Meet TooLula, a girl builder who stops bullying

Have you heard of Super TooLula created by Michele Sinisgalli-Yulo of Princess Free Zone? Before you complain, Sinisgalli-Yulo doesn’t hate princesses. She wants to provide kids with another option.  Sinisgalli-Yulo has written a book called Super TooLula and created a treatment she is shopping around to networks This show looks so cool and creative. There’s nothing quite like it on TV, and I can’t wait for my kids to watch it.

Here’s Lula with her dog, Chewie.

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  1. Lula is a female version of Handy Manny or Bob the Builder, but with the added underlying social components of bully prevention with a focus
    on undoing gender stereotypes that are often the root cause of bullying by children. Providing children with an understanding of empathy and compassion is key to preventing future occurrences of bullying. The show recognizes the importance of teaching kids about the emotions underlying bullying incidents—from the perspective of the victim and the bully. It also encourages them to get beyond being a bystander by either speaking to an adult or standing up for others.

Here’s a summary of one episode:

 

  1. While on a trip to Mexico, where the whole family is helping a relative irrigate their farm. Lula and her family invent a new way to divert water and use it to water plants. Lula and her Dad help with planning, measuring and digging. Soon they befriend a group of local kids. The kids reveal a big problem. Super TooLula is needed to face a Giant bully that had been terrorizing the local kids for years. It turns out the Bully was a long tormented little brother of an even bigger Bully. Super TooLula teaches both bullies how to help others. Soon, the bully brothers become local heroes to all that had fear them when they help build the last section of the new irrigation system.

Lula is helped along by some tools:

tools

 

Harry the Hammer

Harry is the toughest of all the tools. He is the team leader and director. He knows that sometimes you just have to be tough. He may come off like a drill sergeant, but he always looks for action with a smile!

Sammy the Saw

Sammy (short for Samantha) knows that sometimes you just have to remove or separate some things to make it better. So she whirls like a tornado to shape parts and pieces out of wood, plastic, soft metal or to cut through a tough problem!

Dusty the Drill

Dusty is tough and clever. When
a problem stymies others, he knows how

to break through! Dusty very persistent and always stands up for the underdog. He stutters when overly excited.

Carla Compass

Carla is able to locate lost objects, and if you’re lost, she can point you in the right direction. She is very maternal. She’s scared of other magnets and afraid of heights.

Lucy Level

Lucy is the one to always make sure everyone is balanced and level headed. She is the nurturer of the team. Calms down the others.

Maddy Measuring Tape

Maddy is always thinking ahead. She is all about details, measurements and plans. She is the practical one that makes sure parts will fit together or through tight spaces. Maddy’s friends think she needs to learn how to have more fun!

Gabi Goggles

Gabi is able to see right into the heart of a bully. She is able to see in the past and pinpoint the reasons why they are unhappy and end up hurting others. She is a precautious soul. And she is always the one to remind us all about being safe!

Ricky the Wrench

Ricky is very strong and not afraid of hard work. He knows hard work gets things done. He can open and unlock stuck objects that others can’t. He hates rust

more than anything.

The Talking Nail Heads

Do not actually talk. They are vocal instruments
who express themselves in emotion-filled, wordless music. Some do the bass line, some do mouth drum sounds, but they all can really jam or lay down a phat beat to sing over!

There are humans in the stories as well.

lulacrew

Naomi is Lula’s eight-year-old Japanese-American cousin. Naomi is a genius with arts and crafts like origami and revels in teaching others what she knows. Lula and Naomi love each other and spend a lot of time together along with their families. Naomi can often be found humming or singing impromptu songs and playing her favorite juice harp (which she also plays in their band). She always tries to get Lula to eat odd and spicy things.

 

Ten-year-old Wesley is the school bully in Lula’s class. He is also TooLula’s ultimate nemesis. It is his mission to turn good kids mean by bribing them with things he knows they like, but he has a difficult time when Lula and her friends step in. Deep down, Wesley really likes Lula and just wants her attention, but he doesn’t know how to show his true feelings and is afraid Lula and others might laugh at him. Oh Wesley!?

