MANDATORY CREDIT, AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Benjie Sanders) NO MAGS/NO SALES
Levi Fallavollita kept hearing the words that made him feel bad.
"You don't look cool."
"Your haircut looks dumb."
"Your parents are so strict. They don't let you watch R-rated movies. You're not cool. You don't have a TV in your room."
The words kept coming, day after day, when Levi, who is now 12, was in the fifth grade at Ocotillo Ridge Elementary School in the Vail School District.
They came from someone Levi considered a friend — a friend who became angry because Levi befriended a new boy in the neighborhood. The other boys in the group did nothing to make it stop.
Then came the threat.
"He said he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot me," recalled Levi, who wrote about bullying and how mean, threatening words can hurt in a self-published book, "The Good, the Bad and the Bullies."
The names in the book are fictitious, and Levi does not mention the gun threat, nor the school he and the boys attended.
"I wrote about everything because I want to help other kids in similar situations. You get scared. I want to help them through it," Levi said.
Gabe Villa, the book's illustrator, said he also was bullied by the same group of boys, but his experiences are not in the book. Gabe created 46 illustrations for the book. Expressing himself through art is much easier than through words, he said.
A hardcover of the book sells for $15, and a softcover for $10 — a $2 profit on each book, said Chantel Fallavollita, Levi's mother. The book was printed by Steuben Press.
The proceeds will go to the creation of an interactive Web page for Levi to help educate parents and youths about bullying.
"If someone is picking on you, you should not be scared to tell a teacher — even if others call you a baby," Levi said.
Levi also offers this advice, which he learned from teachers: "Don't try to fight back. You could be outnumbered, or hurt the other person. It is best to use your social skills to solve the problem."
"I am so proud of Levi," said Chantel Fallavollita, 45, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at Old Vail Middle School.
She said once Levi told her about the gun incident, she notified authorities at Levi's school, who promptly investigated the matter. Boys involved in the bullying were remorseful and apologized to Levi for their actions, Chantel Fallavollita said.
Natalie Luna Rose, a Vail School District spokeswoman, confirmed the gun threat and the inquiry. "The issue was resolved. Student safety is always a No. 1 priority," Luna Rose said.
The Vail district congratulates Levi and Gabe on their book, she said.
Both Levi and Gabe know now that children need to tell an adult if they are being bullied, because no one should be treated that way, and teachers, parents and school counselors can help correct the situation, said Amy Butler, who is Gabe's mother.
Butler, 38, an office manager for a medical group, said she did not find out about the bullying until it was resolved. "I felt so bad that Gabe never told me. It made me want to cry to know that he went through all of this by himself," Butler recalled.
"Unfortunately, bullying happens, and I don't think most kids tell their parents they are being bullied," Butler said. "There are so many means of bullying now through social media such as Facebook and texting."
This is Levi's second book. His first self-published book, "Why a Boy Should Marry His Dog," raised more than $3,000. The money was donated to shelter animals.
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com
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