The Bookworm: Shane Koyczan takes a poetic stand against bullying

The Bookworm: Shane Koyczan takes a poetic stand against bullying

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

For the rest of your life, you’ll always regret it.

With two bigger boys standing over him, the expression on his face was one of sadness, like he never expected anything different, like he had been waiting for it. And you’ll forever regret not sticking up for him, because you were scared.

You’d been bullied, too, just like one out of every seven kids. And, as you’ll see in the new book “To This Day” by Shane Koyczan, it’s never forgotten.

It doesn’t take much. Let’s say an embarrassing, silly little story that happened long ago gets told. That can lead to unwanted nicknames that other kids hang around your neck and repeat in a tone of voice that feels like knives. Yes, names are just sounds, but though adults say words will never hurt you, you know they do.

So you stay invisible and quiet. You stay inside during recess and rehearse running away. You find a friend who’s being bullied, too, because there’s safety together. But you’re still “outnumbered day after wretched day.” The years will pass, you’ll grow up but, like the mom who found a sign taped to her desk that said “Beware of Dog” back in fifth grade, or the man who was once a boy fighting depression and anger, the bad feelings will linger.

The thing to remember is that while you might feel like an outcast, you’re not alone. Eventually, long after middle school or high school, long after you’ve looked in a “better mirror” to see a beautiful and accomplished person, you’ll understand that “all of this is just debris….”

Maybe you aren’t a part of a clique today. Maybe you’re not on the team or in the club. You’re not popular, but those people who bullied you and said mean things were wrong — and you’ll know it.

Then you, and everyone like you, can say, “We made it.”

From its beginnings as a poem written from Koyczan’s experiences, then adapted as a song before becoming a video created with the help of 86 animators, “To This Day” is filled with some of the most powerful words you may ever read.

Told from the point of view of a mature-beyond-his-years kid, this book tells a story of triumphant survival that contains just the right words of comfort and support. Indeed, in his foreword and afterword, Koyczan offers more of his personal story and includes voices from fans and readers who ruefully witnessed or endured bullying.

But that’s only part of why you should want this book. Illustrations from artists in several countries evoke the perfect mood to match Koyczan’s words. A list of resources rounds out what bullied teens need.

Toward the end of his poem, Koyczan asks “… if a kid breaks in a school and no one around chooses to hear, do they make a sound?” If that doesn’t hurt your heart, then read this book again.

Better yet, own it. “To This Day” is a purchase you won’t regret.

The writer is a 
syndicated book reviewer.