Tag: compassion

4 Compassion-Filled Picture Books

Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn

Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn (9781771472517)

This wordless picture book is almost a graphic novel in style. A father and daughter head out with protest signs marked with red circles that match the little girl’s red balloon. Waiting for them though are police in deep blue, who speak with blue squares. The red circle protesters are beaten with batons and taken away to jail. The girl’s father is held in isolation, dreaming about his daughter and their time together. Suddenly, the man gets mail but the guards don’t approve of it. More and more mail arrives from the mice and birds. The guards burn the letters, but the scraps fly into the air to be found by others around the world who write more letters in response. Soon the jail is buried in letters and the letters form wings that carry the man back to his daughter.

Based on the letter writing campaigns of Amnesty International, this picture book/graphic allows young readers to not only understand that people are jailed wrongly around the world but also to have a way to help. The illustrations have a wonderful energy to them. They show the despair of the jailed man but not without small glimpses of hope in the form of small animal friends. A strong message of unity and working together for justice pervades this book. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (E-galley provided by Netgalley and Owlkids Books.)

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead

The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (9781626722828)

When Sadie and Sherman discover that Little Amy Scott threw the goldfish she got for her birthday into the ocean, they know that they have to do something. Sadie gets right to planning, immediately naming the goldfish Ellsworth. Helped by a small gang of monkeys in striped shirts and red bandanas, the children also borrow a boat, get a net and two long fishing poles, balloons, paint and slickers. They head out onto the ocean, trying to be patient as they try to catch Ellsworth before supper. Will their plan work? What will they do with Ellsworth if they save him? And what will happen to Little Amy Scott?

Stead’s writing works seamlessly with Cordell’s zany art. The story has lovely details that enrich the book, giving a sense of community, of a detailed plan and the joy of working as a team to rescue someone. The art by Cordell adds the wonderful monkeys and the pink balloons that keep sending their own messages. A wet and rainy riot of a picture book that is sure to make even the dampest child smile. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Pup and Bear by Kate Banks

Pup and Bear by Kate Banks, illustrated by Naoko Stoop (9780399554100)

The Big Freeze was coming to the Arctic and the wolves took shelter. But when the Big Melt came, one little wolf pup was stranded on a sheet of ice and unable to reach land. He swam and swam, finally falling asleep in a snowdrift. There, a polar bear found him. The little wolf was scared at first, but the polar bear offered to help him. She took him to her den, fed and cared for him. Even though she was not his mother, she could do many things for him like teach him where to fish and play together. As time passed, the wolf grew old enough to head out on his own. He met other wolves and led a pack. Then one day, he found a baby polar bear alone in a storm, and the seasons and cycles continue.

Illustrated by award-winning Stoop, the Arctic images are done on wood, allowing the grain to come through and form swirls in the blue sky. The white animals glow against the Arctic setting filled with blues and greens. Banks’ text is poetic and evocative as it describes the beauty of the Arctic and the wonder of care for others. A lovely picture book with a strong message of extended community. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (E-galley provided by Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

Shelter by Celine Claire

Shelter by Celine Claire, illustrated by Qin Leng (9781771389273)

The animals are all getting ready for a big storm. They have closed their doors and are making their dens cozy and warm. Two strangers arrive out of the blustery wind and begin to ask at each door for shelter. They have tea to offer, but one after another the neighbors all say no. The little fox though heads out with a lantern for them, but nothing more. As the snow begins to fall, the strangers know they will be fine. But the fox family’s shelter is failing due to the weight of the snow. Soon they are outside in the falling snow and asking for help themselves. Who will help them?

This book explains with a gentle tone and a non-didactic approach about the failure of community when it becomes isolationist and the power of kindness and compassion for those in need. After all, one might become the ones who need help eventually. The illustrations by Leng glow on the page. They show the lovely families together and their warmth with one another and the love they have. That is then turned quickly on its head as they turn away the strangers. A strong and simple tale that will lead to important discussion. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (E-galley received from Netgalley and Kids Can Press.)

