On a recent trip to the public library, I was looking through the new picture book selection and came across the book, Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books, October 2, 2012). The cover caught my attention for two reasons. First, I noticed the award-winning author’s name, Jacqueline Woodson. Second, I was drawn to the cover that depicted a young girl standing at the edge of a pond. Even though her facial expression was obscured in both the actual picture as well as her reflection, I sensed that the book had a message. I opened the book and started reading.
Immediately, the narrator introduces the reader to a new student in a classroom. Anyone in such a situation could instantly connect. Everyone’s eyes focus on the newcomer. In this case, the girl is slightly different than the rest. Maya’s ragged appearance causes her classmates to ostracize her. Woodson skillfully illustrates the nastiness that children can exhibit to one another. Despite Maya’s attempts to meet her peers halfway, she is repeatedly shunned.
Maya is forced to be alone. No one interacts with her. One day, Maya does not return to the class.
On that same day, the teacher introduces a small unit on kindness. She drops a stone into a bowl filled with water. Ripples of water cause tiny waves to spread throughout the bowl. The teacher says, “Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple into the world.” Each student was asked to share a moment of kindness.
At the end of the story, the narrator regrets that she chose not to show any kindness to Maya. Standing alongside a pond she watches the ripples that are formed by the rocks that she throws into the water. She realizes that she will probably not have a chance to make amends for her actions. Maya will not be returning to the school.
Little acts of kindness certainly can go a long way to brightening someone’s day. This book reminds us that everyone should reflect on ways to be kind to others. The book also points out that being unable to apologize for poor choices will leave an empty space that may be filled with regret. Thus, learning how to make wise choices is crucial. Children need to realize that sometimes it will not be possible to correct a poor decision. In those situations, remorse will be the only recourse.
- Jane Adams Book Award
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.