I have a secret. When I go on Instagram and scroll mindlessly, it’s not to see the next wellness influencer or unattainable lifestyle guru. No, I look at accounts that prominently feature books. People reading books, people artfully arranging books in their environment, bookstores, bookshelves—unabashed book appreciation. Book lovers are my people, and we are fiercely protective of our own.
When a 13-year-old book lover started being bullied at school for his Instagram book account, book enthusiasts—some very high profile ones—rushed to support him.
Callum Manning had just started a new school in South Shields when fellow students started making fun of him for his Instagram account, which reviews some of the books he has read. The cruel mocking took place on a group chat.
Callum’s mother, Carla Landreth, her son was “devastated” reading the messages on the group chat after school on Friday. Typical messages described him as “a sad weirdo” because of his passion for books. Even though Callum could see the messages, he was blocked from responding. which his mother said “made things much worse.”
Shocked at “how awful kids are,” Callum’s sister, Ellis Landreth, tweeted about the incident.
Can’t believe how awful kids are. My little brothers made an Instagram reviewing and talking about books and kids in his new school have seen it and have created a group chat calling him a creep slagging him off about it and added him to it so he could see 🥺 pic.twitter.com/wuuj2XlO34
— Ellis (@EllisLandreth1) February 29, 2020
“My little brother’s made an Instagram account reviewing and talking about books, and kids in his new school have seen it and have created a group chat calling him a creep slagging him off about it and added him to it so he could see,” she wrote. The post went viral, attracting the attention of book lovers and bookstores all over.
The online response has been overwhelmingly positive, with bookstores and authors sending him encouraging messages and offers for free books of his choice.
Happy to send Cal three books of his choice.
Just DM me the name and address to post ’em to and the three titles.
I’ll post them off asap.
— Big Green Bookshop (@Biggreenbooks) March 1, 2020
We’re so sad to hear this! 😞 Talking about books is a great way to make friends and discover books you might never have otherwise read! Please tell your brother to keep up with the reviews! And if you’re local to the Metrocentre tell him to pop in – the next book is on us 👍 📚
— Waterstones Gateshead (@WaterstonesGate) February 29, 2020
I am happy to send him any of my books signed and for free if he wants them. Dm if interested.
— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) March 1, 2020
And I’ll send him a fifth.
— S J Watson (@SJ_Watson) March 1, 2020
The Globe Theater offered Callum tickets to see Romeo & Juliet.
It’s so wonderful Cal is sharing his love of reading. It’s also great to see Romeo & Juliet is one of his favourite Shakespeare plays, it’s one of ours too!
We’d love to offer Cal tickets to Romeo & Juliet this summer, let us know if you’d like to visit 🎭https://t.co/1fNwgvsMlx
— Shakespeare’s Globe (@The_Globe) March 2, 2020
Neil Gaiman wrote, “I think the love from all around the world has probably let him know he isn’t alone. But all the interesting people I know were once considered weird kids with books. Including me.”
I think the love from all around the world has probably let him know he isn’t alone. But all the interesting people I know were once considered weird kids with books. Including me.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) March 2, 2020
Callum’s favorite author Caroline Kepnes also sent him a message of encouragement.
It is devastating and I would very much like to send Cal some books.
— Caroline Kepnes (@CarolineKepnes) March 1, 2020
As a result of Ellis’ tweet, Callum’s Instagram followers have grown by the thousands.
“Yesterday I had 39 followers, now I have more than 85,000 – it’s bizarre, but nice to know that people care” Callum said.
“[The online response] has made him feel so good, and sends out a really strong, anti-bullying message—a case of who’s getting the last laugh now,” Callum’s mom said. Her “book obsessed” son was “over the moon” to be contacted by authors in particular, she added.
“He’s even been invited to visit the Instagram head office,” she said. “It’s just bonkers but in a really good way, that we’ve been able to turn a negative into a positive.”
Keep reading and “nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”