Adam Bruckner’s “Bully Back” – an elementary school adaptation of our election reality

In recent weeks, parents all across the country have been afraid to let their kids watch news coverage of the presidential candidates.

My Nation on the Take co-author, Nick Penniman, posted this on Facebook shortly before the second Clinton-Trump debate:

I couldn’t agree more. But all is not lost, thanks to a good friend of mine, Adam Bruckner. Adam—with a little help from a few of his little friends—has come up with the perfect way for parents and teachers to explain to kids what’s going on in this election year. Not only is it funny as heck, it’s G-rated and brilliantly illustrated.

Angel [Left] and Bruckner [Right] on the front stairs of the Helping Hand Rescue Mission. The Mission was founded in 1905 and has been working with those in need for 111 years.
So beginning today and going right up to the week before Election Day, we will be publishing a few chapters Monday through Friday of Bully Back.

Adam, by the way, is one of a number of people who’ve helped guide me along the proverbial road less traveled in recent years. He’s a former professional soccer star who left his sports career behind to become, in my humble opinion, a saint. He spends most of his time these days helping and serving underprivileged kids in tough Philly neighborhoods. Here, in Adam’s words, are what he does and why he does it.

How’d you meet Wendell?

Wendell and I met 9 years ago on the Parkway during one of our Monday homeless meals (he was walking by, not eating).  We struck up a quick conversation, met for lunch the next week, and hadn’t had much contact for a few years.

About 2 months ago, I was crashing a Grand Opening of a friend’s workspace, hoping to land some expensive snacks.  After a circled-up introduction, I shook a hand and looked at a name-tag before a face and saw the name “Wendell Potter.”  It was a wonderfully stunning moment.

After catching up, I shared that I had been working on a fun writing project, and handed him a rough draft of “Bully Back.”

Why’d you write this book?

This photo was taken when Angel [Right] and Savion [Left] first had the idea about make a bullying series, according to Bruckner. “We decided to focus on the bully instead of the ‘wimpy kid.'”
I run an urban youth group in a housing project in Philadelphia.  We have encouraged our young people to read, set up a library for them, and bought the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.One of our 7th graders was getting bullied at school, and in return, lovingly bullied his little brother.  I suggested to Angel that we co-author a book on bullying.  We got started, and called it, “Better Bullying.”  It is about a socially conscious group of 7th graders who try to change their school.  They beat kids up for not doing homework, smash junk food, steal lunch money to build a water well in Africa, and give bad grade “grundies.” We eventually turned the book into a play.A friend suggested that do 2nd play about this election cycle and all of the bullying, and that was how the idea for “Bully Back” was born.What was the process of writing this book? Who helped you? I have had loads of conversations with adults and kids, listened to buckets of podcasts, been to Republican and Democratic rallies, and have tried to understand both sides as much as possible.  This book has kind of written itself.  Angel is in high school now and wasn’t able to help with the writing, but he is a co-editor with his younger brother Savion.

Where did you find your inspiration?

There are stories that live in my head and try to find their way out, and this bullying series has been a part of that.  And I love when words dance.  And writing scratches something good in me.

[And] it helps when the topic is relevant and relatable to so many. I thought it might be helpful to explain this election to young people on a level where they could understand the issues.

And hearing Angel and Savion laugh as they edit has been the reward.

Two campaign posters from Beverly Linton [Left], and Ronald Triumph [Right]. But honestly, do they really need side designations?
In a world where C-SPAN meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bully Back follows characters like Ronald Triumph, Beverly Linton, Barry Yobama and Ernie Fanders – just a couple kids trying to improve their school, Range Line Elementary.

This mirror of the 2016 Presidential Election boasts promises of a wall around the school’s pool, lunchtime rallies and a near-perfect phonetic dialect by a kid resembling a popular Vermont Senator.

You will not want to miss a single word, or drawing, of this book, which you can also buy for only $6.99. All of proceeds go to the youth program at the Helping Hand Rescue Mission in Philadelphia. A place of hope, faith, action, and change. For now, check out the first few chapters here!

Be sure to check out Bully Back’s website, and purchase the 2015 prequel, Better Bullying here.


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