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The Recess Queen

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A fresh & original twist on the common issue of bullying. Kids will relate, & parents & teachers will appreciate the story's deft handling of conflict resolution (which happens w/o adult intervention) Mean Jean was Recess Queenand nobody said any different.Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung.Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked.Nobody bounced until Mean Jean bounced.If kids ever crossed her, she'd push 'em and smoosh 'emlollapaloosh 'em, hammer 'em, slammer 'emkitz and kajammer 'em.Until a new kid came to school!With her irrepressible spirit, the new girl dethrones the reigning recess bully by becoming her friend in this infectious playground romp.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Alexis O'Neill

11 books8 followers
Alexis O'Neill grew up in Boston and Wakefield, Massachusetts. She earned a Ph.D. in Teacher Education from Syracuse University. She teaches writing for the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and was a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) in the Central-Coastal region of California.
She has also been educator and consultant for a number of musea: Erie Canal Museum, Onondaga Historical Association, Everson Museum of Art, Museum of Ventura County and the J. Paul Getty Museum. (information obtained through the author's website)

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5 stars
1,717 (46%)
4 stars
1,162 (31%)
3 stars
641 (17%)
2 stars
123 (3%)
1 star
45 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 534 reviews
Profile Image for NS- Sarah.
43 reviews
November 15, 2009
I simply love this story about Mean Jean the Recess Queen! There is a bully and her name is Mean Jean. It is known by all kids that when on the playground, "Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung. Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked. Nobody bounced until Mean Jean bounced." But there world is forever changed when a new students arrives by the name of Katie Sue. Katie Sue isn't aware of these unspoken rules so she starts kicking, bouncing, swinging and playing on the playground. When Mean Jean threatens her and tells her to stop, Katie Sue talks back! It is an adorable story of how a bullying situation is resolved because of one strong-willed, kind youngster. When Katie Sue invites Mean Jean to jump rope with her, she is at first shocked but in the end the two are playing together happily and sharing the jump rope. I will definitely be sharing this story with my students. Unfortunately, I feel that bullying happens in some form more than adults realize and this is such a positive way to begin a conversation about the topic. This book teaches children a valuable lesson about one way to handle a problem with a peer. The saying "kill 'em with kindness" is at the heart of this story.

I also loved the language used by the author, Alexis O'Neill. The rhyme as well as the nonsense words used throughout the book are both so engaging for young readers. Even though Mean Jean is treating others poorly, the author keeps the story light by using language like "... she pushed kids and smooshed kids, lollapalooshed kids, hammered 'em, slammered 'em, kitz and kajammered 'em as she charged after that Katie Sue." I can't wait to read this with my first graders!
Profile Image for (NS) Panagiota Angelos.
58 reviews1 follower
October 26, 2009
The Recess Queen is a story about a bully named Mean Jean that terrorizes kids on the playground. When it comes to recess time, nobody messes with Mean Jean. “Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung. Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked.” But things change when a new student arrives named Katie Sue. When the recess bell rings, Katie Sue does as she pleases. She didn’t know about Mean Jean and “her rules.” When Mean Jean confronts Katie Sue, she does something none of the other kids have done before…she talks back and stands up for herself. Mean Jean becomes furious until Katie Sue asks her something that changes Mean Jean.

Unfortunately, bullying can be a major problem in schools. There are many programs to help schools deal with this issue. The result of being bullied can be devastating for some children. This book can be used to help address the problem. It lends itself to discussions on how to deal with bullies. Students can discuss if they have been bullied and compare their feelings with those of the students on the playground. Also students can examine what makes Mean Jean a bully and explore some of the reasons people bully others. Every K-4 elementary teacher can benefit from owning this book in their class.

I listened to this book via cassette tape for one of my non-print choices this week. After listening to the audio book, I read the book to compare the two. Without a doubt, the illustrations in this book bring the story to life. I did not enjoy the story on tape, and do not think it would be effective for students without the illustrations.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,308 reviews64 followers
September 20, 2015
Oh boo-hoo the poor, hard-done-by bully... wait what?!?

