MTYT: Picturebooks That Highlight Kindness

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

As we end this month, and 2020, there is more to say about kindness. There is still more to think about in respect to both small and large decisions and actions made. The decisions we have made as individuals, as communities, as societies, will be written about and scrutinized for many years to come. A lot of it will be negative, sad, and horrific. We must remember, however, in the hopes that we will learn to do better as we move forward.

It should also be remembered that throughout this year there have been countless acts of kindness, and those must also be allowed to shine. They, too, have much to teach us. While we focused on novels from areas around the world, we end this discussion with a list of picturebooks for considering kindness and the potential for it.

Mister Doctor: Janusz Korczak & the 200 Orphans of the Warsaw Ghetto (2015) by Irène Cohen-Janca and Maurizio A.C. Quarello.
The Cats of Krasinski Square (2004) by Karen Hesse and Wendy Watson (illustrator)
Two White Rabbits (2015) by Jairo Buitrago (Author), Rafael Yockteng (Illustrator), Elisa Amado (Translator)
Not So Fast, Songololo (1986) by Niki Daly
Desmond and the Very Mean Word (2012) by Desmond Tutu and A.G. Ford (Illustrator)
The Christmas Menorahs (1995) by Janis Cohen and Bill Farnsworth (Illustrator)
Angry Man (2019) by Gro Dahle, illustrated by Svein Nyhus
Tomorrow I Will Be Kind (2020) by Jessica Hische
I Walk with Vanessa (2018) by Kerascoët

Lubna and Pebble (2019) by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus
Three Years and Eight Months (2013) by Icy Smith, illustrated by Jennifer Kindert
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan (2009) by Jeanette Winter
One More Border (1998) by William Kaplan with Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by Stephen Taylor
Saving the Baghdad Zoo (2010) by Kelly Halls & William Sumner
The Librarian of Barsa (2005) by Jeanette Winter
Each Kindness (2012) by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. White
Hands Around the Library (2012) by Susan Roth & Karen Abouraya
14 Cows for America (2009) by Carmen Deedy with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
The Orphans of Normandy (2003) by Nancy Amis
Be Good to Eddie Lee (1997) by Virginia Fleming, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Angel City (2006) by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Carole Byard
Anna and the Hermitage Cats (2018) by Mary Ann Allin; Maria Haltunen, Anatoly Belkin and Maryana Sokolins
The Butterfly (2009) by Patricia Polacco
Gandhi (2001) by Demi
Grandfather Gandhi (2014) by Arun Gandhi & Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
The Grand Mosque of Paris (2010) by Karen Ruelle & Deborah De Saix
The Harmonica (2008) by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Ron Mazellan
Irena Sendler: and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto (2011) by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote (2013) by Duncan Tonatiuh
Rose Blanche (2011) by Christopher Gallaz, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti
The Terrible Things (1989) by Eve Bunting, illustrated by, Stephan Gammell

HOLLY: The list I included is really just a small number of books about either acts of kindness, or the potential for kindness to occur, if the resolve is there. There are really so many available. Some directly address the concept and practice, while others are more nuanced. I also included books where readers could consider what might occur if we—as individuals, communities, or as a society—decided to use kindness as more of a guide in decision-making.

JEAN: I went back to the introduction of this article and focused on the idea of kindness in dire circumstances. These stories come from many parts of the world where incredible acts of kindness and bravery take place. There are a few books that may not reflect violent circumstances but do reflect great conflict of heart and morality and were certainly dire from the point of view of the characters. I would remind that before sharing any of these books with children you should read them yourself and become familiar with the stories. Our children’s personal stories are not always revealed to us and we need to be aware how they may react.

MARILYN: My list of picturebooks is interesting because the majority of the books on the list are about the Holocaust. Even though I searched many backlists of picturebooks about Russia, I only found one title that would connect to Black Bird Girls, Anna and the Hermitage Cats. I thought with Ukraine in the recent news there might be picturebooks about or set in that country, I found none. I was particularly interested in a book that would show photographs from Saint Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), since that city is part of the story. A friend loaned me a picturebook that takes place in the Hermitage, Anna and the Hermitage Cats. However, I was hoping to find a book for children with photographs of the art in that famous museum. In the back of Blackbird Girls there is a section for “Further Reading.” That is a quite comprehensive list of excellent Novels and Nonfiction. Missing though are any other picturebooks that might connect with the story.

Throughout December 2020, Marilyn Carpenter, Holly Johnson, and Jean Schroeder discuss how kindness shines through dire and horrendous circumstances. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!

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