Endorsed by Joel A. Dvoskin, Ph.D., ABPP
Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Arizona Medical School
President, American Psychological Association's Law Society division
"I don't regret much in my life, but my moments of greatest shame take me back to my childhood and adolescence. Never a victim or a perpetrator of bullying, I am ashamed to admit that there were times when I stood by silently and watched my friends terrify or humiliate a weaker kid. My silence—my cowardice—was no more complicated than complete relief that I was not the target, and abject terror that I could be the target in the future.
"In contrast, my proudest moments, not surprisingly, relate to the childhood of my kids, each of whom courageously risked social ostracism, and at least in one case, a black eye, to stand up for real friends who were being bullied.
"Sadly, however, standing up to bullies is still the exception and not the rule. Simply put, the bad guys have hijacked morality. We've stood by and watched them create a society where it is morally repugnant to ask a grownup for help, and morally acceptable to emotionally rape someone simply because they are weak.
"It is time for the good guys to fight back, not with fists but with rules of engagement that reboot our culture, so that kindness and decency and empathy are cool, and ruthless assault are not. 'Mean People Suck' needs to be more than a bumper sticker.
"In a study of the Columbine shooters, my colleagues and I were told by lots of good kids, 'I don't approve of what they did, but I sure understood it. The people on their hit list were the same people that terrorized me and my friends.' But none of them had a clue as to how to reclaim their school from the bad guys.
"So how do we reclaim the right to define what is good? The old ways of communicating values don't seem to be working, so Andrew Vachss, Frank Caruso, and Zak Mucha created a whole new genre. The one consistent truth throughout time is that values are communicated by stories, and in Heart Transplant, we have a story for the ages. Simple, powerful, and crystal clear, this gripping story gives kids and grownups alike a road map to change, both for individual kids and more importantly, for the school as a community.
"This book should be required reading in every elementary school in America, accompanied by a class discussion. Who is cooler, the gifted child who finds ways to help share his or her gifts by lifting up weaker classmates, or the bully who cruelly feeds his narcissistic need for dominance at the expense of anyone too frightened to pose a threat? Which is cooler, dominance or empathy?
"More importantly, however, this book must be read by every teacher in America. Every person who considers themselves a leader of the PTA, a member of the school board, or in any way fit to control the education of young people needs to read this book. Most adults don't want bullying to be a sad but immutable fact of life; they just don't know what to do about it.
"In medicine, when a heart transplant is required, lesser interventions will never suffice. Read this book and make everyone you know read this book. When bullies rule, everything we hold sacred is at risk. When bullies are the Outsiders, the problem will extinguish itself."
Endorsed by Flora Colao, LCSW
Founder, Rape Crisis Program at St. Vincent's Hospital
Founder, S.A.F.E.'s Children's Program
Co-author, Your Children Should Know (Harper and Row, 1987)
"We defend what is important to us and we protect what we love. These are the essential building blocks of living in a healthy society. The adults in the family are supposed to make sure the children know that they are valued and loved. This is done through being attuned to children's feelings and providing for their needs. When children know they are loved and accepted, that their feeling and perceptions matter, they develop an inner strength that is an asset to them their entire lives. This inner strength is the first and most important "self-defense" we can give our children. It provides them with the ability to trust themselves and their instincts. It makes it possible for them to judge the behavior of others accurately. It helps them value themselves and be able to stand up for themselves and those they love. It provides them with the ability to face whatever challenges come their way with confidence.
"Heart Transplant is a book that depicts how deeply hurt a child can be from neglectful and abusive relationships. However, it also shows the profound healing that can come from an empathetic and loving relationship. Both the child and his adopted father are healed by their relationship. Heart Transplant makes it clear that defending what's important to us and protecting what we love begins at home. This is the key to begin to address the problem of bullying. The family is the heart of society. Heart Transplant shows us how to make sure it is a strong heart."
Endorsed by Professor Joe R. Lansdale
Creator, Shen Chuan martial science
"It's not about looks and strength. It's about the thing that's most important: Heart. And heart is what this book is all about, in more ways that one. It's not about toughness of hide so much as it's about toughness of spirit. That's what being a true success is about. And this wonderful story strikes me deep as an instructor of Martial Arts and a father of two fine children. It's about someone who takes a concern in your well-being and shows you the worth that's already there. It's about being a father figure, a mentor, about putting the hopes and dreams and needs of someone else before your own. I had a father like Pop, so I know. This is a story about someone showing you the door to your own personal strength and character, and learning to believe that all you have to do is step on through."
Endorsed by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, The ChildTrauma Academy
Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
"School libraries and counseling offices all across this country are filled with brochures, anti-bullying posters, articles, DVDs, multi-media curricula, all attempting to decrease bullying by creating awareness, providing insight and suggesting personal and program changes. Most of these materials are, justifiably, collecting dust. If any of these well-intended efforts worked—really communicated with children, teachers and parents, really caused changes in behavior—we wouldn't need to keep coming up with new and 'improved' anti-bullying programs. The sad reality is that most of these efforts misunderstand the central issues that underlie bullying behavior in children. And the few programs and products that have good insights rarely have the capacity to communicate effectively and engage the children who need help the most.
