Child psychologists and educators suggest that kids read books when they have issues with potty training, healthy eating, new siblings and other adjustments. These books should also be suggested, for they promote kindness — the antidote to bullying and mean behavior. Books rule!
"Be the Change" by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus; illustrated by Evan Turk; Simon & Schuster; 40 pages; $18.99.
Being kind to the environment is most important. In this gorgeous, thoughtful picture book, subtitled "A Grandfather Gandhi Story," Arun Gandhi enjoys his life in the service village, living simply and nonviolently, doing good for others. He struggles, however, with one rule: Don't waste. Through the wise help of his grandfather, Gandhi, Arun learns that every wasteful act affects others. Waste causes violence indirectly. When people are needy, violence erupts over the very need for things. Therefore, throwing away even just a pencil will directly affect others and the environment. Grandfather Gandhi explains this using a tree and nature.
With glowing, sunset-filled illustrations and a reminder that some people strive to do good, help others and be conscientious, "Be the Change" will remind readers of Gandhi's famous poem — "I pledge to not overuse resources — to focus on my needs over my wants. I pledge to learn to work with others, as one, for the good of all. I pledge to be the change I wish to see in the world."
A note from the authors explaining Arun's relationship with his grandfather, plus a closer look at passive violence and a pledge, make "Be the Change" a truly inspiring reminder to kids of all ages.
"Lotus & Feather" by Ji-li Jiang; illustrated by Julie Downing; Disney/Hyperion; 32 pages; $17.99.
A grand, sweeping, moving story befitting Disney, this gentle tale introduces Lotus, a Chinese girl who can't speak but can make noise with a reed whistle. Lotus is sad because she has no friends due to her lack of voice. One day, she rescues a wounded crane, which was shot by a hunter near their lake, and she and Grandpa nurse him back to health. From then on, Feather and Lotus are best friends, and the kids at school learn to love them both. One day, though, Feather wants to fly away. Eventually, he returns with a mate and young bird and a huge community of cranes, who put on a flying show for Lotus and Grandpa.
With lovely, flowing watercolors and a heartwarming story about the positive effects of love and care, "Lotus & Feather" is a beautiful tale. There's also a gentle message about taking care of the environment, kindness to animals and being a friend to kids regardless of their differences.
"Cara's Kindness" by Kristi Yamaguchi; illustrated by John Lee; Jabberwocky Kids/Source Books; 32 pages; $16.99.
The first book from ice-skating legend Kristi Yamaguchi is the story of a cute skating kitty with a message of kindness and paying it forward. Huge-eyed Cara the Cat, who really needs a song to skate by, befriends apprehensive dog Darby and helps him skate. Cara's only request is that Darby passes the kindness on. So he shares his lunch with the hungry Pax the Polar Bear. Cara also helps Marky the Monkey and Samantha the Skunk. Eventually, all that kindness prompts talented Milo the Mole to perform a concert at school, and Cara finally finds her music.
With a simple premise and sweet, rounded characters, Yamaguchi's book should inspire preschoolers to help their friends. Kindness is contagious, after all.
"The Friend Ship" by Kat Yeh; illustrated by Chuck Groenink; Disney/Hyperion; 32 pages; $16.99.
Lonely Hedgehog hears that "Friendship is out there. All you have to do is look," so she sets out on a small boat with a curious squirrel to find the "friend ship." They ask a herd of deer on an island whether they've seen The Friend Ship, and though they haven't, they jump on board, as does a little fishing rat. They sail north, south and east, into a sunset, as more curious animals get on board. The animals get discouraged, until they ask a big elephant on a small island the same question, and he replies, "Well...isn't that it — right over there?" and points to Hedgehog's boat. The happy boat full of friends then sails off into the sunset, leaving readers with an important lesson that sometimes just the effort is worth the result, and that what you're searching for could be right in front of you.
Muted, retro illustrations and a happy, satisfying story make "The Friend Ship" a real winner.
"We Found a Hat" by Jon Klassen; Candlewick Press; 48 pages; $17.99.
Caldecott Medal winner Jon Klassen's books are gems — with vintage looks and classic but cool stories. "We Found a Hat" introduces two turtles that find a hat in the desert. They both try it on, and it looks good on both of them. They realize they can't both have the hat, so they leave it behind. They then watch the sunset together, and there's a hint that they may be still thinking of that hat. The third act of the book shows the turtles at nighttime. One asks the other, "Are you all the way asleep?" and the other answers: "I am all the way asleep. I am dreaming a dream." The sleeping turtle adorably tells his friend that he's dreaming of the hat, that it looks good on him and that his friend also has a hat that looks good. Both then rest satisfied on a big rock by a cactus.
A simple but very satisfying story about sharing and the power of friendship, "We Found a Hat" is a low-key masterpiece.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.