Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope

Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope


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Olivia Gardner, a northern California teenager, was severely taunted and cyber-bullied by her classmates for more than two years. News of her bullying spread, eventually reaching two teenage girls from a neighboring town, sisters Emily and Sarah Buder. The girls were so moved by Olivia's story that they initiated a letter-writing campaign to help lift her spirits. It was a tender gesture of solidarity that set off an overwhelming chain reaction of support, encouragement, and love.

In Letters to a Bullied Girl, Olivia and the Buder sisters share an inspiring selection of messages that arrived from across America—the personal, often painful remembrances of former targets, remorseful bullies, and sympathetic bystanders. Letters to a Bullied Girl examines our national bullying epidemic from a variety of angles and perspectives, and includes practical guidance from bullying expert Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander. Though addressed to Olivia, the letters speak to all young people who have been bullied, offer advice and hope to those who suffer, and provide a wake-up call to all who have ever been involved in bullying.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061544620
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/05/2008
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 753,655
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Olivia Gardner is a 14 year old Middle School student from Novato California who was bullied for more than two years at three different schools after having an epileptic seizure one day in class. The bullying worsened when students created an "Olivia Haters" web site on MySpace. Today Olivia is home schooled by her mother.

Emily and Sarah Buder, sisters from Mill Valley, first learned of Olivia's story in March 2007 and were inspired to ask fellow students to write letters to raise Olivia's spirits. With growing media attention and the Internet, what began as a project to send Olivia a few encouraging letters grew with near 3,000 "Dear Olivia" emails and hand-written letters flooding in from around the nation and world from people of all ages, including bullies themselves.

Emily and Sarah Buder, sisters from Mill Valley, first learned of Olivia's story in March 2007 and were inspired to ask fellow students to write letters to raise Olivia's spirits. With growing media attention and the Internet, what began as a project to send Olivia a few encouraging letters grew with near 3,000 "Dear Olivia" emails and hand-written letters flooding in from around the nation and world from people of all ages, including bullies themselves.

Read an Excerpt

Letters to a Bullied Girl
Messages of Healing and Hope

By Olivia Gardner
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008

Olivia Gardner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061544620

Part One

The Bullies

"Not a year goes by that I don't feel ashamed."

Dear Olivia,

I have one message that I'd like to pass on to you, and it comes from the perspective of the abuser, not the abused.

I am a 45-year-old, happily married, and well-adjusted man. When I was in middle school and high school, I was particularly mean to a classmate. Ruthlessly mean, in fact. She was from a poorer family, heavier in size, had few friends. An easy target. The torment lasted far too long, probably through my sophomore year of high school.

My behavior plagued me far longer than the four or five years I bullied my classmate. After much introspection, I know why I did it. The details aren't as important as the message: bullies feel better about themselves by picking on others. The bullying has nothing to do with the abused and everything to do with the abusers.

I am ashamed of my behavior, just as your bullies may one day be ashamed of themselves. But I have learned from it. If there is one thing that I would say to my classmate today, it is that I was a weak person then, full of self-loathing and with a black hole in my heart. How sorry I am for not being a strong enough person to see the damage I was causing.

Being abused makes you grow upquickly. You probably understand this already, but please, don't let anyone take away your self-respect and self-confidence. The good news is that this whole mess is temporary. You'll get through it before you know it.

Good luck with all you do in life,


Dear Olivia,

I am glad you are getting so much support. When I was in middle school (many years ago) I was not at all popular, even though just the year before, in sixth grade, I hung out with the "cool" kids. For some reason, when we went into seventh grade, I was no longer cool. I had hardly any friends. And the other kids just ignored me. What I want to tell you is that I did something that I am really, really sorry about now. There were a girl and a boy who people made fun of. I don't think I ever really said anything to them, but in my heart and mind, I made fun of both of them. Somehow I thought it gave me just a little bit of coolness to do that, though of course it didn't at all.

Now I am a minister and I'm also a Buddhist. I've thought a lot about things I have done in my life that I feel badly about, and the way I thought about those two kids is one of the things I feel really badly about. I have apologized to them in my heart, and I hope they have felt my apology in some way. I know you've heard from kids who have been bullied—but I don't know if you've heard from anyone who has done the bullying. I know now why I did it, and I know it may have caused them pain. I hope they grew up to know they are wonderful human beings, just like you are, Olivia. No person is any better than any other person. We are all the same, really. We all have gifts and things we do well, and we all have parts of us we may not be proud of. And we all have hearts that are made to love—it's the very best thing we can do, I think! And everybody can do it. In fact, if everybody did it, what a great world we would have! And you, Olivia, have helped a whole lot of people to learn what it's like to send love to someone we don't even know.