22 thoughts on “Meet TooLula, a girl builder who stops bullying

  1. Hey–it’s Michele here. I’d like to respond to some of the comments–and say that I greatly appreciate all the feedback. I’d say first that the main character is a non-girly girl with short hair who builds, and challenges stereotypes. I tried very hard to put a character at the forefront so she could show kids that girls are not all the same and I believe she does that.

    As for the tools–yes, some of the female ones have seemingly more feminine/nurturing qualities. But I hope you noticed that Harry the Hammer is pink, and Sammy the Saw is a female (saws are pretty rough around the edges). Gabi Goggles was inspired by my daughter–I like the fact that she’s the tool that actually changes the child who is bullying.

    My hope is that i can get a network to pick this up–my main concern is that they won’t want to make Lula all pink and princess. I have to get past that first challenge. Also note that I am working on a separate pre-k version that focuses mainly on the educational aspects a show like this could bring with regards to STEM/building.

    I certainly can make changes to descriptions of the tools. They are not set in stone–so please know that I appreciate all the comments because it helps me to see things in a new light. But I also realize that I won’t be able to make everyone happy with each specific part of the narrative. I had someone who thought that Lula should have gotten her building skills from her mom (who is an architect), not her dad. But it comes from the real life story of my own daughter and husband. I still think that Lula herself offers something very unique and different. Thanks everyone.

    • Thanks Michele and thank you for creating this story and characters. I feel inspired by the narrative and the look of the show. That went through my mind, too, about the dad– why isn’t a mom? And then I thought: I dont want an all female cast here. I don’t want things to seem forced. It’s a balance, your characters are complex, which is important. I appreciate you listening and responding to feedback. I’m sure you’ll get a lot.

      • Thanks Margot–this is very personal to me because Lula IS my daughter. Chewie IS my dog. Lula’s dad IS her dad. The kinks can be worked out–certainly. Just need mainstream to take notice and take a chance. 🙂

        • Also, let’s hear it for TooLula! She is a great protagonist. Why no comments about her here? She rocks. Your daughter should feel proud.

          • I didn’t like the descriptions of the tools (and I didn’t notice that the hammer was pink, my monitor shows it as a red hammer), but I loved the concept of the story and the design of Lula. It’s interesting and different, and it seems more “real” than a lot of other designs of girls in shows. Not so much a teen model, with make up and the last fashion, more like a kid with her own interests. I think that my niece could relate to her. And I agree, that a show has a girl protagonist doesn’t mean that it has to be a show about girls, male friends and her father can be important for her life too. That girls are not a minority or a type of character is enough, there is no need to erase boys and men from the story. I prefer it to be a story for kids where everybody is included, not a story for girls.

    • It is so refreshing to hear a creator respond openly about constructive criticism! I love that you’re willing to discuss the show, why you made the choices that you did, and that you can see some valid points being made. Of course you can’t please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. But just knowing you are actively trying to make the best show for girls you can, and that you’re listening, makes me want to support you 100%. Thank you for creating this, and good luck getting it on the air! I can’t wait to watch it with my daughter.

  2. Wow, I’m kind of disappointed. I like Michele’s blog a lot, but I’m astonished at how stereotyped the tools are. The males are “strong” “tough” and the “team leader” ,whereas the females are “maternal” “nurturing”, “balanced” and “cautious”. The only one described as being afraid of anything is female.

    • I see what you’re talking about in the tool descriptions. I think Michele will comment, she’s looking to hear thoughts.

  3. It doesn’t sound to exciting with the whole “the boy who bullies you actually likes you!”, it’s an age old false stereotype and it makes it look like it’s the girl’s responsability to “fix” the boy, after all, he just doesn’t know how to express his feelings.

    • Yes, there are some good things, but there are some problematic tropes there too. I know that. unconsciously, we tend to repeat the same stories we have seen so many times, bit I’d really prefer that nurturing and maternal weren’t the adjectives for the female tools, and strong and tough for the male tools.

