Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson & Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Book Review by Christine Drozd
Each Kindness is a beautiful picture book not only for its illustrations but for its words. This book tells a short story of a child named Maya who is new and not well-liked at school. The narrator, Chloe, and all the other kids do not give Maya a chance as they ignore her throughout the school day. Days pass by and Maya only becomes more shut out on the playground and in the classroom. She does not dress quite as nice as the other students and they purposely will not make eye contact with her. To Chloe’s surprise, one day Maya does not show up at school. The class is then told that Maya will not be returning at all. Chloe then feels a wave of guilt and curiosity for the lost opportunity for a friendship with Maya.
This story teaches children about bullying, friendship and acceptance. The author’s message is clear by Maya and Chloe’s interactions. Woodson’s purpose was to give a realistic example of how bullying plays out in schools so that children can see the lasting affects it has on students; this case is on the other side of what we usually see because it does not mention what happens to Maya, but does show Chloe upset by the unkindness she exhibited to Maya without having a chance to turn it around. Themes of friendship and acceptance are important to cover in every classroom today especially early on in elementary school like the book demonstrates. Even though teachers may not always be aware of bullying it is very much happening in classrooms. The book is intended for elementary students, but reaches all age groups because countless students we have experienced bullying from some angle. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig offers the same themes as Each Kindness, however, is told by a little boy who is bullied himself. The Invisible Boy is a great read on top of Each Kindness because it also has beautiful illustrations that go from black and white to color to emphasize the boy’s emergence to acceptance with his peers.
Each Kindness is clearly defined as a realistic fiction, picture book through its school setting, fictional characters, and realistic illustrations. The aesthetics are balanced well with the characters personalities and perspectives; the artwork uses muted color and larger paint strokes that correlate well with Maya’s distant character. Although the story’s text is not on every page, the illustrations fill in the readers voids. Children are able to connect with this book and understand its message because of the young narrator’s voice and age appropriate language. Woodson chose to represent two groups, the bully and the victim, in order to support the book’s message. There is conflict between characters but only enough to demonstrate the hurt bullying can cause a child. In terms of social representation, Maya’s socioeconomic background plays a role in how her character is treated; she is ousted immediately because of her old and ratty clothes. Maya’s image contributes greatly to how she is treated and conceptualized in this book. All of these components compose Each Kindness into a meaningful story book.
Lastly, this book is so well known it has been awarded and converted into different forms of media. It has won the James Addams Peace Award and a Coretta Scott King Honor. An eBook and audio book are available to viewers; additionally, a trial eBook and audio book is available for free on sites such as Amazon. Jacqueline Woodson has her own website that features all of her books where she shares more information about her own thoughts or intended purpose of her books.