The book implies that Jean is a bully because no one will play with her. The reality is more likely that no one will play with her because she is a bully.

The author seems to buy into the myth that bullies are hard-done-by individuals with poor self esteem. That might be true in a few cases. From what I have read, however, bullies are often bullies because they have a huge sense of entitlement and an unhealthy over estimation of their own 'greatness'.

I cannot see how this book would help child in a class with the bully, except for maybe the bully him-/herself.
Profile Image for Tom Bochnak.
32 reviews
March 5, 2015
This is a shocking book only because it handles bullying in a new, unique way. I imagine there are A LOT of books about bullies in picture books, and there's a good reason for that. However, they usually just fall flat on their face with their message. This book approaches the issue in a unique way because Katie Sue stood up to her bully with kindness instead of violence.

The book would also be easy to read for beginning readers because there's a lot of repetition. The onomatopoeias might be hard to say, but you could read the story instead.
February 1, 2015
The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill is about a elementary student named Mean Jean. Mean Jean frightens the other children so that they will not play until she plays. Then comes a little girl named Katie Sue. Katie Sue doesn't listen to Mean Jean's rules and plays anyway. Mean Jean is angered by this until Katie Sue asks her to play together. From then on Mean Jean got along with the other kids.

This books carries a great message to younger kids. Bullying is in issue present in elementary school, and it is present in this book. Mean Jean continues to be mean to the other children until Katie Sue asks her if she wants to play. Mean Jean is taken aback by this, she is in the story at a lost for words. This means that something like this has never happened to her. She has never been asked by the other kids to play. Perhaps the reason she was mean was because she did not know how to committee well with the other kids. This books shows little children that a bully is not all bad and sometimes they need a friend to include them into a group to show that they can work with others.

The illustrations of this book help connect to the story. At the beginning of the book the colors are full of blues, and reds. This colors create a mood of angry (red) and coldness (blue). This part of the book is when Mean Jean is bullying the other kids; the colors help to show how the other students feel. Also, if one looks closely at the other kids in the story they can see that they how afraid of Mean Jean they are. One kid are hiding under the seesaw and another is reading a a self defense nook. Once Katie Sue is introduced the colors switch from red and blue to greens, pinks, and yellows. These colors create a more cheerful and pleasant mood. The background characters seem more curious and happy here too.
Profile Image for Bernice.
60 reviews1 follower
October 26, 2009
Friendship is the true meaning behind this story. The social context in this story revolves around a little girl named Jean that is the big bully at the school. No one dares stand up to her, especially on the playground - that is until a new student comes to school. Usually Mean Jean is the first to do everything during recess. Unaware of "Mean Jean" and her ways, the new girl Ruth Sue comes to school and breaks all of her rules. Mean Jean is ready to fight Ruth Sue, but after marching up to her angrily she id surprised when Ruth Sue actually asks her to jump rope. It is then for the very first time that Jean actually plays with someone else versus fighting with them. The friendship blooms from there. From then on, recess is no longer a angry place and Jean is no longer mean. Instead, they all play together happily.

