Our latest book on the theme of kindness is The Lunch Thief, written by Anne C Bromley and illustrated by Robert Casilla.
Rafael loves to eat. It is his second favourite thing next to pitching for his school baseball team. So why is he lying about forgetting his lunch? Because someone stole it. And he knows who. It was Kevin Kopeck, the new boy at school. Rafael had seen him do it. He could report him, but he decides not to. What if Kevin picked a fight? Rafael follows his Mama’s wisdom: fighting is for cowards.
We stop and examine the picture of Kevin hunched over eating the stolen lunch, sitting by himself by the stone wall. Why did he take Rafael’s lunch? We had a wide range of suggestions: “He is hungry and doesn’t have a lunch.” “He’s just a thief.” “He steals because he has no friends.” “His family is poor so he doesn’t get food.” “He is new and trying to prove himself.” We continued reading to find out more.
Over the next few days, Rafael witnesses Kevin stealing other lunches. He again heeds his Mama’s advice: “Use your mouth before your fists.” He decides to talk to Kevin, asking him where he is from. Rafael learns that Kevin is from Jacinto Valley, an area burned down by wildfires. Rafael notices Kevin’s reluctance to talk about the fires and how quiet he gets when he asks more questions. Students have some more suggestions for Kevin’s stealing. “The sadness turned him mean, ” suggests Shae-Lynn. Catriona builds on this idea: “His house was burned down and he is hiding his sadness by being mean.”
While out in the car with his Mom, Rafael notices Kevin next to the Budget Motel. His Mama explains that if Kevin’s family lost their home, Kevin may be living at this motel for some time. Rafael begins to think about his daily lunch, lovingly packed by his Mama. He makes the decision that maybe he doesn’t need two burritos each day. In our class, hands shoot in the air. We know what is coming!
“He’s going to share.”
“Giving is the key!” shouts Sergio.
“It’s all about the Golden Rule.”
On the final page of the book, we see Rafael inviting Kevin to join him and Alfredo to hang out at lunch. He passes him a brown paper bag. “Do you like burritos?”
“He noticed that Kevin needed the food,” someone observed. We decided that this book had taught us some more things about kindness. Yes, kindness is about awareness and yes, it is a choice. But now we have learned that to be kind, sometimes you have to really listen. Some of us also pointed out that you have to be calm, you can’t just react to something – like getting mad that Kevin took the lunches. You have to be calm enough to realize that maybe he needed them. As Sergio says, “Giving is the key!”