Comic book curbs bullies’ bite

Author: Susan Mullen Guibert ’87, ’93MCA


Eight-year-old Jalyn knows exactly what it feels like to be picked on—and it really makes her mad. Luckily, she also knows just how to handle it.

“A girl at school makes fun of me and my friend, says stuff about our hair or our skin. And we were really getting mad about it. But after I read the book, I thought a lot about how she makes fun of us and about how we can stand up to her and talk about what she’s doing to us.”

The book that helped Jalyn handle her harassment is The Take Ten Crew and the Three O’Clock Fight, written, illustrated and produced by 18 South Bend schoolchildren. The creators of the comic book, who range from fifth grade to high school, are participants in the Robinson Community Learning Center’s Take Ten Program, which teaches nonviolent conflict resolution to students in area schools.

The Take Ten philosophy expounded by the center, an outreach of Notre Dame, teaches children to “take 10 deep breaths before you say something that hurts; take 10 steps back before getting involved in a fight; and take 10 seconds before using something as a weapon.”

Replete with ordinary children possessing superpowers, the Take Ten Crew teaches villains in the story how to resourcefully resolve conflicts.

“The theme of the book is to help bullies calm themselves down so they aren’t all ‘Hey gimme your bike or gimme your lunch money,’” Jalyn says. “It also helps you feel like you can stand up to them, to help yourself and maybe others, too.”

Conceived about a year ago, the Take Ten Crew characters and plot took shape during student focus groups guided by professional artists and story directors. All of the designs and drawings were done by students. Characters include Grillz, whose metal-covered teeth reflect the bullies’ mean, ugly actions back at them, forcing bullies to see themselves as they appear to others; and harmonica-playing Jazz, whose music has the power to calm and sooth angry bullies.

Patrick Dixon, 11, is a fifth-grader and the creative force behind the name and superpowers of Grillz. “I really like that the characters have superpowers,” Patrick says. “Bullies look like monsters in Grillz’s teeth.”

The Take Ten program reaches some 8,500 students at 15 area schools and the Robinson Community Learning Center, and involves 130 volunteers from Notre Dame and four other local colleges.

“Part of the value of the book is as a supplement to the Take Ten curriculum, which stands on its own,” says Jay Caponigro ’91, director of the Robinson Center. “The children have crafted a message about bullying that’s important to them, through a medium that’s attractive to their peers. And that’s how we hope to affect the choices they make.”

The Take Ten Crew and the Three O’Clock Fight is $9.95 and can be purchased at the Robinson Center in South Bend, Indiana, or ordered online.