When reading this story, I really related the the problem of bullying and friendship. I have seen in my very own classroom how having one good friend can truly change one's behavior. I feel this would be a wonderful story for children to hear regardless of circumstances in the classroom. :)
Profile Image for Jaclyn Giordano.
55 reviews3 followers
February 23, 2010
The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill and Laura Hulisk-Beith is a picture book intended for readers in preschool through grade three. I gave it three stars. “Mean Jean always got her way. Until one day…” Mean Jean was queen of the elementary school yard, always bossing kids around, never one with any friends. The new girl in school, quiet Katie Sue, gets the best of Mean Jean, as Katie Sue is the first, the best, the new one in charge on the playground. Mean Jean reacts to Katie Sue’s invitation to jump rope in a surprising way, which no other kids saw coming, but leaves everyone having fun and with new friends. This warm book will teach young readers about the dangers of bullying and the importance of sharing and friendship. It’s playful, colorful, and wildly exaggerated illustrations emphasize the true emotions that go into making and keeping friends. Young readers will connect to the strong personalities in this book that are present in every classroom and on every playground and will be able to see that kindness can go a long way!
Profile Image for Tori Webster.
12 reviews1 follower
September 13, 2015
"The Recess Queen" is a book filled with rhyming and rhythm that empowers children to be kind to others, even when they don't seem so kind.
This book could be used to teach about author's craft, specifically how the author uses a rhythm to tell the story as well as repetition. It would also be a good book to use for character education as the new student (Katie Sue) chooses to be kind to "Mean Jean" and gets her to play with her towards the end of the story. This story shows how being kind to others can change their perspective and attitude.
This was a WOW book for me because often times, children are misunderstood by their peers and are perceived as being "mean," which causes others to not want to interact with them. This books shows children an instance of how being kind to others who seem "not-so-kind" can introduce you to a new friend. It was also a WOW book because I just loved the flow and rhythm of the story. It is told in such a way that is engaging - I can just see my students chanting along with it!
80 reviews
November 3, 2020
I absolutely like this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a great picture book. The illustrations make the book even more interesting. The illustrations are so well drawn and colorful. There is a bully at school named, "Mean Jean." All the students are scared of her and they don't bounce until she bounces. They don't swing until she swings. They don't jump until she jumps. However, that all changed when a new kind came to school. The new kid was tiny and small. She didn't know about mean Jean's rules or reputation. So, once the bell rang for recess, she ran to the playground and played before Jean began to play. Jean wasn't too happy about that and ran after her, and pulled her by her collar and screamed at her. The new kid wasn't intimidated by Jean at all, and even offered her to play jump rope with her. Jean eventually became friends with the new kid. And all the other students were so happy. The playground became a better place, because of the one act of kindness from the new kid.
80 reviews
December 4, 2020
Mean Jean is a young girl who is very popular to her school because of being mean. All of her classmates are very hesitant to play with her because they are all afraid of her. All of a sudden, a new student named Katie Sue arrived to their school and she did every activities first before Mean Jean. All of a sudden, Katie Sue befriended Mean Jean and these two girls became best friends.

