AwardCoretta Scott King Honor Book – 2013
A new girl named Maya arrives in Chloe’s class. Her clothes look worn, and the children at school reject her. Maya asks to participate in their games and shows them her high bouncing ball and jacks, but they continue to shut her out. By spring, she is gone, leaving her desk empty. When their teacher gives a lesson on kindness, dropping a small stone into water and watching the effect it makes, she tells the students: “Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple into the world.” Chloe cannot think of one kind thing she has done and realizes that she missed an opportunity to be generous and accepting with Maya.
Lifelike watercolour illustrations bring Chloe’s classroom into vivid reality. The soft wash of the brush strokes lends a dreaminess to the images, but the precision of the children’s expressions and environment make them read more like photographs than paintings. Body language and perspective help tell the story of isolation and rejection with greater clarity.
The lyrical first person narrative gets inside Chloe’s thoughts and gives realistic insight into her world: “At lunchtime, we walked around the school yard, our fingers laced together, whispering secrets into each other’s ears.”
This poignant tale is a resonant example of how important small gestures and acts of kindness can be, and how heartbreaking and difficult it is to be excluded.
Elementary English Language Arts Activities
Discuss what it means to include or exclude someone. Why are some people excluded from a group? What are the consequences? Reflect on these questions before and after reading the book.
Pay attention to the facial expressions and body language of the characters in the illustrations. What might they be thinking and feeling? How does noticing this help you understand the story?
- Write a paragraph, comic or short script that retells part of the story from Maya’s point of view.
Decorate a bulletin board or large mural of a stone making ripples in water. Add ‘small kindnesses’ on sticky notes whenever you see or do something kind.
Elementary English as a Second Language Activities
From the page that starts with “My best friends that year,” discuss what often happens in a schoolyard.
Go for a picture walk and discuss the interactions between the students. What emotions are evoked by the illustrations?
After the read-aloud, discuss how both Maya and Chloe feel. Can you make connections to this situation?
Try the teacher’s activity of dropping a pebble into a bowl of water. Discuss your own acts of kindness. How might they cause further ripples of kindness in the world?
Use teacher-selected lists of classroom ideas for random acts of kindness. Which are possible? Try one. Create a class or school bulletin board to announce your good deeds. Discuss how they change school life.