March 29, 2019

I Didn't Stand Up

Written by Lucy Falcone
Illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon
Clockwise Press
32 pp.
Ages 5+ (really all ages)
December 2018

In the aftermath of World War II, a Protestant pastor in Germany, Martin Niemöller, popularized a poem called "First They Came" about the abuses enacted by the Nazis upon different groups of people like socialists, trade unionists and Jewish people and how many would not stand up to protect the innocent. Using that text as a model, Lucy Falcone wrote I Didn't Stand Up about not standing up to school bullies who target those they see as different. It's a lesson in compassion and courage to defy oppression and persecution.
From I Didn't Stand Up by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Jacqueline Hudon
The book begins with
First they went after Jamal.
But I'm not black –
so I didn't stand up for him.
It continues with similar verses about Duncan who is targeted as a geek, Shyanne who is poor, Mariana who is an immigrant, Jason who is gay, Aisha who is Muslim and wears a headscarf, Liam who uses arm crutches, transgendered Alexis and overweight Marvin, And then they come after the narrator. Finally the child wants to be part of that larger group that might support them. Fortunately they do.

The text is minimal but says so much about how little it takes for a bully to select a victim and for bystanders to do nothing. Lucy Falcone wallops the reader with the intensity of each situation, seemingly innocuous but always devastating to the victim. The weighting is in Jacqueline Hudon's illustrations, depicting large-eyed victims of bullies who harm with words and actions.
From I Didn't Stand Up by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Jacqueline Hudon
The prevalence of yellow throughout the book can't help but be noted. Yellow, like most colours, has dual symbolism. It can represent enlightenment, as from the sun's light, as well as warmth. But, as with traffic lights, it is the colour of caution, and negatively it has also been used to signify cowardice and betrayal. I like to think that like the children in I Didn't Stand Up, the colour yellow evolves, becoming activated to do something positive.
From I Didn't Stand Up by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Jacqueline Hudon
Lucy Falcone is already known to middle-graders as L. M. Falcone with her award-winning fun and spooky reads like Walking with the Dead (Kids Can Press, 2005) and The Midnight Curse (Kids Can Press, 2010). So it's highly appropriate that Lucy Falcone has chosen a different moniker for her first picture book and one so impactful with its message of social justice and community. With I Didn't Stand Up, illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon who created the artwork for Bye, Bye, Butterflies (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012) and Charlie's Dirt Day (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2015), Lucy Falcone has opened up a new window of writing for herself while shedding light on the damage of being a bystander to bullying and the need to step up and forward for all.


  1. Wow! So few words can make a huge difference. An important book for children.

    1. I agree, Darlene. Thanks for your comment.

  2. In junior high, I quoted "First They Came" in an essay and it has stayed with me all my life. What a powerful picture book. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, Helen.

    1. It's amazing when you can make a connection like that with a book. Obviously that text resonated with you. I’m sure this book will do the same with many others