The Lion & The Mouse

The Lion & The Mouse by Caldecott medal winner Jerry Pinkney is another book we have shared together as we continue to explore a theme of kindness through picture books.

Pinkney’s story is an adaptation of the Aesop fable of the lion and the mouse who exchange an important gift – that of setting one another free. This gorgeously illustrated book is basically wordless, the only text are a few sound effects. Each page is so detailed, we found ourselves studying each image closely for clues as to what was happening in the story. We see a humongous lion being disturbed in sleep by the tiny mouse. Despite his irritation, he lets the tiny mouse go free. The mouse races back to her nest and her young. When the lion is trapped in ropes set by poachers, the tiny little mouse repays the kindness offered to her by the lion and gnaws through the ropes, setting the ┬áking of beasts free.

Pinkney sets his version in the African Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya. Students were fascinated by all of the animals depicted in the background as much as the close up pictures of our two heroes – the lion and the mouse.

Setting the little mouse free

How does this book continue to teach us about kindness? Students are clearly understanding that kindness is a choice, articulating that each main character had to decide what to do and chose to be kind to the other. We also spoke about how such a small decision to be kind can have far reaching effects. Students pointed out that not only did the lion save the mouse by setting her free, he also saved her family who was dependent on her. Students connected this story to other stories about the “golden rule” – treat others the way you want to be treated and spoke about karma (that all good done comes back to you.) What a powerful discussion this beautiful wordless story inspired.

How to Heal a Broken Wing

How to Heal a Broken Wing written and illustrated by Bob Graham is the second picture book we have read on our theme of kindness.

This book is not wordless, but words do the least work. It is the illustrations – multiple panels on some pages, a full page illustration on another that tell this lovely story of kindness, hope and compassion.

A pigeon hits a tall skyscraper and falls into the busy streets. Nobody notices until Will happens by with his Mom. Maybe he is more observant? Smaller and more focussed on the ground perhaps? But he is the only one to notice the hurt pigeon. We noticed right away how Graham paints Will in bright colours while the rest of the people walking the streets are in dull greens, browns and greys, nothing that stands out. We came back to the page where Will first notices the pigeon and decided that Will made an important decision here – to pick up the bird or to walk away.

“It’s a decision to be kind or not.”

“If you don’t want to be kind, it’s okay, but you should . . .”

Amongst a busy street scene, crowded with people, Graham shines a light on little Will picking up the bird with the broken wing.

“The light on him makes us look much more closely and think about what is important about what he is doing.”

Will takes the injured bird home and despite his parents initial reservations, they help him to begin to care for the bird. Absolute silence as students studied the panels showing Will and his parents bandaging the wing, setting up a box for the bird and settling him in for the night. We follow the picture panels that show us the bird gaining mobility, eating and drinking and looking longingly out the window at the sky.

What has Will’s family given to the bird? We listed off what we had noticed: food, water, rest, a cage to protect him, shelter, care, hope and kindness. In time, the pigeon healed and Will’s parents take Will back to the city streets to let the pigeon fly free.

Two important things we learned about kindness from this book:

  • We need to notice when kindness is needed
  • It is a choice to be kind.

So – how aware are you? What choices do you make every day? This book is a story that reminds us to look at ourselves and think about what we do and what we don’t do everyday.

Those Shoes

We have started reading and discussing picture books with a theme of kindness. Those Shoes written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones was an ideal book with which to start.

This book helped us to explore the difference between our needs and our wants and how to come to terms with the understanding that sometimes we have to give up something we really want when it just doesn’t make sense despite our strong feelings. Jeremy wants those shoes –the shoes he sees advertised on a billboard and walking around him everywhere he looks. Black high tops with two white stripes. Perfection. He wants them especially a lot when his own shoes wear out and the guidance counsellor roots around in a box to find him shoes that fit. Blue velcro shoes with a cartoon animal on the side. Nothing like those shoes he dreams about. Shoes he needs but doesn’t want.

