We hear the heart-rending news reports all too frequently about the consequences of children and teens mercilessly taunting and in some cases, physically harming others as a result of bullying behavior.
What causes children, particularly boys, to act out with such violence and aggression?
News reports suggest that parental involvement, especially that of fathers, could help solve this crisis.
But what if the father-son relationship is the root of the problem?
Set in the early 1960s in the wilds of San Gabriel Valley, JOSH’S WALL by Cliff Ashpaugh (Spout Hill Press; July 2014) is a coming-of-age story about a boy who wakes up to a world of bullies, liars, and strangers—including himself. Told as a story—which the grownup Josh presents to his eleven-year-old son as a gift before disaster—within a story, JOSH’S WALL mixes fun reading with serious consciousness-raising.
At age six, Joshua Crass is reborn—after nearly dying from an allergic reaction to penicillin. Struggling with lingering anemia and amnesia, he leaves the hospital with three people—Mom, Dad, and brother Sammy—who might as well be Martians. Apart from his beloved Nanny (the only family member he remembers), Josh feels like an orphan in his own home. School is worse. Most kids avoid him; one boy—two grades ahead and a few heads taller—harasses and hits him. His teachers stick to textbook American history (which, as he learns after a bold trip to the adults-only section of the library, leaves out horrific truths) and grade on a curve of favoritism.
Josh’s strange new life takes a dramatic turn when he becomes a master at karate. His surge in power opens doors to financial success (as a pencil entrepreneur), romance, and controversy. After a life-shattering accident and a light-bulb flash of memory, Josh learns a huge life lesson: the ability to take down bigger bullies doesn’t make him a better person.