Introduction to this Stone Soup Writing Activity

In “Blending In,” by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Charlie is at camp where he is teased by Carl and Jeremy, as well as by other campers. Like most stories about teasing, “Blending In” is told from the perspective of the boy or girl who is teased. But what about Carl, Jeremy, and the others? What are they thinking and feeling? In what way do they see Charlie as “different” and why does that make them want to tease him?

Project: As a Challenge, Write a Story About Teasing From the Point of View of the Teasers

Make your characters as interesting and complex as possible–more than just “good” and “bad” guys. Like a reporter, you can do research for your story. All of us (almost) tease people and most of us have experienced being teased, so you should be able to gather information for your story from many sources. Talk to your friends and family about teasing, and don’t forget to think about your own life and actions. Through your characters’ actions you might want to provide insights into such questions as: How do your characters identify someone who is fun to tease? Do your characters ever plan in advance what they do? Is teasing all fun for your characters or do they sometimes think about their actions afterwards and feel bad about what they have done?

Blending In

By Jonathan Rosenbaum, 10, Hillel Day School, Oak Park, Michigan
Illustrated by the author
From the March/April 1985 Issue of Stone Soup

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am having the best time ever at overnight camp. The activities are fun, and the counselors and campers are really great. Don’t forget to write. Love ya!

Love, Charlie

P.S. Send some candy, please. Preferably licorice.

I lay my Erasermate and letter down and plopped onto my cot. Although it wasn’t the big, comfortable bed I have back home, even it seemed good considering my weary condition. I had just returned from a morning softball game followed by clean-up duty in the mess hall so I was really feeling exhausted.

I re-read my letter and sighed. Well, two out of three isn’t bad, I thought to myself. The activities at camp are fun: boating, swimming, sports, drama, field trips, arts and crafts. My counselors are great: David is very understanding and Bob is super at sports. But, the campers . . .

Sighing again, I stood up and trudged across the rough wooden floor to the bunk bathroom. I looked at myself in the cracked, dirty mirror, and a tear rolled down my cheek. Why couldn’t I write the truth to my parents? I know that they would understand and help make everything all right. Because I love them, though, I didn’t want to break their hearts with my problems. After all, they paid for me to have a good, fun time at camp so how could I send them a letter saying that their dear son, Charlie, is an outsider and a jerk and has no friends.

Sighing for the third time, I walked back to my cot and braced myself for the daily matinee performance of “Let’s Irk Charlie.” Sure enough, there was Carl, the “star” of the tragedy, sprawled across my bed, messing up my blankets, sleeping bag, and pillow. He even seemed to have added jumping on my bed to his role. I glared at him, feeling both angry and helpless. I was mad because I knew he was doing this on purpose, fully aware that having my things messed up bothered me. I felt helpless because I knew that if I told him to get off, he’d just call me a nerd and make life more miserable for me, and if I ignored him, my stuff would look like a tornado had hit it.

Having no real choice, I reluctantly assumed my part in the unfolding drama. In a strained voice, I said, “Carl, would you please get off my bed?”

Carl taunted, “But your bed is more comfortable than mine.”

In a voice even more forced, I pleaded, “Come on, Carl! Really! I’m not being mean or anything, but just PLEASE get off my bed!”

Again, Carl refused, so, on cue, the dialogue ended and the physical action began. I pulled at Carl, Carl fought back, I pulled again. Finally, only when my bed had become a total disaster, did Carl majestically get off. He looked at me with disgust and hatred in his eyes.

Blending In pulling the blanket off

“Jeez! Why are you in such a bad mood all the time?” With that, he grandly stamped off to the other guys who had been applauding throughout the entire scene. They all chatted together, totally ignoring me.

Intermission lasted until bedtime when the evening performance of “Let’s Irk Charlie” began. This time, Jeremy, another cabinmate, was the star. Every night before Lights Out, Jeremy would bug me to let him read one of my comic books. In a never-ending attempt to be one of the guys, I would lend him one. Within minutes, Jeremy had either dripped toothpaste over the pages, “accidentally” dropped the book into the toilet, or crinkled it up to use as a pretend softball. When I finally got the comic back, it looked like it had been through World War III.

I didn’t know who I hated more, Carl, Jeremy, and the guys, or myself. Why do they have to bother me all the time? Why do I have to get so uptight when they jump on my bed or mess up my things? Are they wrong for hurting me the way they do, or am I wrong for being the way I am? Sometimes I feel so disgusted and confused that I even wish that I could stop time, turn back the clock, and do the day over as a totally different person.

Blending In Pouring toys in the toilet

When I once talked this over with my counselor, David, he suggested that I make a list of everything that I do or say to my friends, circle what they don’t like about me, and then work on improving my faults. Sometimes I think that’s a good idea, but at other times I have a lot of doubt. Why should I have to give up the way that I am just to blend in with the crowd? Why can’t I be me and still be able to blend in?

As I lay on my cot that night, I realized that I cannot become what every other person wants me to be. Changing what I am because I want to is one thing; rearranging my personality just to please everyone else is another thing. Hopefully, I will one day find that special group of kids who are like me and who will accept me for what I am. For now, though, I’ll just have to try to make the best of a not so wonderful situation. I gave a long sigh and went to sleep.

William Rubel, Editor
About the Author

In 1973, I was twenty years old, teaching children's art classes at my college, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and came up with the idea that the best way to encourage children to write was to introduce them to the best writing by their peers. Stone Soup grew out of that idea. Along with co-editor Gerry Mandel, I have continued to edit and publish Stone Soup for all these years. I am also a culinary historian. I write about traditional foodways. My book, "The Magic of Fire," is about hearth cooking. My book, "Bread, a global history," speaks for itself. I am currently writing a 130,000-word bread history for a University Press. I publish articles on gardening and traditional foodways at Mother Earth News. I also publish on wild mushrooms and other food-related subjects.

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