Every Little Kindness by Marta Bartolj

Cover image for Every Little Kindness.

Every Little Kindness by Marta Bartolj (9781797207926)

This wordless picture book shows how one act of kindness can turn into a chain of goodness that impacts an entire community and comes full circle. A woman wakes up in the morning to a stack of missing dog flyers. As she is hanging her flyers, she grabs a red apple from her bag. She decides to give it to a busker in the square. A man who saw that kindness smiles and picks up some litter. A little boy who sees that in turn helps a little girl who lost her balloon. One by one, a lost key is returned to its owner, an umbrella is shared in the rain, toys are shared, flowers are gifted. Finally. someone finds the dog and returns him too.

The illustrations in this wordless picture book tell the entire story, so it is critical that they clearly share large and small emotions. From the sorrow of losing a pet to the discovery of small acts of kindness, the illustrations show the way that kindness impacts people. The use of color is cleverly done with most of the illustrations in blacks and grays. Touches of red show kindness happening or people who have been impacted by kindness. By the end of the book the gray city has been lit with red all over.

This is a wordless book that works well for elementary-aged children due to the depth of its subject matter. There is great pleasure in following the color through the book, seeing who notices the kindness and who benefits from it as it passes through their lives.

Subtle, lovely and filled with goodness and community. Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak

Cover image for Niki Nakayama.

Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak & Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Yuko Jones (9780374313876)

Told in a series of meals and food, this is the story of how she rose to become a great Japanese-American chef. Starting with growing up in LA to parents who came from Japan, eating American food with a Japanese influence. Niki wanted to do her own thing, deciding not to go into the family seafood warehouse business and showing her family that she could be as successful as her older brother was expected to be. After high school, she traveled to Japan and discovered the art and flow of the kaiseki feast, a series of dishes that told a story. She went to culinary school, worked as the lone woman in a sushi restaurant, and then went on to learn kaiseki, even though no women did that either. Niki returned to LA to open a restaurant, first serving sushi to prove to her family she could do it, and then finally, opening the kaiseki restaurant she always wanted.

Using the food itself to form the structure for this picture book biography makes for a delicious journey through Nakayama’s life. Her family may not have believed in her, but Nakayama had enough determination and resilience herself to make it. Powered by her love of food and its ability to bring people together, her story shows how small steps in a journey can become destinations and life callings.

The illustrations are bright and full of foodie warmth. They focus on Nakayama herself both with her family and on her journeys. The food is central too, dishes that are colorful, steaming, luscious. Using clever frames of restaurant doorways, prep counters and plates, the illustrations always come back to Nakayama and her food.

A brilliant look at an inspiring figure in food who did it her own way. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar Straus Giroux.