Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Invisible Boy

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A month or so ago people were tweeting words of wisdom spoken by Ruth Ayres. She was speaking at a conference, and the tweets were flying!  Seems everyone was talking about a book that she had "blessed" - The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton.  Within minutes it became unavailable on Amazon, but I ordered it anyway, and I am so glad that I now own this book.

Goodreads Summary  

Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

As we read the book, we stopped and talked at key points.  We discussed how we would feel if we were Brian, being unnoticed by classmates and teachers.  Many said they thought they knew someone who was like Brian.

The discussion moved on to not being picked to play games at recess or not being invited to birthday parties.  Again, many made personal connections.  We talked about new kids coming to our school, which doesn't happen often, and what they do to help make the new student feel comfortable.  They realized how sometimes it only takes one person or one act of kindness to make a person feel noticed or special - as in the case with Brian and Justin.

In the story kids laugh at Justin, the new boy, about what he is eating for lunch.  Brian notices this and wonders, "which is worse - being laughed at or feeling invisible."  I asked my students this same question.

Surprisingly, most of my students, said they would rather be laughed at than feel invisible.  This age group has grown up with anti-bullying campaigns and programs as part of their curriculum.  They know the affects of teasing and bullying, yet they felt they would welcome being the target of that behavior over being being unnoticed.

One student replied that even though she may be laughed at, she would still be getting attention.

This discussion left me with many questions.  Is this where we want our students to be - negative attention is better than no attention at all?  Are they that starved for attention or so focused on themselves that all the attention, negative or positive, has to be on them?  Can they not be content with being in the background and not on center stage?

I guess because I am more of an introvert, and I want people to like me, I would have chosen feeling invisible to be the better option.  Maybe I am reading too much into this.  I know that neither situation is good for children, but I was just surprised at the direction our conversation took.

If you have not read this book or do not own it, I highly recommend you fix that.  It is a book that needs to be shared with any age group.  The "Brians" of our classrooms need us to help them feel important and not feel invisible.


  1. See the blessing of books works with teachers and students!!This is a favorite of mine too! It has been shared with many students and classrooms in my school. So many great conversations! My students had questions for the author and because Trudy is so wonderful she replied! What fun to have a conversation via Twitter! The students were in awe! Thanks for sharing and spreading the power of this book!

    (BTW: Here's my post: http://literacyzone.blogspot.com/2013/11/sols-book-to-remember.html)

  2. Interesting question, Leigh Anne. I purchased the book to share with all the teachers I work with, but am unsure what they've done with it. I would imagine it would touch every child in some personal way. I'll ask my colleagues when I get a chance.

  3. How sad that someone would choose to be "laughed at" because she would "still be getting attention." I will have to check out this book.

  4. I've seen this book reviewed so positively all over the place, Leigh Anne - your wise post makes me think I need to share it with my kids THIS year.

  5. After reading your post, Leigh Anne, I MUST have this book. I wonder what my students will say. You've given me a wonderful lesson! Thanks so much! :)

  6. What a fabulous, thought-provoking discussion with your students! I must look for this book. I am moved by your words "They realized how sometimes it only takes one person or one act of kindness to make a person feel noticed or special" - wow! if your students all take away this one message, there will be no need to debate being laughed at or being invisible...neither would happen!!

  7. I LOVE this story. The transformation that occurs is so breathtaking. So glad you read it with your students.

  8. My son, who is in 9th grade, came home with an assignment today -- to write a paper on whether it is better to fit in or to stand out. It's slightly different from your topic, but it has similarities. "Standing out" has a more positive spin on it than "being laughed at," so I suppose there won't be any real controversial papers in his class! (but it could still make for a good discussion)

  9. Brene Brown (still reading Daring Greatly) says that we are psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually hard-wired for connection, love and belonging. I guess when someone laughs, and there is attention, there is still some sort of connection, but being invisible there is none. When I was a teenager I remember a movie (Russian) where the worst bullying was the silent treatment, making someone feel non-existent. Having books like this are so important for initiating discussions. Your kids had a chance to share their stories and think about situations.

    1. Thank you Terje for giving me insight on why my students might feel that way. I had not thought about it from that perspective. Maybe I ought to read Daring Greatly! I might learn something!

  10. Hi Leigh Anne, I haven't yet read this book, but will! Your post made me wonder if bullies don't become bullies because they, too, felt invisible? I believe in order for us to eliminate bullying, we need to understand why kids bully. I look forward to reading this book :-)

  11. Thank you so much for your post about The Invisible Boy, Leigh Anne. Very thoughtful! I also thought that Terje can some wonderful insignt regarding attention/connection. Brene Brown does great work and I recently saw her TedTalk on Shame Vs. Vulnerability. I found it fascinating. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0ifUM1DYKg