Every day when we wake up is an opportunity; an opportunity to make a difference. We make a difference with a goodbye hug for family members, a smile at a stranger, a wave to a neighbor and words of encouragement to those we teach. A single act of kindness can change a day not just for one individual but for many. That single act is like the proverbial pebble dropped in water; it ripples outward.
Cultivating a habit of being kind is one of the single best things we can do for others and for us. Be Kind (Roaring Brook Press, February 6, 2018) written by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Jen Hill is a gentle story of a child discovering the many ways to express kindness. It begins with an unfortunate incident.
Tanisha spilled grape juice yesterday.
It was splattered down the front of her new dress. Her fellow classmates laughed except for one. She remembered the words of her mother and tried to help. It didn't work.
After snack time, during art, the girl painted violets. As she made this picture she thought about what she could have done immediately for Tanisha. She wondered how we define kindness.
It could be in the act of giving, helping or paying attention. She remembered when she gave, helped and paid attention. Her mom also told her to use people's first names when greeting them. It's a way to show you care about them as individuals.
Being kind is not always easy but for those receiving your kindness, it's invaluable. It can spread farther than you can imagine. It can circle back to you. It can change the world or, at the very least, it can help the memory of a ruined new dress to fade, replaced by gesture of kindness.
Readers are immediately drawn into the story with a problem. They have either witnessed this identical incident or it's happened to them. Pat Zietlow Miller cleverly uses this technique to create a connection and as a point to build her narrative. Told in the first person point of view we are able to understand how the child, the girl, expands her knowledge of what it is to be kind. Readers realize kindness can be quick and simple but lasting or take a bit more time. Here is a passage from this narrative.
Maybe it's giving.
Making cookies for Mr. Rinaldi,
who lives alone.
Letting someone with smaller feet
have my too-tight shoes.
(He might win races in them, too.)
Opening the matching dust jacket and book case gives readers two separate views of kindness. On the front the narrator of this story is holding an umbrella for Tanisha. Perhaps the yellow color selected by artist Jen Hill reminds us kindness can be a bit of sunshine on a rainy kind of day. The characters, the title text and raindrops are varnished. The small brush of purple watercolor separating the author's and illustrator's names is significant also.
To the left, on the back, a background is supplied with vertical rows of interwoven threads in a cream hue. I like to think this represents how we are all tied together. Upon this an image within a loose circle shows a girl comforting another girl who has just broken her glasses. A rich shade of purple covers the opening and closing endpapers.
Each illustration flows into the next; the size shifting to create pacing. Most of the pictures are placed on a single page. In several of the scenes the focus is on the full color used for the people with the setting fading to a background of outlines and light colors. The people, with an emphasis on children, in these images are from all walks of life and from varying races. Fine lines delineate their facial features portraying appropriate emotions.
One of my several favorite illustrations is on a single page. In the upper left-hand corner is the girl. All we see is the bottom of her signature purple jersey, her black leggings and bare feet. In front of her just slightly right of the center is a young boy on his hands and knees. His hands are holding the tops of black high-top shoes. He is looking at the girl with affection.
Yesterday was Random Act of Kindness Day; started in Denver, Colorado in 1995. Can you imagine how wonderful the world would be if every day was Random Act of Kindness Day? Be Kind written by Pat Zietlow Miller with illustrations by Jen Hill is an excellent title to use to promote discussions on kindness. You will want to add this title to your professional and personal collections. It can be paired with If You Plant a Seed, Sidewalk Flowers, or Mama Lion Wins The Race.
To learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. Jen Hill has interior images from this title on her home page. Jen Hill has numerous links to her other social media accounts as does Pat Zietlow Miller. At the publisher's website you can view illustrations from this book. At the Nerdy Book Club Pat features the book trailer for Be Kind. She talks about other books showcasing kindness. She provides a link to a Pinterest board of picture books about kindness. At Picture Book Builders Pat talks about this book. Jen Hill is highlighted at Brightly.