I'm glad to have the opportunity to share my story with you, Olivia, but I'm even more glad that you've found so many people who DO care about using their hearts and minds to love and to support each other. I hope you can soak up all the love, just like sitting in the sunshine on a nice spring day. Love to you for the rest of your life,


Dear Olivia,

My daughter is going into middle school this fall, and this story shed light on a situation that is very real and has been around for decades. Your story ripped open an old wound for me.

I was that bully when I was in high school. My "clique" and I said the most awful things to a girl. Later in life, I deeply regretted the words I used to taunt her. It bothered me so deeply that twelve years after I graduated, I sat down and wrote her a long letter.

I told her that I was sorry and that I hoped that my own insecurities when I was in high school did not forever taint her life and that I did not expect her to ever forgive me but that I wanted her to know that I was very sorry.

I never heard back from her, but one day, I ran into her brother, whom I had not seen in many years. He told me that she had received the letter, and it did make a difference to her.

Olivia, I am so sorry for what has happened to you. Bullying needs to stop and I am so so proud of your new friends Emily and Sarah for stepping forward to help stop it. I have raised my three daughters to act the same way as these two sisters. It was hard to tell my children that I was a bully. As a parent I wanted my children to see me as perfect, but I learned how important it is to show my kids that we all have faults and that healing and progressing becomes powerful when we confront our issues.

Olivia, I hope you have an incredibly successful life. Emily and Sarah, I am so proud of you.



Excerpted from Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner
Copyright © 2008 by Olivia Gardner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Madeline Levine

“Letters to a Bullied Girl is a must read for all young people. Instead of analyzing or proselytizing, it takes us right into the heart of the matter...”

Suzanne Shulman

“Emily and Sarah Buder are powerful examples of what an incredible impact you can make by speaking up...This book is an inspiration and a powerful call to action...”

Rosalind Wiseman

“This book shows how one girl’s life was transformed through the moral courage of others...For all the parents who ask me what they can do to help their child, this book will comfort and inspire.”

Alexis Burling

LETTERS could (and should) be a wake-up call to school administrators and parents…that is, those who are blissfully unaware that the problem isn’t going away ... It’s also an excellent resource for teens, both for those who are being bullied and for those who are standing by watching it happen.

Carol Weston

“...This powerful book can help bolster a wounded sense of self, offer a community of support, and deflect the barbs of cruel sad cowards... Letters to a Bullied Girl is not just helpful and heartwarming—it’s potentially life-saving.”

Brenda High

“As I read Olivia’s story, I couldn’t help but wonder if these same letters could have helped my son Jared, who died by “bullycide.” ... At some time in our lives, couldn’t we all use such letters to help us through our worst moments?”

Ann Pleshette Murphy

“... At a time when traditional bullying has been compounded by the viral nature of the web, Letters to a Bullied Girl, strives to show that there’s a way to fight this abuse.”

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Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recommended to me by one of the youth I work with, this book was amazing, and a must read for anyone with teenagers or working with youth. The honesty with which people share their experiences, the emotion that is conveyed, and the hope that emanates from these letters is truly an amazing insight into the issue of bullying. We are using it as the basis for a book club and discussion at the non-profit I direct this Fall, and I am certain the youth will resonate with the letters. I recommend it wholeheartedly!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this book i told my school about it now everyone is reading it. And i told my school librarian about the book now i think we have 5 copys of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good job emily and sarah...i admire you for what you did!! <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In May 2007, you may have been watching the news when a story aired about Olivia Gardner, a 14-year-old epileptic girl from California. She was bullied for two years in three different schools. You may have heard about two sisters, Emily and Sarah, who started a letter campaign for bullied teens and others. It had begun as small town campaign but grew to be worldwide and sparked websites, other campaigns, and now a book.

The book contains more than 150 letters and emails from others that have experienced what Olivia has or now regret participating in the bullying of others. This book is something everyone should experience. It is a sad book filled with firsthand accounts of verbal and physical abuse.

It even contains letters from parents who participated in the bullying of others. A common response among these adults is that they don't know why they did it. They say they regret it, but that is no excuse. Bullying is considered horrific when directed at kids and teens, but does anyone ever grow out of it?

The book has a positive message--that there are people who care and want to help others even if they don't know the person they are helping. Emily and Sarah didn't even know Olivia. They just saw a teen in need and then showed her that she wasn't alone, that even strangers care. They changed her life forever.

LETTERS TO A BULLIED GIRL should be a wake-up call to everyone everywhere. There are signs that everyone should be aware of. I consider it an excellent resource for teens and others who are being bullied or just watching it all happen. Everyone should read this book because it will help others realize that bullying should never be allowed to happen.
Ashly16 More than 1 year ago
I give this book 5 stars. Its very inspritional, this book touched me very deeply. Its a topic that everyone was come in contact to bullying. Everyone should read this book, the bullied and the bulliers. I stand in a postion that i "was" a bullier. After reading this book i felt extremely bad about what i did. If you need a good book to read i difantly recommend this book.