        • That would be interesting, because it’s not very common. Sometimes there are characters that you could call that, but rarely described that way.
          It would be nice too if the facial expression of the female tools were a bit more varied. Apart from the pink saw, they all have they same smile, I think that the word is ¿demure? The male tools have more personality in their expressions.

    • I was thinking of it as human and going beyond dichotomies, characters aren’t all bad or all good. It would be cool to see a girl bully that wasn’t a typical “mean girl” we’ve seen before.

      • If you want some other new shows that deviate from stereotypes, try steven universe (the first cartoon on cn to be created by a woman, and their 50°) or bee and the puppycat. You’ll love them!

      • I think that most shows have some episode where they try to show that the bully it’s not so bad. Sometimes they do it right, sometimes not so well. I don’t like to see kids as natural delinquents, but sometimes it looks like it’s the responsibility of the bullied child to get help for the bully.
        I like the character of Cordelia Chase in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Rue in Princess Tutu. At first, Rue is a villain, but at the same time she is a victim too, and she grow and learn. A very moving and beautiful story, but a bit different to traditional animation shows (its inspired by classical ballet, and the “fights” use dance)

        • I definitely should get around to watching princess tutu, after the first episode I thought it was too weird for me, but I’ll give it another chance. It should be the first time I like how a bully is developed, I don’t remember ever seeing it without the implication that the bullied needs to fix the bully, along with the classic: “reacting to bullying is as bad as bullying!” like in mlp.

          • For me, the first episode was weird, but in a charming way, so I loved it since the first episode. The episodes after that are a bit repetitive (there is something bad going on, Ahiru transforms and saves the day) but it really gets better. It’s one of my favorite animes, but I can’t promise that you will like it. It’s one of those shows that you love or you hate. Ahiru thinks that she has to save Rue, but she is the hero, and she thinks that she has to save everybody. I like how Rue and other mean character grow. But it’s not the typical story of bully, there are elements of the traditional tales, and there is a lot of magic, destiny and tragedy. I get really annoyed with the “easily forgiven villians”, but I suppose that what happens in this story made sense to me.
            If would say that Terry Pratchett is my favourite. I was really impresed with a story of domestic violence in his book I Shall Wear Midnight. The abuser is not a evil monster, he is human, he regrets what he did, but that doesn’t mean that the family is going to be happy and united again. What he did has consequences, and nobody han an obligation to forgive that kind of harm.
            Maybe Skip Beat (the manga, I don’t know about the anime) is good too, but it depends a bit in the story arc.

    • I feel like this would be an easy fix, if the bully was lonely and lacked the social skills to make friends, or something more gender neutral like that. I’m currently helping lead a conflict resolution class through Girls Inc, and we do talk about having empathy for bullies and trying to reach out to other kids who bully if possible. But we also teach the girls that they are not obligated to be “nice” to someone who continues to treat them badly, or be friends with someone who is abusive. As it stands though, yeah, this stereotype is one of the things that get brought up in discussions of rape culture, that boys show affection through violence and abuse. It’d really be worth changing.

        • Schools here have a zero tolerance for bullying policy now, so in theory, the bullied child only has to report it. There are instances where reaching out to a bully would be pretty impossible, especially if there’s a huge social power imbalance (the bully is popular, the bullied is not). In my own personal experience, there was a girl who used to bully me as a child, and it turned out that her family was impoverished and neglectful, and she really didn’t have a better way to relate to other kids other than to be a bully. The workshops I lead focus on teaching all kids that they can stand up to bullies and not be a bystander, but also that kids bully for lots of different reasons, and sometimes you can have empathy for them. Bullies usually target one kid and count on other kids either egging them on or doing nothing. If none of the children will tolerate their behavior, they have to stop. Then, sometimes, it is possible to talk to the bully one on one, and maybe figure out what’s really going on. There’s no black and white solution to all bullying, but communication skills and conflict management are definitely helpful.

          • In my experience, when a school says it has zero tolerance for bullying, it generally means that somewhere on the school policies you have the printed words “zero tolerance for bullying”, and not much else. I sort of agree with the other stuff you’re saying though.

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