Children’s Book Offers Lessons on Bullying and Acceptance

Ann Bradsher was inspired at a mother-daughter book Club to write her first book. During the club’s discussion at the Eden Prairie Library, a librarian asked members to share a life-long dream. Bradsher told the rest of the mothers and daughters, “I’ve always wanted to write a children's book.”

A voice piped up in the group, “Well, why don’t you just do it? What are you so afraid of?”  a young girl asked. “She was very matter-of-fact,” Bradsher says, asking herself at the time, “Well, why not? Why don’t I write it?”

Despite a busy life raising five girls, Bradsher wrote the book over the next year-and-a-half and soon discovered the challenges of the publishing world. She persevered, and with the help of her husband, Neal, self-published her children’s book, That Stinks! (December 2016).

The 38-page, illustrated book follows the story of two skunks, Stinky Stinkerton and Stink Von Stinkenpop (Poppy for short), who are new students at the Academy of Woodland Animals. On their first day, the skunks are not warmly received by their classmates; the other animals’ parents have warned them that skunks have stinky spray. On top of that, Poppy has a confrontation with one of her classmates, Shades, a raccoon with a bullying streak. In the end, Poppy demonstrates courage, and their classmates realize the importance of accepting friends from all walks of life.

“I have always had so much compassion for kids who are bullied,” Bradsher says. “I had a bully myself that just plagued me. I remember how disheartening it was to be left out of things, to be picked on, and it just breaks my heart when I see that happening to other kids."

Bradsher’s views on bullying led to conversations with her daughters, Cali, 16; Lauren, 14; Natalie, 11; Kathryn, 9; and Sami Jo, 5. “I tell them, 'Think about how it feels to be [a kid being bullied]. Just because you're not the one picking on them, it doesn't mean it has nothing to do with you. You can invite them to come over and play with you, or just by smiling and saying hi, you can change that kid's day.'"

That Stinks! has made an impact on students, teachers and parents alike as Bradsher has shared the book’s message in several Eden Prairie classrooms. She’s been a guest reader at Forest Hills and Oak Point elementary schools and St. Andrew Preschool. She calls her book “a conversation starter,” when it comes to bullying, a topic which many of the schools' teachers are grateful that she is addressing.

Bradsher used animals as her main characters as "a way for kids to find the story fun and funny,” she says. “It's not quite so personal as it being real children, who might actually resemble them.” Her story also speaks to many age groups. “My preschooler's class loved it,” Bradsher says. “And I also read it to my fifth grader's class, who were just cracking up; they really got the humor in it.”

“Many parents who have read it say that every little kid can find themselves in this story,” Bradsher says. “Who hasn't either been the bullied kid or the bystander who did nothing? Some people know they were once a bully when they were a little kid or teenager, and so I think anybody can relate to this story, whatever position they were in."

And does Bradsher have plans for another book? “This is my first and only book, so far,” Bradsher says. “I definitely have some ideas brewing.”

That Stinks! is available at the website here.