Sunday, April 3, 2022

Kindness Is the Word

 Three recent children's books focus on kindness. We've all seen posts on Facebook or bumper stickers or graffiti with quotes like Ann Herbert's "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty." There are websites like Inspire Kindness, with posts like "Kindness 101: What Is Kindness and How Do You Teach It?"

ABCs of Kindness
is one of the four books in a "sweet collection" of books written by Patricia Hagerty and Summer Macon (Caterpillar Books, 2019). The other three are 123s of Thankfulness, Happiness Is a Rainbow, and Friendship Is Forever.  The illustrations are super cute. I could see all these adorable elephants, bears, rabbits, and mice on the walls of a nursery or on baby clothes. For the most part, the rhyming text is simple and upbeat and emphasizes friendship, caring, and inclusiveness. But at Life Is Like a Library we read across genres and recommended age levels, so there are often interesting references and connections. The line "E is for everyone -- we are all the same" brought to mind Dara Horn's People Love Dead Jews (W.W. Norton & Company, 2021). We are not all the same, but that's okay. In fact, that is the challenge -- to love and respect others despite our differences. The verdict on this one is very cute pictures, and, for the most part, okay text with a positive message.

Lala's Words
(Orchard Books, 2021) is illustrator and animator Gracey Zhang's first picture book. The illustrations of Lala's home and neighborhood are black and white, while Lala's dress is yellow. But this heightens the impact of Lala's special place -- an empty lot filled with green weeds. Lala goes there, waters the plants, and speaks to them lovingly, complimenting their leaves and encouraging them to grow. But soon it is just too hot to go outside. What will happen to Lala's plants? You MUST read this book to find out because it is charming and packs a big punch. It has been proving that talking to plants makes them grow. Imagine if we talked to everyone with words of kindness and encouragement!

And finally, who doesn't love a wordless picture book? You can imagine what the characters are saying and make up your own dialog. Not so great for story time, but great for the classroom and creative writing. Marta Bartolj's Every Little Kindness (Chronicle Books, 2021) was first published in Slovenia in 2018. A woman wakes up and goes outside, and soon, as in Pirke Avos, "mitzvah gorreret mitzvah," one good deed inspires another from sharing fruit, to picking up trash, to returning a lost item, and so on, until it comes full circle, and someone does a kindness for the woman at the beginning of the book. Subtle illustrations with pops of color put the focus on the characters' actions. Recognized as an outstanding wordless picture book at the Kristina Brenkova Awards, this one is a winner on many levels.

As for the Real Cats of Israel, they are enjoying the warm weather. This is our friend Nacho. He looks very much like our beloved JoJo, so his name is a double play on words (which we love): Nacho because he's orange, and "not Jo," because he is not JoJo.

Happy Reading!

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