Title: Each Kindness
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books; First Edition (October 2, 2012)
Audience: 5 – 8 years, Kindergarten – 3
Summary: Maya is the new girl in Chloe’s class and she wants to make friends. But Chloe isn’t interested in new friends, especially ones who look ragged and dress in second-hand clothes. So Maya winds up playing alone, sitting by herself in the lunchroom, and keeping her head down. Then one day she is gone and no one knows why. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the opportunity that’s been lost.
Literary elements at work in the story: Using a story-within-a-story is a wonderful way to make a truth come to life and that is exactly what Woodson has done in this book. Rather than call out the children’s behavior, the teacher uses a small stone and a bowl of water to show the ripple effect that our actions have on the greater community. Another strong element of this book is that it is written in first person which draws in the reader to the range of emotions going on in Chloe’s mind as she shuns the new girl for no good reason and then realizes how her actions could have been different.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics make a difference to the story: The story is told from the perspective of a young girl which carries particular weight in a society where “mean girls” has unfortunately become something of a social status. While the specific age of the girls in the story isn’t given in words, the artwork shows girls that are in the middle years (grades 4-6) which is an exceptionally rough time in adolescent behavior. Another interesting dynamic of this book is the artwork which is quite diverse in ethnicity yet reverses the historical roles. Chloe is an African American girl and Maya is a Caucasian girl pointing out that bias and prejudice lives on both sides of the street. Stereotypes play a large role in the formation of this story as Chloe and her friends notice Maya’s torn, ill-fitting clothing and broken shoe buckle and nickname her “Never New.”
Theological Conversation Partners:As the teacher drops a stone into the bowl of water, she says, “This is what kindness does; each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world” and I can just hear the Apostle Paul saying, “amen teacher!” Paul was constantly encouraging the new Christians to “be kind to one another…live in love, as Christ loved…” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2) and even named kindness as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and part of our “holy clothing” (Colossians 3:12-14). Children need to hear these words and be encouraged to practice acts of kindness on a daily basis. The lesson Chloe learned was an opportunity lost – a chance for kindness with Maya that was forever gone. But perhaps the lesson for us with this book is to help children see and seize each opportunity to follow Christ’s new commandment to “love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
Faith Talk Questions:
1. Why do you think Chloe and her friends didn’t want to include Maya in their circle?
2. How would you have been a friend to Maya? How would you have been a friend to Chloe?
3. Gather your family or a circle of friends around a bowl of water and practice the teacher’s lesson. Drop a stone into the water and watch the ripples. Let each person drop a stone into the water and tell one thing he/she has done to show kindness. As each person tells something, affirm their actions by saying “we love, because God first loved us.” (I John 4:19)
4. How will you avoid the hard lesson that Chloe learned? How can you see opportunities for kindness and practice showing kindness to others? (I John 3:18)
This review was written by regular contributor Krista Lovell.
Each Kindness by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.