Title: Each Kindness
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: E. B. Lewis
Plot: A little girl named Maya moves to the narrator’s school. The only seat left is next to the narrator, and when Maya sits down, she smiles. The narrator (another little girl) does not smile back. The narrator and her friends instead shun Maya and call her “Never new” because of the second-hand clothing she wears. On the same day that Maya disappears from school, the teacher tells the class about kindness and tells them that kindness is like a stone dropped into the water-it creates a ripple effect that touches others and keeps reaching out. Each student takes a turn dropping a stone into the water and saying one kind thing they have done, but the narrator cannot think of anything. She instead thinks of the way that she treated Maya and regrets it. Unfortunately, Maya and her family have moved away and the narrator never gets the chance to make things right.
Connection: This would be great for a lesson about not bullying. I have heard of an activity where students crumple up a paper and then try to smooth it back out. The fact that the wrinkles remain shows students that their actions have consequences. I would probably do the activity first and then read the story to cement the concept. Students could also draw the name of a classmate and fill out a sheet of paper that says, “The best thing about _____ is _____.” We did this in high school for part of a project at the end of the year called “The Most Important Book”. In the book we wrote kind blurbs about our classmates and the whole class got to come up with a comic story about each student’s future after high school. While this might be a little too complex, older students might be able to craft a paragraph about a classmate following the template “The most important thing about ______ is ______. [at least three filler sentences with other good qualities.] But remember, the most important thing about ______ is ______.”
Publishing: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 1976
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: Pearl the pig goes to hang out in the woods on a nice day and finds a magical bone that can talk and imitate any noise. Pearl takes it with her and it scares off some robbers, but it does not scare off the fox who finds her. Instead, the fox takes her and the talking bone back to his house, where he plans to make a meal of Pearl. Right at the last minute, the bone remembers from magic from the witch he knew before, and he shrinks the fox into the size of a mouse. Pearl and the bone go home and are best friends from there on out.
Programming: I wasn’t sure what to do with this book, but Scholastic has some great suggestions about magic and imagination, friendship, and spring weather.
Publishing: Harper Brothers, New York, 1942
Awards: Caldecott Honor book
Description: Oliver is a “bachelor” cat with no wife or kittens, and he rather likes it that way. When his owner, Miss Tilly, brings home a new creature-a small, white rabbit named Marshmallow, Oliver is at first frightened and then somewhat territorial. Miss Tilly keeps them in separate rooms, but one day Oliver manages to get out into the room where Marshmallow is frolicking. Right about the time Oliver decides to pounce, Marshmallow has decided that the cat must be his new mother, and comes right up to give him a kiss on the nose. The two become inseparable. Newberry has very accurately encompassed rabbit ownership and behavior, and the punctuation of Miss Tilly’s poems adds to the entertainment value. There is a lot of white space, a lot of text, and the illustrations seem to be charcoal or crayon and don’t take up the whole page.
Programming: This would be a good book to use for a discussion about different types of pets. Many students are probably familiar with cats and dogs, but do not know anything about the care and keeping of more exotic pets, such as rabbits. A show and tell with a very calm rabbit (they frighten easily) would be wonderful.
The friendship between the two pets is also interesting, and several other titles could be found dealing with this theme, such as Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships by Catherine Thimmesh or Suryia and Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle.
Publishing: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1995
Description: Officer Buckle’s safety tips are going unnoticed until the police department buys a dog, Gloria, who accompanies Officer Buckle, and unbeknownst to him, makes his speeches a little more interesting. When he discovers that she is really the focus of attention, he vows not to give any more speeches, until an accident shows him just how much he is needed by his community. Adorable and heartwarming.
Programming: This would be good to read at the beginning of the year or when rules need to be reinforced or reminded to students. Have them draw up their own lists of rules (safety and otherwise) that they think would be good for the classroom. Share, and combine the lists into one.
Publishing: Philomel, New York, 2007.
Description: Virginia “Ginger” Vincent Folsum is a very rich and classy lady. Petunia is her pet pig. Ginger does everything to take care of Petunia. However, when Ginger has to go to London and her house-sitter does not show up, Petunia takes over the duties- and wardrobe!- of her owner, with uproarious results.
Programming: This is a fun story about how pets can sometimes be our best friends. Many students may be surprised by the fact that people actually keep pigs as pets in their houses. I would definitely include some information or videos about pigs as pets, especially their need to role in the mud because their skin is sensitive to sunlight. This might lead to other discussions about people who have non-traditional pets, such as fish, birds, rabbits, snakes, etc.
The friendship theme could also be explored. Why did Petunia take over Ginger’s responsibilities? What kinds of things do students do for their pets? etc.
Publishing: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1992
Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner
Description: Mirette lives in a boarding house where all of the great performers come to stay. When a mysterious man appears and walks on a tightrope in the courtyard, she wants to be just like him. She practices on his wire when he is not around, and then he teaches her. She finds out, however, that he is the Great Bellini and that fear has stopped him from performing. She confronts him about it and he decides to try again, but this time she steps out on the wire with him and they begin performing as a duo.
Programming: In this story, Mirette is able to befriend the Great Bellini and help him to overcome his fear. This would be a good place for a team building exercise or the class could read other stories about friends helping each other overcome fears.
Publishing: Orchard Books, New York, 1993
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: Told with only a handful of words, this book depicts two boys who meet each other on the street and form a fast friendship.
Programming: This book might take a lot of discussion as you read to make sure students are understanding the plot. Two adults or older kids might come and act out the book for younger students.