The Big, Bad, Sad, Mad Meany, by Mary Griffith Chalupsky, is a rhyming story about a group of rodents living happily together in a dumpster. Everything changes one day when a large rat named Tim comes along and takes over.
Tim uses his great size and weight to intimidate the smaller rodents into following his rules and giving him their food. While Tim languishes about growing fatter, the other rodents are forced to do all the work.
Anyone who questions Tim’s harsh actions is punished, sometimes severely. Things become very grim for the rodents, who long for a hero to save them from their predicament with Tim.
One night Tim holds a Ball and another, larger rat named Marco shows up. Marco chastises Tim for his bullish behavior and tells him he must respect everyone or leave the dumpster.
The rodents applaud Marco’s heroism and once again the dumpster becomes a blissful place with enough food and equality for all.
I enjoyed the moral presented in The Big, Bad, Sad, Mad Meany, that everyone is equal and bullying is wrong. The illustrations by Yuffie Yuliana added a colorful element that reinforced the actions and emotions of the characters.
Reading a book like this is a great way to introduce young readers to a difficult social issue like bullying. It can also spark meaningful conversations between parents and their children or teachers and their students.
In terms of content, I felt the resolution to the characters’ problems was a bit too easy, and didn’t allow them any control of their situation. I would have liked to see the smaller rodents be more self-reliant in solving their problems with Tim, rather than waiting around for a hero to rescue them.
Often in life, we have to be our own hero.
Children need to be taught the skills to advocate for their own safety and well-being. They must learn to speak-up for themselves by asking a grown-up they trust for help or by working together with peers to find a fair and just resolution to their problem.
All in all, The Big Bad, Sad, Mad Meany is a story with a good premise and a positive message.