We encountered a lot of bullies as we grow older. There are a lot of way to deal with the bully but the author of this story showed us that being kind is another way to deal with mean kids. Katie Sue wasn’t afraid of Mean Jean instead, she turned her as her friend. Befriending the bullies and showing them the right way to treat other kids is way better than showing violence. The illustration of this book is quite unique too as the illustrator illustrated Mean Jean bigger than the other kids to show her dominance towards other kids. But the illustration changed when Katie Sue came. It seemed like all of them are on the same level.
November 23, 2015
"The Recess Queen" tells the story of Mean Jean and how she is a bully during recess. All the other children are scared of Mean Jean and never want to play with her; then, Katie Sue, a new girl comes to school. Katie Sue continues to ask Mean Jean to play with her at recess, finally, Mean Jean is not so mean anymore. She finally has a friend and does not bully her classmates anymore. This book is a WOW book to me, because I love that Mean Jean finds a friend and is no longer mean. This story would be great for teaching recess rules, why it is important to not bully, characteristics of being a bully, POV, description of characters, and sequencing. Grades K-5 would enjoy this book as a read aloud; it would be a great story to use at the beginning of the year for recess rules or if your class begins to have recess problems. Grades 3-5 could enjoy this as an independent read. There are so many lessons and activities that can be used with this book and students enjoy the story.
12 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2017
The Recess Queen is a very bright picture book that follows a bossy elementary school student around the playground at recess. The recess queen plows through all of the students on the playground as if she does not care. All of the students on the playground are scared of the recess queen and no one stands up to her. One day there’s a new kid at school, and she confidently stands up to the recess queen not knowing she has a reputation. In the end relationships form and the playground is peaceful again. This could be a very practical book for teachers having trouble with students at recess or even a great book to set expectations of how recess should go. This book teaches the reader that they should not treat others the way they wouldn’t want to be treated and to stand up for themselves. Overall, I would recommend this book to all educators. This book can be found at a local library or online at amazon.com.
8 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2009
this book is to show you that sometimes poeple can change and some poeple can not.this book is about a kid that is the recess queen and she does not let anyone kick untill she kicks. she does not let kids swing untill she swings. everything changed untill a new girl came to her school .this girl did not know the queens rules. when she heared the bell ring she ran like lightnig. she was faster then the recess queen. the rcess queen ran after her to tell her about the rules and when the recess queen finally got to her she grab her reallyhard and said "nobody kicks unless I kick nobody swing unless I swing and nobody slid's unless I slide."she ran off again and got the jump rope and sang I like ice cream Ilike jean Iwant jean to jump with me. and all she needed was a friend to play with.when she heared that every body saaid jump with her. so she did and she was nice to every body.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
3,588 reviews45 followers
January 27, 2020
Bright, colorful illustrations accompany rhyming text in this classic bullying tale. Mean Jean bullies everyone and no one does anything about it. Finally, a new kid moves to town and she stands up to Jean. While it's an overdone trope, it is an important issue and this book will get kids thinking and talking about it. A nice conversation starter for lower elementary age kids. If you read this to your kids, please just be careful not to let the impression stand that all kids who bully do so because no one invites them to play. That does a disservice to both the victim and the bully. (Hence 3 stars instead of 4).
12 reviews
January 20, 2022
