Inspired by her grandson, local poetess Joanne F. Blake published E’Moree the Bully-Proof Kid to spark conversations on bullying.
For Blake, writing started out as a hobby. She began posting poetry on Instagram and had offers for publication in a variety of anthologies.
“I realized that it’s a gift that I have, and I want to use my gift to try to inspire someone else,” she said.
The idea for E’Moree the Bully-Proof Kid came from her grandson, E’Moree, and his experience witnessing bullying in Pre-K.
E’Moree’s mother, Portia Freeman, a Coder 2 in AU Health’s Health Information Management Services, said she loves the way her mother turned a bad experience into a powerful message for children.
“Her book is one of the reasons why my son is no longer afraid to stand up for himself. I hope that it can encourage other children the same way,” she said.
One day, E’moree came home from school talking about another child who was picking on everyone.
This situation made E’Moree nervous about his first year in school, so Blake started doodling and an idea came to her.
“I was trying to get words together that would relate to kids and would be something they would understand and knew that I wanted to write for E’Moree’s age — I wanted him to be able to read the book,” she said.
After working on the book for a couple of years, E’Moree the Bully Proof Kid was released last year during the pandemic.
Rather than seeing the timing as a challenge, Blake thought it might be an opportunity to talk about bullying.
“I felt like the pandemic was the perfect time, because everybody has a little spare time to sit and have this conversation,” she said. “We want people to know that bullying is out there, and your kids might not talk about it and it’s a conversation that needs to be brought up in families and a question to ask your kids. We want it to catch it before it leads to suicide or anything of that nature.”
It’s a topic the Children’s Hospital of Georgia has worked to address in various ways, including a conference focused specifically on bullying and suicide in youth. Dr. Dale Peeples, a pediatric psychiatrist at AU Health, said there could be link between self-harm and media habits. For many youths, screen time has only increased during the pandemic.
“Cyberbullying doubles the risk of suicide attempts, and research shows an increase of adolescents communicating self-injury through text and social media,” said Peeples. “Youth who experience bullying are at a higher risk of psychological distress, and it’s important for parents to stay connected to their kids by looking at how many devices are in the home, considering how the family uses the internet and monitoring online interactions with others.”
Blake saw the effect of publishing the children’s book on E’Moree himself.
“I think this book has given him the urge he needs to feel like he can accomplish whatever he wants to in life,” she said.
Now 7 and in the second grade, E’Moree said, “I feel like I am the bully-proof kid.”
He also said if he saw a bully, he would “tell them to join me, to be friends and to not bully.”
E’Moree sang a verse from his grandma’s book, “I’m BP, bully-proof. I’m heading to the top. You can join if you want to. BP, bully-proof. I’m heading to the top. You can join me if you want to.”
W.S. Hornsby Elementary, E’Moree’s school, has embraced the book and featured it in their library.
Blake said the experience was different than she was used to but has inspired her to write more.
“It’s given me the urge to write a second book, which I hope is going to be an addition to this one,” she said. “We want to see if we can do a series and try to continue to be an educational series. We want to step into different cultures. Just try to put out there as much education as we can.”