The Picture Book Buzz

A Flood of Kindness - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

While this is a great book for bibliotherapy lists on coping with loss, disasters, and trauma, I do wonder if perhaps it might not also demonstrate that kindness and community are not just needed when bad things happen, but as a daily part of all of our lives. That we are all a little less isolated, scared, and miserable when we offer "a hand" to each other. When we create a true 'flood' of kindness.


A Flood of Kindness


Author: Ellen Leventhal


Illustrator: Blythe Russo


Publisher: Worthy Kids (2021)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Natural disasters, loss, kindness, community, and helpers.


Synopsis:

"The night the river jumped its banks, everything changed."


So begins A Flood of Kindness, a poignant picture book that addresses grief and loss and demonstrates how kindness can bring hope. Written in spare prose and told from an intimate first-person point of view, the story follows Charlotte, a young girl who watches floodwaters rise in her home and is forced to evacuate to a shelter with her parents. Kind people she doesn't know give her food, socks and shoes to keep her feet warm, and a place to sleep. As Charlotte adjusts to the shelter—a strange, crowded place that is not home—she grapples with feelings of anger and sadness. But as the days go by, Charlotte starts to realize how grateful she is for the things that she does have—her parents, a cot to sleep on, food to eat—and starts looking for ways to help others in the shelter.


All children deal with sadness and loss in some way, whether it stems from a natural disaster, the death of a pet, or moving to a new place. A Flood of Kindness acknowledges those difficult feelings and helps readers process them in a healthy way. Children will be encouraged to be kind to those who need a friend and to help others in whatever way they can, no matter how small.


Opening Lines:

The night the river jumped its banks,

everything changed.


Water swirled over the curb.

Rain pounded the pavement.

Lightning cut the sky.


What I loved about this book:

Opening with powerful lyricism, and ominous black and grey illustrations, we are tossed immediately into Charlotte's situation. A scary, seemingly endless storm and a house quickly filling with water. The only bits of muted, subtle color are Charlotte, her bear, parents, and some towels.

Text © Ellen Leventhal, 2021. Image © Blythe Russo, 2021.


Even when Charlotte and her parents arrived at the shelter, everything and everyone (not immediately interacting with her family) remain depicted in shades of grey and black. Beautifully reflecting her worry, fear, and feelings of displacement. As the storm continued, more people "poured into the building" and "still it rained." Seeking comfort from her parents and teddy bear, Charlotte laid awake, waiting until there was finally silence and a possible hint of a ray of sun outside the window.

Text © Ellen Leventhal, 2021. Image © Blythe Russo, 2021.

A few days later, when the water receded and they could safely get to their home, the town remains colorless, full of damaged items - "piles of broken toys, moldy mattresses, and sopping clothes." Especially her own house, where "[e]ven the walls felt soggy." On the return ride to the shelter, Charlotte notices the helpers. People of every age pitching in to help and comfort each other and to clear the debris and hand out water.

Text © Ellen Leventhal, 2021. Image © Blythe Russo, 2021.


This is the turning point, where even at the shelter Charlotte sees others finding ways to help, to reach out in comfort, offering hope, and demonstrating resilience. Color begins to creep back into her life. I hope you find this touching book and see how Charlotte ultimately finds a way to be a helper herself, to bring hope and comfort to another child. This is a wonderful book to help children during and after a disaster, but also one that could help any child, experiencing loss or trauma, to realize that kids are not powerless, that they can help. That even the "smallest" action of kindness can be momentous and healing. Additionally, this is a book that could help create empathy for those displaced by disasters, encouraging those unaffected to be helpers. A wonderful book that should be in every classroom and library.


Craft note: I love the way Ellen created and subtly tweaked a a refrain throughout the book. In the opening pages Charlotte notes, "Still, it rained." Despite all her parents try - "But still, water seeped in." When she is lifted into the rescue boat, Charlotte notes "Still it rained." Arriving at the shelter - "But still, I shivered." And the next day, stuck in the shelter, Ellen returns to the refrain, "And still, it rained." Each time the phrase is set apart with bold lettering and a different font. Impressing upon the reader the sheer volume of incessant cold water which collected in her town.


Resources:

- make an origami bear with a heart (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KXKbZIq6CI&ab_channel=GaryEasyOrigami)


- many communities and/or hospitals do Teddy Bear Drives, collecting bears (and other stuffed animals) for kids and seniors during crises. See if there is a drive near you or start your own (https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas/965-hold-a-teddy-bear-drive).

- here are some ideas for kids wanting to be helpers themselves, definitely needed after disasters, but also year-round (https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/volunteer/appropriate-volunteer-opportunities-for-kids-after-a-natural-disasters/).

- and some resources for talking with and helping kids through natural disasters (https://www.cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/helping-children-cope.html)


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Ellen Leventhal (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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