Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill (9781626723214)
When Tanisha spilled grape juice on her dress, the others in class laughed at her until she ran out of the room. But one child doesn’t laugh and tries to make her feel better by saying that they love the color purple too. That child narrates the book and wonders what the kind thing or better thing to do would have been. Maybe kindness is giving? Or could it be helping? Is it paying attention? Using people’s names? It can be hard to be kind, to stand up to others, to be the lone voice. And sometimes, kindness is sitting near someone quietly and then showing without words that you understand. Miller explore kindness in a way that children will understand and offers them questions rather than simple solutions so they can explore the idea themselves. The art in the picture book is nicely done, incorporating children of different races in the classroom. The ambiguous gender of the main character is also welcome. This is a book that invites conversation about kindness and compassion. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)
Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by David Roberts (9781419725425)
This picture book is a twist on the traditional tale, this time with the emperor being part of the trick rather than solely the tailors. When young emperor Ming Da discovers that his advisors are stealing from him, he comes up with a clever way to expose their misdeeds. Enlisting the help of his tailors, Ming Da dresses in burlap sacks, telling his advisors that they only look like sacks to those who are dishonest, otherwise they look like the finest silks. The three advisors soon have their own sacks to wear in the entourage, since they can’t admit their dishonesty. With a focus on helping the poor and being honest, this picture book is an engaging twist on the original. The illustrations pay homage to the Chinese setting by incorporating more formal framing at times. Look for small creatures watching the action along with the reader and the looks of delight as the tailors trap the advisors in their lies. A great book to share aloud, with a young hero who puts others before himself. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Rabbit and the Shadow by Melanie Rutten (9780802854858)
This French import is a strange and haunting picture book. When Stag finds Rabbit left on his doorstep, he takes Rabbit in and raises him. They laugh together and feel each other’s pain. They race home and Stag always lets Rabbit win. Rabbit worries that Stag won’t always be there and Stag knows that Rabbit with grow up and eventually leave. Then one day, that happens. Rabbit is alone in the woods and meets two others, a Cat who loves soccer and a Warrior who is very angry. The three of them adventure together and form a family of sorts, eventually they all become more honest about who they are. Still, there is a shadow lingering nearby, one that has been in Rabbit’s story since the beginning. Can that Shadow help bring Stag and Rabbit together again?
Told with such heart and beauty, this picture book is a very different read. It is about family and adoption, but also reaches beyond that to the struggle of growing up and being independent, yet the homesickness and longing for people you love. It’s a deep picture book, that reaches into dark corners and reveals that shadows can actually protect and guard. It’s a book that shows that the universe can revolve around love and still allow exploration, new friends and wonder. The illustrations are playful at times, dark with worry at others, and exploding with joy too. Emotions are not only depicted by the characters but embraced by the entire color palette too.
One of those wonderful picture book imports that will blow your mind. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.)