The Lost Kitten by Lee

The Lost Kitten by Lee

The Lost Kitten by Lee, illustrated by Komako Sakai (9781776571260, Amazon)

Originally published in Japan, this picture book demonstrates compassion and empathy as a mother and daughter, Hina, take in a lost kitten. A stray mother cat brings her kitten to their doorstep, scrawny with goopy eyes. Hina would prefer a cute kitten from a pet store. They care for the little kitten, give it some milk and Hina holds it and listens to its purr. Her mother heads out for milk, leaving Hina to care for the kitten. But when Hina turns back, the kitten has disappeared. Hina thinks of the time that she too got lost, knowing what the little cat must be feeling. She knows she has to help.

Lee’s text is gentle and moving. The connection between child and kitten is delicately created, anchored by their similar experiences of being lost. Lee allows the story to play out, using a light touch as the story spins and giving the reader the space to make connections themselves.

The illustrations by Sakai are equally gentle and expressive. Done in pastel colors with strong textural lines that carry from one image to the next. The kitten is depicted with real care, its bones almost showing through its fur. Tiny and fragile, it still fills the pages with hope.

Beautiful and delicate, this picture book is filled with compassion and love. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

10 Great Picture Books on Compassion

Continuing my series of superb picture books about the kind of world we want to live in and to remind ourselves that people are inherently good, here is my list of ten great picture books on compassion:

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A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam

How to Heal a Broken Wing Ladder To The Moon

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

My Heart Will Not Sit Down The Passover Lamb

My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Ann Tanksley

The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Red Kite, Blue Kite A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Greg Ruth

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Smoky Night Zen Ties

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz

Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth

Review: The Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaatje

camel in the sun

The Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaatje, illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber

Based on a story from Sri Lanka and a traditional Muslim hadith, this book is the story of an aging camel.  The camel has traveled the deserts carrying his owner and bundles of trade goods for years.  One day the camel starts to cry with his misery, but his owner shows no compassion and simply climbs back on.  The camel never showed his misery in the daylight again, but at night he started to escape and float like a boat on the water.  Then they arrived in the city of Medina, where the Prophet was staying.  The camel’s owner immediately goes to sleep in the shade, leaving his camel on a short lead, tied in place, and in the full heat of the sun.  The Prophet sees the grief of the camel and shows the owner what the camel is feeling. 

Beautifully told, this book pays deep homage to the traditions that it is based on.  The origins of the story are clearly detailed in his author’s note.  Ondaatje demonstrates the misery of the life of the camel and his sadness in detail, making sure that readers understand that this is deep sadness and a life of misery.  He clearly explains compassion in a tangible way, showing readers what it means to learn how to be compassionate.

The illustrations are exceptional.  They capture the grittiness of the desert with earth tones using different painting techniques combined with line drawings in various colors.  Readers will notice that the Prophet is not depicted in the images, showing respect for the culture and beliefs. 

A strong story about compassion, this book offers a glimpse at Muslim traditions as well as a beautiful story that everyone can enjoy and learn from.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall

passover lamb

The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Miriam has been selected to sing the Four Questions at the seder, the special Passover meal, at her grandparent’s house.  She has been practicing over and over again.  When she discovers that Snowball, one of their ewes, is going to have a baby, the family wonders if it will disrupt their Passover plans.  Snowball has her lambs in time, but her third lamb is ignored and she refuses to nurse him.  Miriam is very worried for the little lamb, but also wants to head to the seder and sing her part.  So she comes up with a clever plan to care for the newborn lamb and be able to be with her extended family.  This Passover story is a gentle reminder about compassion and a beautiful introduction to Passover.

Marshall writes with a gentleness that weaves throughout the entire story.  She allows Miriam to really be the center of the story, her family members are important but Miriam is certainly the lead.  She is the one who discovers that the ewe is going to have a baby, bottle feeds the newborn lamb and figures out the solution, all on her own.  This is child-led compassion that comes from a deep and natural place.

Mai-Wyss’ art is done in watercolors. The results are rich and colorful, nicely capturing a small family farm.  Just as with the text, Miriam is often front and center in the illustrations.

A superb book about caring and compassion, this is a strong addition to any public library.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Books for Young Readers.