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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.


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The Book to Take Us Home

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Stormy features a small, curly-haired dog and his ball created in soft hues with pencil and watercolor
It’s the end of 2020, and what a journey we have all been on! In many ways, it has felt like we were lost and far from home even as many of us spent much more time than normal at home. There was also a sense of not knowing where we would land for some, and–for some others–whom to trust. Thus, the sweet and wordless picturebook Stormy (2019) by Chinese author/illustrator Guojing will resonate with many readers on both a surface level and more metaphorically. Even the title let’s us think in metaphorical ways about the last year!

A puppy in the park, no companion of either animal or human type. Enter a young woman who attempts to befriend the pup, but he’s having nothing to do with that. After many attempts and patience, the puppy approaches, and a tenuous bond is forged. But the puppy is still cautious. Who knows how he arrived at the park and what he experienced prior to meeting this new human? The puppy’s caution remains until a storm rages and the two realize the strength of their bond and from then on, the puppy is no longer a nameless, homeless dog in the part, but Stormy, who has found a forever home.

The illustrations clearly tell the story, and are of rendered in soft colors suggesting a calm and gentle sense of being. Exactly what is needed for engendering a sense of care and comfort. This is a wonderful lap book to explore with the very young, and a great book to use with older readers on a metaphorical level, as I cannot help but do at this time in our year, and in our history.

This is a delightful and beautiful story on which to end the year. It has important lessons for all of us, especially those who may have started to question who to trust, and those who remain cautious to the strangeness that has entered our world. Patience, perseverance, and kindness can build bonds. They can also remind us that they are the way back to or the way forward to our “forever” home.

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To view our complete offerings of WOW Currents, please visit its archival stream.

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Texts for Considering Love

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Cinderella Liberator which depicts the silhouette of a woman with a cake in hand, jumping, and a mouse at her feet on a pale blue background.
While each book for 2020 could address the concept of love in one form or another, there are two that directly confront the circumstances of romantic love. Those two texts are Frankly in Love (2019) by David Yoon and Cinderella Liberator (2019) by Rebecca Solnit. Both address love from a perspective a bit differently from what many might think of as the typical love story. Continue reading

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MTYT: 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto

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

This week, Marilyn, Holly, and Jean discuss the harrowing story of Mira in 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto by David Safier and discuss how even in the darkest of times, the smallest act of kindness can change things.


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MTYT: The Blackbird Girls

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

This week Marilyn and Holly are joined by Jean Schroeder to discuss The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman, and how one act of kindness creates a ripple effect that deeply changes the lives of two young girls.


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Picturebooks that Celebrate!

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH


This week needs a celebration, and these three books answer the call! We have Hands Up! (2019) by Breanna J. McDaniel and Shane W. Evans, The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote (1998) by Tony Johnston and Tomie de Paola, and Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia (2020) by Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrea Kelly, and Lisa Kennedy. These books celebrate three cultures that have historically been underrepresented in literature for young people, and all make great read alouds for younger children as well as mentor texts for older readers. Continue reading

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MTYT: Beast Rider

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This week, Marilyn and Holly give their takes on Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Marïa Elena Fontanot de Rhoads and the kindness that helps Manuel on his painful and difficult journey to his brother.

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Novels that Present the Journey

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Santiago's Road Home, depicting a young boy, and little girl, and a young woman on a yellow road leading into the distance away from houses in the foreground.
This week, I would like to talk about several novels in WOW Currents for 2020 that present a journey. Santiago’s Road Home by Alexandra Diaz, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai, Beast Rider by Tony Johnston, The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman, and Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai. All are amazing stories of young people who make a journey for a variety of reasons. Continue reading

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A Review of the Recommended

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

As 2020 comes to an end, I wanted to review the books on the “World of Words Recommends” list as a way to reconsider great books we might have missed while addressing what can only be considered an unprecedented year. It has been a memorable and challenging year, and it would be unfortunate to miss these notable books. Over the next few weeks, I will address small batches of these books in different ways, but this week is the time to look at them as a whole group. We had 11 recommendations this year, with a mixture of novels and picturebooks that would meet the interests of so many readers. When you have some time, find your way to these books. They are worth the read! Continue reading

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MTYT: Small Mercies


Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This month we present four stories from around the world that highlight events in which incidents of kindness shine within dire to horrendous circumstances. In many ways, the kindness shown in these narratives is both courageous and unexpected. We begin with Small Mercies (2020) by Bridget Krone, an author from South Africa and features an interracial family. We then move to Beast Rider (2019) by Tony Johnston and Marïa Elena Fontanot de Rhoads about a young boy making his way to Los Angeles from Mexico. In week three, Marilyn and Holly are joined by Jean to discuss The Blackbird Girls (2020) by Anne Blankman, who relays a story of Chernobyl, and then during week four, the three of us examine 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto (2020) by David Safier. The four books stand as testaments that it takes people to enact kindness as the world negotiates a new normal as well as changes that have long been delayed. And finally, in week five, we talk about picturebooks that present acts of kindness that can be paired with one of these four books or used on their own.

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