"But that is not the case with Heart Transplant. This is a remarkably powerful fusion of compelling narrative, evocative visual imagery and brilliant social analysis that creates a simple, effective and important tool for change. Andrew Vachss tells the story of a marginalized boy growing up in a chaotic, traumatic and violent world adopted by a wise and patient man. It is a moving narrative that rings harsh and rings true; Vachss knows these children. Frank Caruso's art surrounds the words and reinforces, elaborates and enriches the narrative. The combination is captivating synchrony. It pulls you in, around and through this boy's heartbreaking, hopeful life to a final powerful insight. It is the magic of storytelling at its very, very best. The book is anchored by Zak Mucha's incredible essay on the core issues of bullying. It is a thoughtful and stark analysis of truths that must be acknowledged if school bullying will ever truly be effectively addressed.
"Combining these three different but complementing 'voices' in a single work to capture attention and communicate is, as far as I know, a completely new approach. It is a courageous innovation and an effective collaboration that I would love to see used more often. In part because I can guarantee that children will want to read this. They will be moved by the images and words—and more important—they will think about being marginalized, degraded, humiliated and bullying in a different way. When they read Heart Transplant they will not forget it.
"Teachers and parents will find that Heart Transplant can be the perfect lens to focus meaningful dialogue about the origins of bullying and the pervasive nature of the exploitation of power in our society. The scope of important, inter-related themes that this work highlights is broad—so this can be a tool for a classroom to be used for much more than merely addressing bullying. These themes include belonging, finding your niche, negotiating the challenging social maze of middle and high school, seeing beyond the pervasive materialism that permeates our culture, the toxic effects of trauma in childhood, the power of relationships in healing and so much more.
"In brief, Heart Transplant should be in every classroom, library and home. If you are truly serious about understanding and stopping bullying read Heart Transplant. This is one book that will not collect dust."
Endorsed by David Hechler
Senior Reporter, Corporate Counsel and The American Lawyer
Author, The Battle and the Backlash: The Child Sexual Abuse War
Fellow for Children and the News at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism
"Reality TV wouldn’t be such a joke if they simply called it low-overhead TV and dropped the pretense that there's anything real about it. At the same time, it's put to shame by an emerging art form that could be called Reality Comics.
"Heart Transplant is Exhibit A. In a perfect marriage of words and images, author Andrew Vachss and cartoonist Frank Caruso first unmask the unreality of Hollywood's stories about bullies and victims, which always seem to culminate in preposterous scenes of redemption.
"Then they do something harder—and more important. They tell a story about bullying that rings true. It takes the reader into a harsher world than those movies care to explore. We recognize it because we've all been there. It's not a pretty picture. But averting our eyes only guarantees it will survive to haunt the next generation.
"Vachss and Caruso are nothing if not ambitious. Their clear goal is the eradication of bullying. But they're too smart to preach. They know the power of a story that's eye-opening, touching and wise. They also understand that a fight like this one requires hand-to-hand combat, grappling with hard realities. Their book is the equivalent of boot camp."
Endorsed by Trey Bundy
Journalist, San Francisco Chronicle and The Bay Citizen
First Place, William Randolph Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards Program, 2008
Former treatment counselor for severely emotionally disturbed children
"Readers need to brace themselves for Heart Transplant. Because even a strong familiarity with the work of its creators won't prepare them for what Vachss, Caruso, and Mucha have accomplished here: a guided tour of the human heart. In more than a decade working with kids who came from tough places, I've never found anything that so directly identifies the cause of human dysfunction — or the solution. Those who wish to understand the impact of bullying on a living being need to start here.
"The power of the message is rivaled only by that of its delivery. Heart Transplant 's marriage of style and substance, art and prose, is so well wrought that you don’t read it with your eyes. You read it with your central nervous system. You will be hard pressed to think of a motion picture that has shown its audience the world through the eyes of its characters as effectively as this 'book.'
"But Heart Transplant contains no Hollywood-style manipulation or gushing sentimentality. Instead, its miraculous climax stems from the revelation that the miracle is real, and that it lives in each of us. It is a treatise on potential for parents, teenagers, and anyone who works to help them. I've read 500-page text books that contained fewer pieces of useful information, and perhaps no book that held more truth."
Endorsed by John M. Seryak, M.Ed.
Author, Dear Teacher, If You Only Knew! (Adults Recovering From Child Sexual Abuse Speak to Educators)
Board member, Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation
Former Guardian ad litem
"Vachss, Caruso, and Mucha ... a triple threat hitting it home with Heart Transplant on the evolving and mutating bullying phenomenon. Whether a parent, educator, legislator, counselor, or child advocate, all will benefit from walking the streets with Pop and Sean.
"Vachss' Pop stays true to the writer's history paying the price to protect his family. If and when the rest of us get on board as Pop did, bullying will take a hike. Child protection is about all of us and Pop sets a great example: nurturing Sean into adulthood, protecting him by providing the necessary tools for survival and growth into a confident, productive citizen.
"Life is a tough place, whether on the crime-ridden inner-city streets or the plush, affluent suburbs, and kids need their 'Pop.' The question is, is the reader willing to pay the price?"