role plays and uses some strategies that are similar to the book Simon's Hook.
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on February 3, 2007
I read Just Kidding to fifth grade students as part of a unit on bullying and the connections made by students were amazing. The more ways that student hear - "You don't have to suffer from bullying" - the more we will be able to impact the devastation caused by bullying and cruelty. Like Trudy's first book, My Secret Bully, this book presents the idea that bullying can happen within friendships, not just by an unknown thug. Kids have the hardest time knowing what to do about bullying when the offender is someone they like and wish to have as a friend. Just Kidding offers excellent suggestions - from using humor, finding strength in numbers, and getting support from school staff. This is a must-have book for counselors, teachers, and parents of tweens.
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on June 17, 2012
All the books by this author on the subject of bullying are a must have in elementary school classrooms and libraries. Elementary aged children can't always express their feelings about how others are treating them or their friends. This book uses real life situations that children can understand and perhaps even identify with. Perhaps the catalyst to solving a very serious issue in schools today.
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on November 23, 2013
I was a mystery reader in my sons 2nd grade class. I decided to read this book. It was a great choice. Kids listened with big interest, after that it even opened up a dialogue. Kids had lots of questions: why some kids are mean, what to do when someone is being mean, whats the difference being a tattletale and reporting on something etc.
This is really great book on this subject! I recommend it highly!
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on April 12, 2011
This is an excellent book for the classroom or school counselor. I love that Ludwig has books which focus on both male and female bullying and how to cope. She does not sensationalize the issue, but puts the situations in the context of the children's feelings, making the stories relatable to them. When I meet with a student who is dealing with aggressive behavior from another child, we start off the session with one of Ludwigs books, and use them as the foundation for further discussion. So far, they have been really helpful.
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on February 24, 2013
I'll not give too much away about the plot, except that the protagonist becomes the target of too many mean-spirited jokes. What I will give away is the ending; the victim's parent and teacher give him practical advice, and that's why the book is so good.

Too often, books about bullying have an ending where the victim fights back and wins. Maybe he beats up the bully? Maybe he enlists the help of a muscular older sibling? Stories like that are unrealistic, because bullying isn't always the stereotype "I'm bigger than you and I'm going to take your lunch money." Bullying is usually a lot more subtle.

In Just Kidding the victim deals with the problem using a strategy. His father advises him to deflect the mean spirited remarks, essentially robbing the bully of his control. The teachers agree that the bully (Vincent) is making these remarks to look and feel powerful, and the "not responding" method won't work. He doesn't care of the victim reacts; what he's doing is entertaining an audience with jokes about the victim. Less happens when there's only the two of them around.

The strategy here reminds me of the book "Detective" by Cathy Burke. She's a rookie cop in 1969, at a time when few women are on the NYPD, and thanks to some other cops goofing off, she's attached and loses her gun. An older veteran gives her this warning:

"I've got to tell you this before we do anything. If you lose your gun you lose your job. Now if you go back to the station and tell them "hey, those guys that were supposed to be watching me weren't there," then you won't get blamed, but they will. And then you're going to have a reputation as "that woman who got her colleagues fired," and nobody will want to work with you ever again."

Burke then says to this guy "just help me find those guys and recover the gun, and we'll say they didn't see me get attacked."

This is the fact about bullying. The bully usually gets away with it for one of three reasons:

1. Untouchability-he might be the son of the principal or the police chief.
2. Popularity-the bully might be well liked by everyone else.
3. Parents-they might be teaching him/her bad habits, or they might be too spineless to do anything.

The good thing about this book is that it shows how the victim's parents are responsible for dealing with the problem. I've seen too many instances where the parents say "toughen up," or "just deal with it," or "you're a big boy, you can handle it." Well they're wrong, the kids usually can't handle it except by striking back, and I bet you the parents won't be happy that their kid has been fighting. It put the kid in a tough position that he/she won't be equipped to handle.

Parents of bullied kids need to read books like these. But I bet most of them won't because they'll say "I don't need to read no book about bullying, my son's just a wuss and he needs to man up!"
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