It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
While technically neither biographies nor memoirs, these two recently published picturebooks are both written in the first person, and their themes conveying kindness and compassion are sorely needed, especially since the message, while explicit, is not hammered over the heads of young readers, but subtly developed and depicted.
Written by: Sarah Brennan Illustrated by: Jane Tanner
Published by: Allen & Unwin (2017)
ISBN13: 9781760293642. Book was borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.
Quite a number of books have been written about stranded whales. In fact, we have featured a few of them over the years as you can see below:
This one, in contrast to the picturebooks above, has a vintage, summery feel to it, despite the bleakness of the weather with the heavy rains, as the three sisters walk by the beach on their way to town.
While the rhyming text did not appeal to me all that much, I was awed by the art, such stunning glorious images conveying the girls’ sadness over the stranded whale’s plight:
Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,
Far from the cradling ocean swell
I especially liked the image above as it showed just how tiny the three sisters are in comparison to the giant whale. Despite the utter hopelessness of the situation, the sisters did their best to revive the whale with buckets of water, providing him a taste of home.
What especially moved me was how the young girls took it upon themselves to provide whatever help and comfort they can, notwithstanding the simple fact that it might actually make very little difference in the large scheme of things.
Casting prayers to the wild wet air,
Which wouldn’t listen and couldn’t care.
Whether or not the whale makes it, I shall leave for you to discover. This story, I believe, is a quiet reminder to keep the faith even when overwhelming odds seem stacked against us, and that our genuine efforts to help, no matter how seemingly-small, do matter.
Written by: Pat Zietlow Miller Illustrated by: Jen Hill
Published by: Roaring Brook Press (2018)
ISBN: 1626723214 (ISBN13: 9781626723214). Book was borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.
Iinitially had my reservations about this picture book. Typically, I try to avoid narratives that have a clear and explicit moral that leave very little to the reader’s imagination. With a title like this, the message, nay, the injunction is clear as day. How much else could the actual story deviate from the moral lesson that the child is supposed to ‘take away’ from this story?
Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself drawn into the narrative. Tanisha has spilled grape juice over her new dress and practically everyone in the class laughed, except for the narrator, who was struggling to “be kind.” Another thing I realized as I was writing this review is that it was never really shown whether the narrator is a boy or a girl; even the jacket flap has cleverly avoided the use of pronouns.
Hence, this child begins to wonder, in his/her attempts to comfort Tanisha and make her feel better:
What does it mean to be kind anyway?
A question, that I believe, would also serve a lot of adults well. As the child thinks closely about this question, a number of situations present themselves that indicate quite clearly how kindness can be extended to a friend, a neighbour, a relative, a stranger:
Most importantly, it also shows this child’s vulnerability, as he/she shows that being kind is not always so straightforward, neither is it always easy:
It does not simplify acts of kindnesses, nor does it even attempt to moralize, despite the clear edict as found in the title. Rather, it is an exposition on one’s inner struggles within one’s self, as the child thinks of ways to show an act of kindness that is both true and heartfelt.
The image above is also one that moved me tremendously. While as an adult, we are keenly aware that things do not always happen the way we want them to, we still wish that the ripples of kindness would extend far and wide, and find their way home to us.
The ending of the story also shifts the perspective, indicating how an act of kindness received can mean the world to someone who has experienced hurt, loss, and shame. This is a deceptively-straightforward book that can have multi-layered meanings when the adult reader can help to demonstrate the subtlety and complexity of what it means, truly, to show kindness.
#LitWorld2018GB Update: USA and Australia