Adults are familiar with the work of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but in our efforts to heal our wounded world, our children need to hear his message. Fortunately, Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams have come together to write “Desmond and the Very Mean Word” about the hurt that words can cause and the power of forgiveness.The first powerful moment of this book came in the form of an introductory letter from Tutu to the child reading his book. In his book, he speaks to children urging them to consider what it would be like if someone told you that a group of people was better than another group just because they had some physical feature, which they had no control over.
The story itself is simple. Young Desmond is excited about his new bike and wants to show it to Father Trevor. On his way, however, he encounters a gang of boys. He doesn’t want to stop for fear that they will steal his bike. But as he rides through, one boy shouts out a very mean word. What that word is doesn’t matter, it just cuts Desmond to the core.
Desmond wants to get back at the boys. Father Trevor explains why that won’t solve anything – “You will get them back, and then they will get you back, and soon our whole world will be filled with nothing but ‘getting back.'”(ain’t that the truth!)
Desmond tries to get past it, but can’t, a wonderful reminder that he is a kid. When he sees the boys again, he shouts the meanest word he can think of at them. At first he feels proud for getting back at them, but then he realizes that the mean word has “left a bitter taste in his mouth.”
Desmond realizes that while he has figured out a way to hurt the boys, hurting them actually hurts him too. This is a lesson many children’s books have tried to get across, most notably, How Full is Your Bucket.
What finally frees Desmond is his ability to apologize for his own ugly words and to forgive the red-haired boy for his. In that moment, “Desmond felt a little stronger and a little braver and stood up a little taller.”
When we were children we were taught the mantra that sticks and stone may break your bones but words could never hurt you. In reality, words leave a much more lasting impact on us. It is far easier to hold on to the one negative comment than to remember ten positive ones. What Tutu learned as a child, and hopes to impart to children everywhere, is that we can only raise ourselves up and hope to raise up others by promoting a world of kind words and deeds. Hate speech has never gotten us anywhere, but love, love has the power to heal. As we enter 2017, I hope that we can all learn a little something about kindness and love to all.
National Geographic knows that one of the best ways to capture anyone’s attention is through stunning photography. We recently received two of their newest titles and they are visually outstanding and super fun.
J’s favorites include items such as the toilet with a motorbike engine, the list of “Royally Amazing Castles,” which of course includes Neuschwanstein castle (Sleeping Beauty and mentioned in Land of Stories) and Alawick castle of Harry Potter fame, Ultimate Tree Houses, and crazy roller coasters.
The thing is, even though this information might seem useless, it can totally come up in conversation. Just yesterday afternoon we were talking about inventions that we would like to see happen. Of course I voted for a robot that cleans the house for me and one who folds laundry. J responded that “you know, there is a robot that plays the violin. And a robot that can find books.” Where did she learn these things? Amazing 8.
The Eight Weird Wonders reminds me of my days working at a travel magazine and the stunningly wonderful natural world that we often don’t see, especially if we don’t have access to helicopters and such. This is a great book to have around whenever you need a quick break from reality or as something to keep a child occupied. It also is a great book for car rides as it sparks all kinds of fun conversations – what do you mean there is a pink lake?!?
The book 100 Things to Know Before you Grow Up also has a little bit of everything, but unlike Awesome 8, these are actually things that you can really use in your day to day life. It is “chock-full of the information that you need to be the best version of you. You know, a normal kid but with superhuman, super awesome skills for dealing with tough times.” There isn’t a method to the madness in terms of how the book is organized, but on some levels that works even better for kids because it keeps them turning the pages, waiting to see what comes next. Some of the topics include
- How to make snow ice cream
- How to say I’m sorry
- How to help someone who is choking
- How to do the laundry
- How to say No
- How to journal like a pro
- How to make a tie-dyed shirt
Interspersed throughout all of these two page “how-to” guides are interviews with experts and explorers to help you discover your passion, to stand up for what you believe in, and figure out how to let your imagination run wild.
There is simply an abundance of amazing and useful information condensed into this little book. There is even a check-list and index at the back of the book for future reference! A great addition for kids to pull of the shelf from time to time.
We really enjoyed these books and I am glad to have them as part of my collection. I’m including them as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by KidLitFrenzy. There is always an abundance of amazing picture books discussed on the blogs that link up. Go check it out!