Kindness and Compassion: Tales of Humanity

Australian’s don’t need much guidance in the arts of kindness and compassion. The outpouring for generosity and empathy from around the nation, indeed throughout the world in recent times, is heart-swelling. As are these next few picture books which define thankfulness, humility, acceptance and understanding. Rediscover the joy in shared humanity.

There are so many things to love about this charming picture book, Three: kombis, dogs, animals, fragrant gardens, raindrops…It is another masterpiece by master storyteller and artist, Stephen Michael King  and is imbued with the kind of tenderness that makes big kids weep and little ones smile with joy. The most miraculous thing about Three’s story, apart from his tenacious and spirited outlook on life, is that it took several page turns in before I realised that this adorable little butterscotch-orange and white dog only has three legs. This is shown in the pictures of course but King’s narrative is so engaging, Three’s missing appendage is easy to overlook. This was a surprising realisation for me and a powerful statement about the accession of acceptance.

Three survives on his own in a bustling metropolis surrounded by a multitude of other multi-legged creatures. He is content with his lot in life and grateful for all his legs and where they are capable of carrying him, that is until one day they take him far out into the countryside where he encounters even more curiously-legged creatures including one who shares her biscuits and heart with him. The friendship that blossoms between Three and Fern exemplifies love, acceptance and thankfulness, depicted in King’s bewitchingly beautiful narrative and illustrative style. The counting conundrums are an added bonus boosting this to picture book to highly recommended.

Title: Three
Author: Stephen Michael King
Illustrator: Stephen Michael King
Publisher: Scholastic Press, $24.99
Publication Date: November 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781760664053
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Booktopia, Boomerang Books

Ella & Mrs Gooseberry: Discovering What Love Looks Like
Ella’s next-door neighbour, Mrs Gooseberry has lost her love. That love was her husband of many years but to Ella it represents a more intangible thing, a thing that makes Mrs Gooseberry grumpy and reclusive. Ella wonders what love looks and feels like. She finds the answers she is looking for from her family and teachers until she has gathered enough understanding to hatch an idea and give Mrs Gooseberry reason to laugh and love again.

This honey-sweet story is dripping with tenderness but in a comfortably confined way thanks to Vikki Conley’s affectionate narrative and Pratley’s pastel infused watercolour illustrations. It subtly addresses the benefit of exercising empathy towards our fellow neighbours especially those who may be living alone, thus encouraging caring within the community. Small selfless actions can result in monumental changes; an excellent notion for discussion within both classroom and home environments. 

Title: Ella & Mrs Gooseberry: Discovering What Love Looks Like
Author: Vikki Conley
Illustrator: Penelope Pratley
Publisher: EK Books, $24.99
Publication Date: August 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781925335255
For ages: 4 – 8
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: EK Books, Boomerang Books

The Gift
In the heart of Rosie’s colourless, concrete city of high-rises and uniformity huddles an old house with an abandoned, weed-infested garden. Rosie is certain a heart beats within the forlorn house but that that heart must belong to an old belligerent woman. Each day, Rosie observes the house and its unseen occupant as she reminisces about her mother; her silly songs, crazy creations and the way she saw beauty in everything. Rosie misses her mother who is no longer in her life. Being seconded to her apartment home, Rosie also misses growing her beloved courtyard plants with her mother. Her pensive yearnings germinate one day into an idea after she remembers one of her mother’s aphorisms: if you look long and hard enough, you’ll see the beauty in everything.

Over the course of months, Rosie regularly leaves her neighbour a gift; a sometimes small, sometimes tall prickly weed on her front veranda. Each time she does so, the weed is collected and displayed in a beautiful vase in her neighbour’s window, until one day, Rosie plucks up the courage to visit in person with her last weed gift. She finds Mrs Green inside bestowing cups of tea; not quite the formidable old crone she expected. An understanding and friendship grows between the two faster than you can say ‘beanstalk’, until Rosie finally remembers to show Mrs Green her final gift.

