Woodson, Jacqueline. Each Kindness. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012. 32 pages.
Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a powerful yet subtle introduction to the philosophical concept of ethics that is accessible to children of all ages. It tells the story of Maya, the new girl at school, who is alternately teased and ignored by her classmates. From the perspective of Chloe, one of these peers, we learn about Maya’s efforts to reach out and make friends; they do not end well. One day Chloe tells us Maya was mocked for wearing secondhand clothes, and the next day she never came back to school. Chloe is consumed by guilt but her chance is, in her own words, “forever gone.” E.B. Lewis’ watercolor illustrations, featuring soft lines and colors, make the school and its students seem very real, as if they could be an extension of the audience’s own world. As a result, the story feels more relevant and the reader is placed within it, making her question her own actions. The illustrations are also symmetrically composed and pleasing to look at, prompting a closer look and some self-reflection. The book’s solemn ending asks for yet more reflection, which can easily become a conversation about ethics — the branch of philosophy that deals with right and wrong. Up for discussion could be how to be kind, when to be kind, and who to be kind to. These concepts can differ, so discussing them with a child will prove enlightening. When all is said and done, Each Kindness imparts the important lesson to always be kind to others, because there is no way of knowing how much they need it.
“ Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”