Text-to- World Connection
"The Recess Queen" is a good example for kindergartners and first graders, showing them what bullying might look like for their age group. In the real world, you will have some kids/students that will try to take over everything and make people scared of them. However, sometimes there could be an underlying problem that might needs resolving, and the person considered a bully doesn't know how to go about doing so. Also, this book demonstrates how remaining yourself and being kind to people goes a long way. Katie Sue in this story never changed from being nice and wanting to be Mean Jeans friend, she remained herself and won Mean Jean over with her kindness.
58 reviews3 followers
March 13, 2010
Reading Level: K-3rd grade
Mean Jean, the recess queen is the playground bully at school. Told in fun rhyming poetic form, "she'd push em and smoosh em, lollapaloosh em," it looks at the reason she bullies and one new girl's actions that change that. I loved the illustrations - so fun and a perfect complement to the fun text. It takes the issue of bullying and presents a possible solution for young children in a really fun way! You could use this in the classroom and create your own rhyming class book on dealing with the bossy bullies!
Profile Image for Naomi Leasck.
17 reviews
May 6, 2021
I thought this Realistic Fiction Picture Book was well written. I likely the Rhyme Scheme it presented throughout the story, especially when discussing the role the dominant Character, Mean Jean, demonstrated on the playground. I think the story's Theme of inclusion and taking a stance against bullying. These topics are very important for children to not only be comfortable with, but to actively practice in their own lives. I would happily include this book in my classroom library.
Profile Image for hal .
771 reviews108 followers
July 9, 2016
Wow, I actually read this ten years ago. I was in 1st grade then. I'll be a junior in high school in the fall. Wow, that's really weird to think. Time flies.
I think I will reread this, for nostalgic purposes.
25 reviews
September 17, 2015
This book made me laugh, and I loved that about it. I thought that this Queen Jean character was going to be mean the whole time but the way the book ended was just adorable. I think any book for children needs to have great illustrations to catch the eye for the students, just like this book.
131 reviews2 followers
August 11, 2009
This book would be great to instruct on bullies in the classroom. I liked the way it handled the issue without labeling the children.
Profile Image for Hannah.
218 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2017
Nobody questions Mean Jean the Recess Queen! Find out what happens when a new girl joins the class on the playground.
(Sometimes, the pictures are almost more entertaining than the story.)
Profile Image for Maki.
770 reviews
May 15, 2019
Great book about why people are mean and how to make a new friend.
Profile Image for Heather McC.
869 reviews5 followers
February 5, 2021
New girl Katie Sue strikes an unlikely friendship with the class bully by daring to be kind with some delightfully surprising results.
Profile Image for Heather Sands.
10 reviews
April 13, 2018
This cute and enticing children's story is a very fun read for kids and for adults too! It starts off with a scary main character named Mean Jean. She is the queen of recess and wouldn't let any of the other kid play until she played first. All of the other kids during recess were scared of Queen Jean and did not want to play with her. Then a new student named Katie Sue comes to school and when the bell rings, she runs to the playground and immediately starts playing. Everyone is shocked and their jaws are on the ground! Queen Jean tells her that she can't play before she does but Katie Sue in return asks Jean to play with her. Then they start jump roping together and become friends. Now everyone can play together and have fun and not be scared of Queen Jean. The two main characters in this story are Queen Jean who is mean bully that has to be in charge of everyone all the time. The second main character is Katie Sue and she just wants to have fun and play with everyone. Turns out that all Mean Jean needed was someone like Katie Sue to ask her to play and be her friend.

