I had mixed feelings when I first read Meena by Sine van Mol and illustrated by Carianne Wijffels (Eerdman’s, 2011, originally published 210 in Belgium) because it so frankly depicts neighborhood bullying; my son, being four, seems far from that issue and I made sure to keep it away from him. Obviously, this is a book for older children to read.
The more I think about the book after the fact, the more pleased I am with the subject and its development. In Meena, young neighborhood children torment a fat and ugly old woman: they send her hate notes, call her a witch, and even threaten her. When they notice a young girl staying with Meena, they begin to wonder about who this “witch” is. Meena’s sweet nature and her granddaughter win over the neighborhood, thanks to delicious cherry pie, and the children begin to understand that they have a lot to learn about their neighbor.
I liked how the children came to a gradual realization, and although the bullying was quite harsh at the beginning, the point is well made by the end.