This picture book champions interpersonal kindness both globally and in a young child’s town.
The unnamed white narrator wants to make a black girl named Tanisha feel better after spilling grape juice on herself in front of her multiracial classmates. “What does it mean to be kind anyway?” thinks the narrator. Next comes a catalog of easy, simple good deeds, such as “throwing away a wrapper or recycling a bottle,” before the book moves on to ruminations about how kindness can be hard. The narrator wonders how “my small things might join small things other people do,” combining with others’ small good deeds to somehow “travel across the country… / and go all the way… / around the world.” The illustrations are engaging and inventive, with lots of detail and an attractive use of color. The story gives children many concrete ideas of actionable kind deeds but without the difficult edges of how kindness can (or can’t) be transformative or when kindness isn’t enough to enact real change. The pictures show racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, among others, without explicitly addressing these categories in the text; some will appreciate this quiet inclusion, while others might wish for more help discussing these subjects with children. The white narrator comes to an open-ended conclusion while Tanisha is presented as a subject of pity, with no opportunity to speak for herself.
Lovely illustrations work with a somewhat heavy-handed message; effective more as instruction than story. (Picture book. 3-8)