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I’m not one for fancy shin-digs. Nor am I one for dancing in general. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm, though, to get me to go to The Ugly Bug Ball! This amazingly illustrated children’s book making its debut on September 6 will charm your socks off, no matter how many legs you have. Authors Michelle Burns and Dr. Anissa Freeman have taken what are hard topics, bullying and exclusion based on difference, and have created a story that will make you want to shimmy in your seat.

These topics are getting nearer to my heart as I’m expecting my first child. I know I won’t have to worry about my child being hurt based on appearances for a while yet, but it’s such a rampant issue in our society that I worry about it all the same. What if Bipple (Baby + Whipple = Bipple, our name for the baby until he or she decides to make an appearance) is born with some kind of feature, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental, that sets him apart from the other kids (for the sake of your reading eyes, I’ll refer to Bipple as “he,” though we don’t know the sex). I mean, being different is what makes this world interesting, right? So why is it that those same elements that make us “interesting” are also what make us suffer so much at the hands of others? Why is it that we are taught, as a society, to disparage and be uncomfortable with those who are different? So what if Stanley Stinkbug is a little stinky. That difference made him able to save his friends! So what if Prissy Pray is . . . well . . . prissy? She has a pretty happy ending too (for her anyway)!

The beauty of this book is that all of the characters are different. Every single one. They look different, they talk different, and they smell different (cue the technology for smell-o-books, please). This book will certainly be under the “Very Frequently Read” column of Bipple’s reading list. Heck, it might be the first book we read to him!

So, while I foray into the part of motherhood that involves worry (a part that I think can become pretty overwhelming), I take comfort in the fact that I know I’m starting off on the right foot when it comes to preparing Bipple for the inevitable rough patches that he’ll encounter over the years. I may not be able to control or even influence the people that might end up bullying him or excluding him, but I can certainly do my best to instill in him a solid self-confidence and the idea that differences are good. Perhaps, if enough of us do that, even if it just means we are reading books like The Ugly Bug Ball to our kids from a very young age, we can eradicate the mean streak that seems to permeate our society. Think of it as a vaccine for mean.

This book will be released on September 6 and is available for preorder now through BQB’s online store! To learn more about the book and the authors, both teachers at West Side Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, visit their website: TheUglyBugBallBook.com.

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