The best children’s books on the healing power of kindness

Ellen Leventhal Author Of A Flood of Kindness
By Ellen Leventhal

Who am I?

I am a teacher, writer, mother, and grandmother who sees the debilitating effects of meanness and the healing effects of kindness daily. In case that isn’t reason enough for writing A Flood of Kindness, I’m also what some call “A Floodie.” Like my character’s home flooded, so did mine. As devastating as it was, the kindness of others was overwhelming. I spent time with children whose homes also flooded. Aside from losing material things, it is easy to feel powerless. Like myself, I found that the children began their healing when they were able to give back, even in very small ways. I knew this had to be my book. 

I wrote...

A Flood of Kindness

By Ellen Leventhal, Blythe Russo (illustrator),

Book cover of A Flood of Kindness

What is my book about?

A Flood of Kindness demonstrates the healing power of kindness to all children, especially those who have experienced grief or loss. When Charlotte’s home floods, she thinks only of her loss until a small act of kindness puts her on the road to healing, and she realizes that she’s not as powerless as she thought. Children will be encouraged to be kind to those who need a friend and empowered to help others in whatever way they can, no matter how small. This story demonstrates that kindness is so powerful that it can heal both the giver and the receiver. 

The books I picked & why

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When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

By Janie Reinart, Morgan Taylor (illustrator),

Book cover of When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

Why this book?

Janie Reinart’s lyrical telling of this story, coupled with Morgan Taylor’s beautiful illustrations, takes the reader on a ride filled with love and emotion. It’s about refugee children who have, as the author says, “nothing but dreams.” Big Sister wants Little Sister to be happy, so she decides she can create something from nothing. She makes amazing things, but they don’t last. However, when Big Sister makes a mud doll, the two sisters play together, create other mud dolls, and continue to dreamWhat affected me the most as I read this is that this book is based on a real refugee camp, and proceeds are donated to UNICEF where our collective kindness can have the power to heal. 

Big Bear Was Not the Same

By Joanna Rowland, John Ledda (illustrator),

Book cover of Big Bear Was Not the Same

Why this book?

The idea of being kind and understanding when a friend is having a difficult time has always been important to me. Often, so-called friends are quick to leave when someone is going through a rough patch. In this lovely book, Big Bear was frightened by a forest fire and wasn’t the same afterward. Although Little Bear wasn’t sure what was going on, he never left Big Bear. When Little Bear realized the problem, he stayed by Big Bear’s side. With Little Bear at his side, Big Bear could begin to heal. Rowland’s words resonate with me, and Ledda’s beautiful illustrations add another layer. 

The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed

By Alayne Kay Christian, Polina Gortman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed

Why this book?

I love stories based on actual events, such as this. A scraggly plant grows in the middle of a traffic circle, and though most people ignore it as they pass by, a little girl wraps it in tinsel. More people add to it and even leave gifts under the decorated weed. Soon the community notices not just the little weed, but each other. Readers can find specific examples of kindness, not only in the text but in Gortman’s lovely illustrations. One of my favorites is where an older woman helps a homeless man find a job. The healing power of kindness is demonstrated as people’s hearts awaken, and the town is healed of its apathy due to the kindness of others.

Be Kind

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Jen Hill (illustrator),

Book cover of Be Kind

Why this book?

One of the things I love about this book is that Miller addresses the very true idea that being kind is not always easy. Often, we tell kids to “be kind,” but we don’t tell them how. In this book, the main character tries to help her friend, Tanisha, who spills grape juice on herself. But her initial attempts aren’t successful. The main character wonders what it means to be kind and knows that she can do small kindnesses. She thinks about how small kindness can be contagious and “spill out of the school” and go all around the world. As I wonder about the power of kindness to heal, this book makes me think about how wonderful it is that we can all help in our own small way.

Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom

By Callie Metler, Shirin Rahman, Melissa Stoller, Kate Talbot (illustrator)

Book cover of Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom

Why this book?

I love the sweet kindness of this book, and of course, the overarching message that with heart and compassion, we can build bridges connecting us together. This book focuses on three girls of different faiths who meet on the first day of school. They help each other through difficulties without ever thinking about their differences. What makes this book unique is that the three authors are each from the same faith tradition of the girls about which they write. How does this book demonstrate the healing power of kindness? Although there is no major trauma in this story itself, I think that perhaps we can emulate these children and begin to heal the world itself with kindness. 

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