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Sticks and stones can break bones, but names will never hurt you,” Patricia. –Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones

by Patricia Polacco
AR Test, Picture Book

At A Glance
Interest Level

5 – 8
Reading Level
Number of Pages

From renowned author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, comes a touching true story about her first year in a new elementary school. This was an exciting opportunity for Patricia at the time. She was unpopular at her previous school, and her then-undiagnosed dyslexia made it difficult for her to participate in assigned readings. Patricia hopes that this school will be a needed change.   

However, on the morning of her first day, Patricia wakes up with red rashes all over her face. She is quickly teased by the school’s bullies, who laugh at her and call her “cootie.” Patricia fears that this school will be another disaster until she is greeted by two classmates, Thom and Ravanne. These two are fellow targets of bullying, but they have formed a close and supportive friendship to help them through their conflict. Although this new school has bullies, Patricia finds herself with the two closest friends she has ever made. 

Sticks and Stones is a heartfelt story about the importance of embracing your differences. Although Patricia, Thom, and Ravanne are relentlessly teased for their differences, the trio support and encourage each other’s unique interests and talents. Thom is a gifted ballet dancer, but he keeps his passion a secret. With the support of Patricia and Ravanne, Thom works up the courage to perform a graceful dance at the school talent show, leaving even his fiercest bullies speechless. Likewise, Ravanne possesses an extraordinary talent for textile design. She wows her friends with beautiful kites and Halloween costumes. Although initially shy about her talent, the support of Patricia and Thom encourages Ravanne to find a dressmaking apprenticeship by the end of the school year. 

Polacco brings her story to life with beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations that utilize a wide range of colors. For example, Ravanne’s kites are painted in vibrant, watercolor shades while Thom’s dance is drawn with a completely black background, leaving only Thom standing in the spotlight. While these illustrations help readers navigate the story, the book’s narration is particularly wordy, with some pages featuring up to 20 sentences of small text.  

If your reader is worried about making friends at a new school, Sticks and Stones is a memorable story that shows how being yourself will bring the best and truest friendships. To teach more about bullies, pair Stick and Stones with The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark by Deborah Diesen, Clovis Keeps His Cool by Katelyn Aronson, and Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 


  • The trio’s bully, Billy, pushes Thom to the ground “so hard his glasses flew off.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 


  • Patricia, Thom, and Ravanne are called several names throughout the book, including sissy boy, cootie, her ugliness, and priss. 


  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 
Other books by Patricia Polacco
Other books you may enjoy

Sticks and stones can break bones, but names will never hurt you,” Patricia. –Sticks and Stones

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