I really enjoyed this book because it keeps the reader on their toes and has a lot of popping colors to keep the story interesting. It is very fun and relatable or kids because they have recess everyday. It also shows them that sometimes all someone needs to be happy is a friend, and someone to play with. All of the illustrations in this children's book are cartoon pop art. They have a lot of color that attracts the reader and interests them at the same time. This artistic style fits the writing perfectly. The two characters are young and have big personalities that show through the tone of the writing and the design of the pictures. These illustrations show movement and a lot of emotion to the reader. Another literary element that is very common and helpful is the use of rhyming as well as repetition. There is rhyming at the ends of the sentences and the repetition is used for what Mean Jean says to all of the other students as well as Katie Sue. Both of these work together to create a fun adventure for the reader as well as help them understand and learn. There is a very big universal theme in this story that can be taught through the the use of literary and artistic elements.
14 reviews
March 5, 2021

The plot of the recess queen by Alexis O’Neill is there is a girl Jeanie who bullies the other students and always gets to go first and make the rules on the playground. Nobody ever gets to argue with her because she is always right and she gets her way every single time. This makes the other students miserable during recess and scared. Then a new girl Katie comes in, and she is teeny tiny. However she doesn’t know of Jeanies reputation therefore she is unafraid of Jeannie. By simply asking do you want to play, she completely changes Jeannie's attitude and helps everyone realize that all Jeannie needed was a friend.
The two main characters are Jeanie and Katie. Jeanie is the playground bully who bosses around the other students and always makes sure she gets to go first for everything. Katie is the new girl who is unaware of the social structure the kids have on the playground therefore does not have a bias towards the situation.
The thing that I really like about the recess queen is that Jeanie, who is the playground bully, ended up having the new girl understand her and where she was coming from, and then there was a solution to the problem. The new girl Katie was kind to Jeanie and ended up helping solve Jeanies problem. This is a problem that so many children will be able to relate to, that I feel like whether or not someone discusses the book with you, it will be understood what went on in the moral that the author was trying to portray.
This book could be used in the classroom at the beginning of the school year to explain recess kindness. There is always going to be a student who might bully the other students to some level, but if the other students know how to handle and solve that problem early on then the rest of the year would run way more smoothly. By reading this book and having the students explain what they noticed and then piggybacking off of what the students answers are to explain the book and creating different scenarios of your own, the students can better grasp the moral of the story. A fun activity also would be to have students act out the bully and the new student and role-play different scenarios and different things they could say to the bully and different things that the new student could say.
35 reviews
March 3, 2018
The Recess Queen is a picture book depicting "Mean Jean" as she bullies her way through the recess playground, with no one brave enough to say anything different. "Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung. Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked." The "tiny new kid" Katie Sue makes her debut, and pays no attention to what Mean Jean has to say, playing what she wants and having an exciting time. Mean Jean then "pushes and smooshes" her way through her classmates to confront the naive Katie Sue, "hammering and slammering" along her way. To everyone's surprise, tiny new kid Katie Sue stands up to Mean Jean in a welcoming way, taking out her jumprope and asking Mean Jean if she wants to play. This book is a different take on the encounters of bullying, and lets the children handle the situations themselves. That is the beauty of this story. The pictures are bright and interactive, and coupled with the amusing action word vocabulary and fun use of varying fonts, brings the story to life. The expressions on the children's faces and movement throughout really make you feel their emotions. The story would just not come to life as much without the expressive and charming illustrations. This book can easily be incorporated into lessons on bullying, sharing, and "the golden rule". It would fit perfectly with primary grade standards for good citizenship, as well as a quick behavior reminder read aloud for upper elementary grades. Critiques might cite minor violent-like behavior or that there are no teachers around, but that is what makes this story unique. Recommended for ages 3-9 as a read aloud and ages 7-9 as a reader, as the spelling patterns and actions words are a bit advanced for young readers to sound out.
September 10, 2020
A realistic fiction book that tells the story of how the playground bully had a change of heart. Everyone knew that Mean Jean was the recess queen and nobody did anything until Mean Jean did it first. But one day everything changes for Mean Jean. There is a new kid on the block named Katie Sue who did not know anything about Mean Jean's rules This of course ruffles Mean Jean's feathers and she decides to confront Katie Sue. The last thing Mean Jean expected was for Katie Sue to talk back. No one else dared to backtalk Mean Jean. But Katie Sue was different and even asked Mean Jean a question that would soon change her life. She finally gained a true friendship and no longer terrorized the other children on the playground.

This story was an insightful story about a bully and a tiny new kid. Bullying is a common issue throughout all schools. This could lead teachers to have discussions about bullying and the effects bullying has on others. This book suggests that Mean Jean probably became a bully because she did not have any friends when actually she probably did not have friends because she was a bully.

I would share this book with 5th grade and under. This is a great mentor text on bullying. Bullying can oftentimes be a touchy subject. Some students are afraid to speak out on bullies. This book could create mini discussions on how to handle bullies, how to speak up for yourself, and how to treat others. In the classroom, students can reflect on their past experiences with bullies and how it made them feel. This book also indicates the understanding that everyone has feelings.
40 reviews
October 14, 2019
The Recess Queen is a story about a girl named Mean Jean. She has been crowned the recess queen, and all the other students on the playground listen to her. However, one day a new girl named Katie Sue shows up. She’s very quiet and small, however when recess came around she played and didn’t pay any mind to Mean Jean. Mean Jean goes after Katie Sue, but Katie Sue defended herself and didn’t listen to Mean Jean. The story ends with Katie Sue asking Mean Jean if she wants to play jump rope with her. Nobody had ever asked Mean Jean to play before. Jean ends up playing with Katie Sue, and having a great time.
This is a fun story with lots of interesting sounds and rhyme. The artwork is pretty as well. It’s very engaging and humorous. The story is also very interesting by itself. It’s a cute story about being nice to others, and treating others how you want to be treated. I saw this be read to a group of second graders and they loved it and were super engaged.
Teaching Point
I would use this book to teach students about being nice to others. I think this is still a concept we need to teach to students sometimes today. By providing students with a story they can remember and refer to when in a similar situation, students are able to make better decisions about how they treat others. This book could also be read again depending on if a issue arises in the classroom without directly calling out the students involved.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 534 reviews

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