Be Kind

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Be Kind Book Poster Image
Warm story shows big impact of simple acts of kindness.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows simple, practical ways of being kind to others and helping someone who's having a bad day feel better. 

Positive Messages

"Maybe I can only do small things. But my small things might join small things other people do. And together, they could grow into something big." "Being kind can be hard, too. Even when you know what to do." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character/narrator notices when her classmate, Tanisha, is having a rough time, is sensitive to the fact that other kids are making fun of her, and tries to think of ways to help Tanisha feel better. She's caring, feels empathy, and takes action to reach out to Tanisha rather than idly standing by. Many examples of other kids and adults being kind locally and globally. The classmates and townsfolk are diverse, as are kids shown in other countries, including Peru, Egypt, Japan, and the Middle East.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pat Zietlow Miller's Be Kind is narrated by compassionate kid (could be boy or girl) who notices a classmate, Tanisha, who's embarrassed by having spilled grape juice on her new dress and runs out into the hall after the other kids laugh at her. The unnamed kid wants to make Tanisha feel better but isn't sure how, and starts to ponder what it means to be kind. The kid comes up with examples in her school, community, across the country and the world, shown in cheerful, appealing illustrations. The story comes full circle as the kid finally finds a simple way to make Tanisha feel better. Be Kind provides an opening for discussing the value and power of kindness and ways to be kind to others.

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What's the story?

A kid (could be boy or girl) sees a classmate, Tanisha, spill grape juice on her new dress and most of the other kids laugh at her. But the kid narrator remembers tha Mom always says to BE KIND, so tries to make Tanisha feel better. All the kid can think of to say is, "Purple is my favorite color," but that doesn't help. Tanisha runs into the hall, embarrassed. The kid wonders what could have helped and thinks, "What does it mean to be kind anyway?" The kid imagines various examples of giving, helping, reaching out to a new classmate, sticking up for someone, etc. in her school, community, across the country and the world. In the end, the kid paints Tanisha a picture of purple flowers in art class, which Tanisha takes home and puts up on her bedroom wall. 

Is it any good?

What could have been a sentimental exercise is elevated to a meaningful exploration of kindness in this lovely picture book with Jen Hill's charming watercolor-and-ink illustrations. The little kid narrator of Be Kind not only offers examples of reaching out to others to make them feel good or feel better when they're down, but also acknowledges that it's not always easy. "And sticking up for someone when other kids aren't kind is really hard. (And really scary.)"

This is a great book for opening up a discussion about what it means to be kind and identifying simple, practical ways we can show kindness to those around us. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about empathy. Have you ever seen someone who was sad and found yourself feeling sad for their being sad? 

  • If you see a friend or classmate having a rough time, what can you do to help them feel better? 

  • How important is it to be kind to others, even when you don't know them? 

Book details

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