Friday, January 25, 2013

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

One of my favorite books of 2012 is Jacqueline Woodson's Each Kindness, and now, I am happy to say, it has won the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center.

The story begins one snowy, wintry day when a new girl named Maya is introduced to Chloe's elementary school class.  The first thing Chloe notices is that Maya's clothes are shabby and she has on spring shoes in winter.  Sitting next to Chloe, Maya makes one friendly overture after another but each time Chloe turns aways and rebuffs her.

Even in the schoolyard, whenever Maya comes over and asks Chloe and her friends to play jacks, jump rope, pick up sticks, they turn their backs on her and walk away.  Maya is different from everyone else, she's the girl with funny food, second hand clothes and shoes, not the kind of person they want to associate with.

Then one day, Maya doesn't come to school.  That morning the teacher gives her students a lesson on kindness. and the ripple effect our actions have in the world.  She tells the class the Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.  Each child is give a stone to drop into a bowl of water to see its ripple effect and to tell of a act of kindness they have recently done.  Even small things count, the teacher tells Chloe, but sadly, she has not a single kindness to report and has to give up her stone.

After a few days absence, the teacher announces that Maya has moved and will not be returning to the class.  In the afternoon, walking home from school, Chloe has a lot on her mind, thinking about what the teacher had said about kindness and how she had missed her chance with Maya and now, it was too late.

But what about the future...?

What a powerful book this is.  Told completely from the point of view of the person refusing to be kind to a person who could really use some kindness, we see her thinking process.  Even though she doesn't say exactly why she turned away from Maya, the reader can see that she had judged Maya by the way she looked and not who she was - a lonely little girl who only wanted to be friends.

Set against the beautiful soft watercolor illustrations by E.B. Lewis, and using language to match, Woodson gives a hard cruel picture of what unkindness can look it.  What makes this a really powerful book, however, is that there is no sweet resolution at the end.  This may be hard for kids to take, but it should generate all kinds of discussion in school, at home or the library about Chloe's behavior as well as her regrets.  Chloe has missed her chance, Maya is gone.  The question that remains is what will Chloe do next time.

I can't praise Each Kindness enough.  What a very different world this might be if we all acted with kindness each time the opportunity presents itself.  And as we learn in Woodson's story, even small things count.

This book is recommended for readers age 6+
This book was borrowed from Webster Branch of the NYPL

This is book one of my 2013 Award Winning Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books.


  1. This sounds like an important book. Thank you for a great introduction.

  2. What a wonderful book! I love how it teaches kindness It reminds me of A Hundred Dresses but I like yours more because it gives ideas of how to be kind and how important that it.

  3. Thank you for sharing. We haven't read this book, and I will definitely be looking for a copy!

  4. Have you read 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes? Your summary reminds me of it in certain ways.

  5. WOW, thanks for the suggestion of 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes, PragmaticMom and sprite, I just put it on my TBR list to get from the libary. Sounds like my kind of book.

    Jeanette and Bethany, I hope you like Each Kindness as much as I did. Such a needed book in this sad age of bullying.

  6. The Lions of Little Rock arrived at the weekend and I can’t wait to get started. The trouble is after reading this review I want to read Each Kindness as well! I don’t know how I will every get to read all the wonderful books you review – but I’m going to give it a damn good try!

  7. Hi! First, let me thank you for joining the AWB Reading Challenge. I am looking forward to seeing what other books you would feature. :)

    I have this book in my home right now, borrowed from the library. I will also be doing a feature of this one - alongside other books that deal with kindness and prayer. Jacqueline Woodson is such a powerful writer. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, so I'm glad to have read your thoughts about this. And yes, it did remind me a little bit as well of 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes. :)

  8. This sounds like a wonderful book! So glad that you wrote about it. I think it could be incredibly powerful in the classroom. I'm going to have to get a copy!

  9. I want to get this book - not only do I love Woodson's writing, but your review is so tantalizing!


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