By Alena Rivers
Acts of kindness can be simple gestures or complex, thoughtful ones. Either way, the effects on the recipients can be heartwarming. Stories that express the multiple ways that children show their concern for others help young readers explore how they can positively interact with individuals and the world around them.
The stories featured today each demonstrate the ways children share their compassionate sides. The books present a quiet simplicity in style but they reveal a clear message; our kind gestures have a strong impact on those with whom we come in contact.
The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, illustrated by Guridi (Kids Can, 2016)
A young boy falls in love with his classmate, Sylvia, on their first day of school. He discovers that Sylvia is in love with birds but she does not seem to notice him. In order to win her attention, the young boy builds a bird costume to wear to school. Becoming a bird is not easy. Not only must he endure the stares and giggles from his classmates, but navigating the bathroom and the soccer field in a large bird costume has its challenges. Still the boy’s determination to connect with Sylvia makes him indifferent to these obstacles. Wearing a bird costume during school for several days may seem like a grand gesture for the attention of another, but the protagonist’s efforts pay off in a satisfying and sweet ending.
Originally published in Spain, this book gently portrays the story of a young child’s admiration for his classmate. Illustrator Guridi uses pencil drawings and photoshop to create both realistic images and the costumed version of the birds that are central to this story. The Day I Became a Bird is an inspiring story that demonstrates how taking risks to show you care can be worth the effort.
Look Up! By Jung Jin-Ho (Holiday, 2016)
Look Up! takes on the perspective of a young child in a wheelchair peering over a balcony above a busy neighborhood street. Like the child, the reader can only see the tops of people’s heads as they walk along the street without noticing the child above, who only wants them to “Look Up!”. Finally, a young boy looks up and notices the child on the balcony. He lays on the ground so the child can see him. This act starts a chain of pedestrians who stop to see what he is doing and, in turn, lie down so they, too, can look up.
Jung Jin-Ho’s black-and-white sketches give readers a unique perspective beyond the bustle of daily life to remind us that through our busiest moments, we can stop to see someone who may otherwise be overlooked.
Lucy by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2016)
As though in a theater production, Lucy is told in four acts. Each act starts the same as the previous one but builds on the story of a tenacious stray dog who visits the front door of an apartment building. It is here that he is greeted each morning by a young girl who dangles her leftover food by a string from her bedroom window to provide breakfast to the little stray. The young girl lives with her father who is a store stock-person by day and an aspiring vaudeville performer with stage fright by night. The story comes full circle when we learn how the small dog became a stray and how she finds a place to call home.
Randy Cecil’s black-and-white oil textured illustrations strongly support the text that, in turn, nicely frames and punctuates the images. As if through a telescope, the reader gets a glimpse of the small dog’s day through images rendered in a circular frame in the center of each page. Lucy is a charming story that young children will enjoy watching unfold.