Ms. Ludwig is a genius. No two ways about it.
In addition to JUST KIDDING, MY SECRET BULLY and now SORRY, she has shown her insights into the dynamics of bullying and harassing behavior.
Jack, a tween in the early grades feels that his identity is enhanced by being friends with Charlie. An aggressive, biffy sort, Charlie exacts cruelties on others and tosses off a casual "sorry." Many let him skate by with his insincere apologies.
Jack resents this, but does not feel he can challenge Charlie on this. A girl named Leena is the recipient of one of Charlie's more cruel pranks. When he destroys her science project, she tells him in no uncertain terms that she does not buy his insincere apology. Jack, touched by genuine remorse helps Leena rebuild her project.
Their teacher wisely intervenes and explains to Charlie what he has to do to make reparations and amends. Saying "sorry" is simply a formality; one has to be truly remorseful and willing to extend themselves to help the other person in order for it to be meaningful. Charlie sees the consequences of his behavior when Jack jumps his ship and forms an alliance with Leena and the other kids.
I love this book and want to add the following thought - I think it is not a good idea for people to coerce children into apologizing. The lesson that teaches is "appease the adult in question; avoid getting into further trouble by saying what the adult in question wants to hear." I have always resented this; as a child, I hated being forced to apologize and remember consciously thinking, "I'm lying if I apologize, but I'll say it so I don't get punished more." This book explores this; forced apologies teach children to "appease;" "to go along with a system" and is often viewed as an indignity and a price to pay to avoid further repercussions. This book does a good job of uncovering that.