"The best children's stories are wisdom dipped in art and words." -Peter Reynolds

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Each Kindness

Each Kindness is a Coretta Scott King Award Honor book for 2013. It was written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published in 2012, Each Kindness tells the realistic fiction story of a new girl at school named Maya.  The story is told from the perspective of Chloe; a girl in Maya’s new class. Maya is brought into Chloe’s classroom with the principal and she chooses the seat next to Chloe. She smiles a warm, friendly smile at Chloe and consequently Chloe quickly scoots her chair away from Maya to give her the cold shoulder as she judges her clothes. As the weeks pass, Chloe explains that Maya would try to play with her and the other children but they always said, “No.” She would bring toys from home to try to bridge the gap between them but it was no use. No one wanted anything to do with sweet Maya.

Sadly, this continued for months. Once spring arrived, Maya showed up to school one day with new clothes for Maya but they were definitely used before by someone else. Kendra, Chloe’s best friend, whispered that her new name for Maya was, “Never New.” Maya definitely heard this new name but continued to jump rope on her own. Then, the next day Maya didn't come to school. Their teacher, Ms. Albert taught a lesson about kindness that day. She brought a big bowl filled with water and dropped a small stone into it. She said:

“This is what kindness does. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”

The children stared into the bowl of water silently. They each were told to hold the stone and say one kind thing they had done recently. When the stone arrived in Chloe’s hand, she couldn't think of one kind thing she had done. Many days passed and Maya had still not returned to school. This displeased Chloe because she desperately wanted to smile back at Maya when she returned. Apparently the kindness lesson worked! But then one day, Ms. Albert announced that Maya’s family had to move away and she wouldn't be returning to their school. That same afternoon, Chloe walked home alone and stopped at the pond to throw small stones and watch the ripples. She was sad that she had missed her chance to smile back at Maya and have each act of kindness ripple out into the world.

“I watched the water ripple as the sun set through the maples and the chance of a kindness with Maya became more and more forever gone.”

On the last page of the text, we see the same image as what is on the cover but flipped. Maya is standing with her head down, back pack on her back, and staring longingly into the pond. 
It is important to note that this story does not have a happy ending. That is what makes this a realistic fiction story. The real world is not made of happy endings! Maya moves away from her school with the painful memories of being bullied and ignored. Chloe is left with the memory of what she did to Maya and the pain of not being able to fix it. This story has such a powerful message and teaches kindness in the perfect way. Everything we do affects the future of our world. If we are kind then kindness will ripple out into the world.

The front dust jacket appears to have a very serene and safe theme. We are overwhelmed with shades of green and notice a little girl staring into a pond. My first thought was, “This will be a happy story!” But once I read the book I realized it was not and it actually teaches an imperative lesson. The end papers are a rich, forest green to match the back and front covers. All of the illustrations are full bleed and realistically portrayed which makes this story feel extremely real. I felt like I was literally part of the story as I read. The position of characters throughout the story emphasizes their feelings and elicits empathy in the readers. I found myself extremely angry at Chloe and her bullying girlfriends and wanted so badly to console Maya.  I plan on reading this book to my second graders this week because we have had a bullying issue going on the last two weeks. I hope that the message of the book will speak volumes to them, like it did to me. 

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