Review by Jo Quigg, mum of 2 children, 7 and 9 years old
Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis (2012). Penguin Putnam, US
Relational bullying is a topic that has come up in our household with two primary aged children, 7 and 9 years old. Each Kindness is a beautifully written and illustrated story about a new girl, Maya, and her experience of being excluded at a new school.
We loved the way this book is written, as it's not told through Maya's eyes and her experiences, but by that of Chloe, the child that ignores Maya and excludes her from joining in and makes fun of her. One day Maya doesn't come back to class, as her family has had to move away, and so she is gone...
Chloe's class has a lesson about the topic of kindness, one small act changing the world. The concept is illustrated by a bowl of water placed on the teacher’s desk. Each child is given a pebble and invited to drop their pebble into the water while recalling something kind they had done, watching the small waves ripple out from the center. "This is what kindness does, Ms Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple into the world."
When it is Chloe’s turn she can't recall anything she has done that is kind. She contemplates her actions and missed opportunities to show Maya kindness, that is forever gone.
We read this book several times. We felt empathy not only towards Maya for being left out and teased, but also for Chloe, and her realization of the missed opportunities to show Maya kindness. The story bought up some great conversations about the different ways bullying can be acted out, and how important it is to show kindness and how small acts can ripple out into the world.