I just finished a lovely book called 'How to be Invisible' by Tim Lott. (The Guardian has a charming review written by a young reader here).
The protagonist is an intellectually gifted loner whose parents have recently uprooted him from his home and friends to a village and school he doesn't like, where he has no friends. Within the first chapter the author deftly sets the scene with the boy Strato, his bully tormentor at school, his fighting parents and the strangeness of his new environment. Then it goes straight into the story, which is a good one.
Via a mysterious book from a mysterious bookshop presided over by a mysterious bird which may or may not be able to talk, Strato becomes the owner of a book that enables him to become invisible. He uses this (temporary) power to learn the truth about his bully, his parents and life as a grown-up, and he becomes stronger and makes some friends along the way.
There's an interesting scene in the book where Strato's teacher Dr Obejande tells him:
"Some people are natural victims because they indulge in self-pity, and compensate for their lack of popularity by imagining that they are superior to others. You are not superior to others and you are not inferior. You are just a boy, like any other. Behave like one, and you will find that you will be respected, and, in the long run, liked - or if not liked, then at least accepted by your peers."
I'm not sure that's correct advice for every loner kid out there, but it was right for Strato in this book.
This book got me thinking about "the invisible kids" at school. When I was a kid I wasn't invisible, but I was a nerd and I was shy. I always had friends and I told by a couple of teachers I was "respected by my peers", which always surprised me because I never saw any evidence of it. I was bullied to the "usual" degree, which is to say a couple of kids made me miserable for awhile, but it wasn't on a big scale and didn't last long.
As a bit of an outsider myself, I always empathized with the "invisible" kids. At primary school I befriended a girl who was reviled and bullied by everyone, and she was grateful for awhile and then turned on me spectacularly for reasons I didn't fully understand, but I know I wasn't the best of friends to her really. In high school I remember hanging out in the library with friends one lunchtime and a girl who sat and read in there alone every day listened to us and smiled at our jokes. I turned and smiled to her often as I felt sorry for her and I wanted to be kind, but - to my shame - I didn't invite her to join us. I remember wanting to, but not being sure how to do it (I was shy myself - and worried I would seem very uncool if I said "do you want to join us?").
School always had at least one loner kid who seemed pretty miserable. Some loner kids were probably not miserable, but even loners need friends.
Childhood, or specifically school, is so hard. We tend to forget how hard and awful it can be.
Did you know any invisible kids at school? Were you one of them?