Grandma invites Jeremy to go check out the shoes, those shoes, at the store. She has a little bit of money set aside. But at the store, she discovers the price.

When she sees it, she sits down heavy.

Silence in our class. Students had just commented how kind Grandma was being to take Jeremy shopping for the shoes he really wanted. Now what? I asked, “Can we only show kindness if we have money to buy something?” Well no, of course not but we all had to sit there and feel Jeremy’s disappointment for a while. What next? Jeremy suggests they go looking in the thrift stores for those shoes and in Lucky Store # 3, he finds them. However, squished toes and held breath tell us that these shoes are too small. Still Jeremy buys them because he wants them that much.

Jeremy’s new shoes are unbearable and unwearable. One day he notices a classmate’s shoes are taped up – worn out. Antonio seems to have smaller feet than him. The thought that he might have in his possession shoes that could fit Antonio, those shoes, eats at Jeremy.

I’m not going to do it.

He repeats this thought in his head and out loud. No way. No how. But after a sleepless night, Jeremy runs his shoes, those shoes over to Antonio’s door and leaves them there for him. Jeremy is not fully happy – when he looks down at his own blue shoes that aren’t those shoes he feels upset but Antonio’s face brings him joy.

“He gave up those shoes from the kindness of his heart,” commented Shae-Lynn.

“And he’ll get kindness back,” said Catriona.

Jeremy learned a lot in this book. Sometimes kindness wins but it isn’t completely easy. Our emotions can be mixed. Sometimes we learn that when we have what we need (new snowboots thanks to Grandma) we can appreciate other things (a new snow day). Sometimes our wants bring us unhappiness and giving them up is where we grow. Sometimes kindness is simply giving other people what they need. ┬áSo much to discuss in this gem of a picture book.

Some snippets of written responses:

Truman: Jeremy gave kindness to Antonio by giving his too small shoes to Antonio.

Khai: Jeremy saw Antonio’s shoes and they were broken. Jeremy wondered and wondered and went to Antonio’s house and left the shoes on the porch. Jeremy did it even though he got nothing back.

Markus: The Grandma was nice in the story. She tried to get shoes for her grandson.

Purity: Jeremy gave the shoes to Antonio even though he really liked them. They didn’t fit Jeremy so he gave them to Antonio because Antonio needed them.

How do you show your inner beauty?

We have been talking a lot lately about qualities we respect – in our friends, in our classmates, in ourselves. Today we read a fantastic picture book written by Pat Brisson and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom. Melissa Parkington’s Beautiful, Beautiful Hair inspired us to talk about the qualities in ourselves that are really important. Who do we want to be? What do we want to be known for?

melissa-parkington1

Melissa Parkington has always been recognized for her gorgeous hair. However, she begins to recognize that she doesn’t want to be recognized for something that just simply grows out of her head. What is really special about her?

This book really affected us! Some beautiful writing below helps tell the story:

Annie: Melissa Parkington had beautiful beautiful hair. Everyone around the neighbourhood noticed her hair. But Melissa wanted people to like her for what she did.

Jenny: A lot of people called Melissa’s beautiful hair gorgeous and stunning and then she thought that she doesn’t want people to just call to her – your hair is beautiful . . . she wants people to compliment her for what she does. She helped Maddy and Jake on something and someone said to her – you are nice. So she thought – I can be a nice girl.

Jena: She decided to be the kindest girl in the whole town and she helped a lot of people. At the mall, there was a beauty salon and it said share your hair. And Melissa cut her hair for children who didn’t have hair.

Gary: She decided to donate her hair to kids. So the lady washed her hair and put it on ponytails and started cutting it and put it in envelopes. Now she is known as beautiful heart.

In the end – Melissa’s father changes the way he says goodnight to her. He now says. “Goodnight Melissa of the beautiful, beautiful heart.”

What a wonderful story of generosity, kindness and recognition of true inner beauty.