A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows how different people react to death or tragedy. Shows how a church community responds to their members who are going through hard times. Gives a glimpse of the African American Christian church community experience.
There's joy in giving. Have empathy for others. We don't need money to give to others. Communities support one another in times of need. Healing from tragedy takes time and love. Faith can bring hope to your heart.
Positive Role Models
Mama, though grieving, is admirable and teaches her son that they are blessed, even in their struggles. James Otis is a loving and devoted son, and very thoughtful and kind-hearted. The church community takes responsibility for caring for the needy, a feature of many Black church communities. All characters are Black, of varied skin tone.
Violence & Scariness
The death of a parent is mentioned, and the child sees his mother crying on several pages; this may be distressing for younger or sensitive kids.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that What Is Given from the Heart, by the late Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by April Harrison, is the last offering from this legendary author, who passed away in 2017. James Otis and his mama have very little, but they manage to give freely from the heart to a girl and her mother, who lost everything in a fire. With McKissack's signature poetic text, and softly-hued folk-art illustrations, readers are immersed in an African American family and community of support and care. Empathy, the joy in giving, and the importance of faith in recovering from tragedy are among the many positive messages of the book. Mama and James Otis are admirable in their love and strength. James Otis is a devoted son and proves to be thoughtful and kind to others. All characters are Black, of varied skin tones. The death of a parent is mentioned and the mother is crying or very sad in two of the opening spreads, which could be upsetting to younger or sensitive kids. Illustrator April Harrison received the 2020 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent (Illustrator).
Is It Any Good?
This beautifully illustrated, heartfelt story about giving amid tragedy is sure to become a favorite on many a family bookshelf. The melodic text and speech in What Is Given from the Heart is pleasing to the ear. This testament to the love between a mother and her son and the power of faith and community is a stunning reflection of one aspect of African American culture. The soft and luminous folk art/found art illustrations capture the details of the story in moving scenes. Particularly wonderful are those of James Otis embracing his mother as she mourns, the gorgeous spread that shows African American congregants walking to church together in their colorful Sunday best, and the joyous depiction of James Otis catching snow on his tongue as his mother has her arms open in wonder and smiles up to the sky. This is a not-to-be-missed treasure from an iconic storyteller and talented fine artist.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.