Theme Guide: Kindness and Empathy

“Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” J. M. Barrie

We love these books that encourage kindness and empathy.

Picture Books

The Branch
Written by Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Pierre Pratt
Kids Can Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77138-564-0
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 2-3

When an ice storm snaps a small girl’s favourite branch from the tree in her yard, she’s crestfallen. Her neighbour, Mr. Frank, says it’s full of potential. And so, with imagination and Mr. Frank’s guidance and tools, the girl transforms the branch into something new, giving it another purpose, and her another place to treasure! This title is also available in French as Ma branche préférée.

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I Am Human: A Book of Empathy
Written by Susan Verde
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4197-3165-5
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 1-2

A hopeful meditation on all the great (and challenging) parts of being human, I Am Human shows that it’s okay to make mistakes while also emphasizing the power of good choices by offering a kind word or smile or by saying “I’m sorry.” At its heart, this picture book is a celebration of empathy and compassion that lifts up the flawed fullness of humanity and encourages children to see themselves as part of one big imperfect family — millions strong.

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The Lion and the Bird
Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
ISBN 978-1-59270-151-3
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

One autumn day, a lion finds a wounded bird in his garden. With the departure of the bird’s flock, the lion decides that it’s up to him to care for the bird. He does and the two become fast friends. Nevertheless, the bird departs with his flock the following autumn. What will become of Lion and what will become of their friendship? This title is also available in French as Le lion et l’oiseau.

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Written by Céline Claire
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Kids Can Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-77138-927-3
IL: Ages 3-8 RL: Grades 2-3

As a blizzard approaches, two strangers emerge from the fog enveloping the forest. From inside their cozy homes, the animal families fearfully wonder: Who are these strangers? What do they want? Desperate for shelter, the strangers go to each home, hopeful someone will take them in. Will anyone help? This title is also available in French as L’abri.

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Junior & Intermediate Fiction

The Cat at the Wall
Written by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books, 2014
ISBN 978-1-55498-491-6
IL: Ages 9-13 RL: Grades 4-5

On Israel’s West Bank, a hungry stray cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers for surveillance. The house appears to be empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. Should she help him? After all, she’s just a cat. Or is she?

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A True Home
(Heartwood Hotel, Book1)
Written by Kallie George
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
HarperCollins Publishers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-44344-393-7
IL: Ages 7-10 RL: Grades 2-3

Mona the mouse stumbles across the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm and desperately hopes to stay. As it happens, Mona is precisely the maid they need at Fernwood’s grandest hotel, where forest animals come for safety, luxury and comfort. But danger lurks nearby and Mona must use all her wits to protect the place she’s beginning to think of as home.

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Kasey & Ivy
Written by Alison Hughes
Orca Book Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4598-1574-2
IL: Ages 9-13 RL: Grade 5

Through 26 letters to her friend Nina, 12-year-old Kasey chronicles her observations and impressions of her unexpected, month-long stay in a geriatric ward for the treatment of a rare but treatable bone disease. Hospital food, insomnia and the germy communal bath are enduring sources of dread, but some new friends make her life bearable.

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Random Acts
Written by Valerie Sherrard
Puffin Canada, 2015
ISBN 978-0-14-319104-9
IL: Ages 9-13 RL: Grades 4-5

Zoey Dalton and her best friends, Bean and Jenna, make a pledge to begin performing random acts of kindness — anonymously. But what if their random acts of kindness are unwanted and misunderstood? What if, instead of spreading joy and good will, the trio’s actions stir up trouble, and wreak havoc? That, of course, would be a different story. This story, in fact.

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Young Adult Fiction

It’s Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O’Keefe has lived a shuttered, lonely life with her negligent mother, who is a hoarder. One day, Bun’s mother tells her to leave, so she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother’s house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care.

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We Are All Made of Molecules
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books, 2015
ISBN 978-1-77049-779-5
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially “ungifted.” Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the “It” girl of Grade 9, but her marks stink. When Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom, their worlds collide. They are complete opposites. And yet, no matter their differences, they share one thing in common: they — like the rest of us — are all made of molecules.

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Bear on the Homefront
Written by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press, 2014
ISBN 978-1-927485-13-2
IL: Ages 5-12 RL: Grades 3-4

During World War II, nurse Aileen Rogers and her stuffed bear, Teddy, greet English ‘guest children’ sent overseas for safety. Teddy befriends homesick William and his sister Grace, sharing the experience of the cross-country train ride and five years on a host family’s farm. Narrated by Teddy, this poignant and beautifully illustrated book is the companion to A Bear in War.

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Life Lines: The Lanier Phillips Story
Written by Christine Welldon
Breakwater Books, 2014
ISBN 978-1-55081-551-1
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 4-5

In 1942, African-American serviceman Lanier Phillips was rescued from a sinking warship off the coast of Newfoundland — an event that transformed his life and ignited a lasting passion for civil rights. Having grown up amidst deep racism, Phillips was inspired by the Newfoundlanders’ kindness. He joined the Civil Rights Movement and told his story of transformation to inspire change.

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On Our Street: Our First Talk About Poverty
Written by Dr. Jillian Roberts and Jaime Casap
Orca Book Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4598-1617-6
IL: Ages 5-8 RL: Grades 2-3

A gentle introduction to the issue of poverty, this title explores the realities of people living with inadequate resources and addresses issues such as mental illness, homelessness and refugee status. Sidebars with insightful quotes from individuals and organizations such as UNICEF add further food for thought. Readers are encouraged to take what they have learned and make a difference.

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Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation
Written by Monique Gray Smith
Orca Book Publishers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4598-1583-4
IL: Ages 10 and up RL: Grades 5-6

Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous people has suffered as a result of both the residential school system and the lack of understanding of the historical and current impact of those schools. Guided by acclaimed Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith, readers will learn about the lives of survivors and learn from the allies who are putting the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into action.

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