The Gift is a compelling, uplifting story of patience, overcoming grief, accepting loss, and venturing forward. It’s a tale of reaching out and healing and again, of the positive impact individuals can have on their community. Outstanding premise, superbly illustrated, Speechley’s creations are highly recommended.

Title: The Gift
Author: Michael Speechly
Illustrator: Michael Speechly
Publisher: Puffin, $24.99
Publication Date: September 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780143788980
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Readings Books, Boomerang Books

Tilly is a little girl, living in a large old house bubbling with activity and life. In fact, her brothers and sisters fill it with so much boisterousness and clutter, there is barely any room for Tilly. So it is hardly surprising that Tilly’s favourite most sacred place is the step on the entrance to her top floor bedroom, a secret step because of a broken floorboard that only she knows exists. Within this hiding place, Tilly ensconces her most treasured things: a silver ball, drawings, sweets and four little wooden dolls. In this way, Tilly is able to preserve peace and privacy that is until summer home renovations result in newly carpeted floors. Her secret step is imprisoned under a sea of sandy softness, trapped and unreachable.

Crestfallen and dismayed, Tilly tries to conjure a way to rescue her special things but eventually realises the futility of her desires. This acknowledgement sparks a reborn desire and soon, Tilly is collecting new treasures, secreting them in a new hiding spot. Although she never quite forgets those she had to abandon, Tilly learns how to move on and cherish future wonders just as fiercely. Godwin’s moving prose coupled with Walker’s elegant illustrations elevates this story of the significance of small special things, dealing with loss and grief and the importance of letting go to the sublime.

Title: Tilly
Author: Jane Godwin
Illustrator: Anna Walker
Publisher: Scholastic Press, $24.99
Publication Date: October 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781760663728
For ages: 3 – 8
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Readings

Arabella and the Magic Pencil
Arabella is little girl fond of prettiness and pink born into a well-to-do family which, by royal decree, allows her one new wish each year. Imagine! She wishes up all manner of wonderful things such as pink puppies and real-life faeries. It appears life could not be any more perfect for Arabella until one day something she did not wish for arrives; Master Archibald Vermillion Remington XV – or Avery for short. Arabella’s new baby brother is the opposite of calm and quiet whose supreme pleasure is annoying Arabella.

When her next wish is due, Arabella wishes for a magic pencil. Because anything she draws with her magic pencil becomes real, Arabella sets out to decorate her world with the surreal and bizarre. It’s a spectacular and stupendous masterpiece until Avery hurls himself through her land of sparkles and whipped cream, destroying it as only a baby brother can. Enraged beyond words, Arabella charges after Avery with her magic pencil and …erases him! A world without Avery is quiet and calm and orderly just as she always desired, however as show dramatically by Hyde’s sepia-toned illustrations, it is also utterly devoid of colour and joy. Arabella is surprised to discover how much she misses Avery and endeavours to restore her brother to everything he was supposed to be with the aid of her magic pencil…and her love-infused memories of him.

Arabella…is a whimsical interpretation of  age old tale of sibling rivalry and finding tolerance for new family members. Liking new additions simply because you are related to them does not come easily for some youngsters. Books like these are capital for fostering kindness and compassion especially in the absence of magic pencils!  

Title: Arabella and the Magic Pencil
Author: Stephanie Ward
Illustrator: Shaney Hyde
Publisher: EK Books, $24.99
Publication Date: September 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781925820010
For ages: 3 – 8
Type: Picture Books

Buy the Book: EK Books, Boomerang Books



Norah Colvin said…
There is something appealing about all of these books, Dimity. Thank you for sharing them. The one that I'll read first is 'Three'. It reminds me of my daughter's three-legged dog, which must be the most wonderful dog in the whole wide world.
DimbutNice said…
Thank you, Norah. Wonderful choice! Three is so very poignant yet pulsing with strength. I also thought The Gift was superb.
Stephanie said…
I've got a lot of new picture books on my To Be Read list, thanks to this post! What a beautiful collection. I'm humbled to be included among them with Arabella. Thank you :)
DimbutNice said…
She deserves to be among these, Stephanie. What a joyful and unique look at the power of the pen! :-)

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