Lauren Child: The Goody

Illustrated by the author

Published by Orchard Books, Hachette Children’s Group, 2020

I have read this picture book many times now and I still don’t know where to start. It’s not that I don’t like it, because I actually love it. And it’s not that I don’t have any thoughts about it, because I probably have too many, long after reading it.

Chirton Krauss (what a name!) is the main character and he is the very goodest goody. He is obliging, always eating his broccoli, even though it is his least favourite food. He has good manners, never picking his nose, even when he knows for sure that no-one is looking. He is kind, cleaning out the rabbit’s hutch once a week, even though his sister Myrtle should do it every other week.

Chirton’s parents are so happy with him, that they give him a Goody Badge. Now everyone knows and can never forget that Chirton is a goody. And then in red letters, like a commentary, we read:

If people have decided you are good, do not disappoint them by being bad.

So instead of this feeling of lightness that being good should bring, there is now an unsettling undercurrent of doubt. Where does goodness come from and should we continue being good for our own benefit or because of the expectations of others?

Myrtle, Chirton’s sister, seems to have things all worked out and is riding the wave of life on the back of her brother’s goodness. Myrtle is not invited to parties because she is not a good child, she isn’t made to eat vegetables she doesn’t like, and she is not expected to do her share of the cleaning of the rabbit’s hutch. And in red letters, we are informed:

That is lucky, isn’t it?

So instead of accepting the status quo, we are now thinking that life can be unfair for those who least deserve it.

When Chirton discovers his sister staying up late one night eating choco puffs and watching TV, simply because the babysitter can’t convince Myrtle to go to bed, it feels like that is one straw too many for a Goody to accept. Chirton finally asks himself:

What is so GOOD about being a Goody?

So, you see, the story is complicated, and it is not even finished! It throws up questions about why we do what we do, how our behaviour impacts others, why expectations are so hard to live up to, what is fair and what is not fair, and that sometimes you can be kind and nice just because it feels good when you are kind and nice. And the world needs more people who are trying to be good, don’t you think?

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years, it could be the starting point for long talks about what being good means and that could be applied to children and adults alike. Below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the themes of good and bad behaviour:

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller Illustrated by Jen Hill

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst
Illustrated by Ray Cruz

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson Illustrated by Tara Calahan King

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!
by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Words Are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick
Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney

Don’t Want To Go!
by Shirley Hughes

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
by Todd Parr

Leonardo the Terrible Monster
by Mo Willems

Should I Share My Ice Cream?
by Mo Willems

What Have You Done, Davy?
by Brigitte Weninger
Illustrated by Eve Tharlet

No, David! by David Shannon

Erandi’s Braids
by Antonio Hernandez Madrigal
Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

When Mum Turned Into A Monster by Joanna Harrison

Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten
by Bob Graham

The Elephant and the Bad Baby
by Elfrida Vipont
Illustrated by Raymond Briggs

Because Amelia Smiled
by David Ezra Stein

Hollis Kurman: Hello! A Counting Book of Kindnesses

Illustrated by Barroux

Published by Otter-Barry Books, Great Britain, 2020

I really love the profound simplicity of this picture book. It reminds me of that old acronym KISS…Keep It Simple Stupid. How often do we find ourselves tied up in knots over difficult issues and delicate emotions? Sometimes we just need to peel back the layers of heavy expectations, cultural norms and complex legalities. Sometimes we just need to be human, show empathy, put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, try to imagine what their journey is like and be kind.

On one level, this picture book is a counting journey, exploring how numbers can be found in everyone’s everyday life and that is a simple connection we all share and experience, despite religion, culture or geography.

On another level, this picture book is a poetic unravelling of how kindness works, reminding and teaching us processes that we may have forgotten, infrequently practised or never been taught.

It starts with a family fleeing their homeland because it has become too scary to live there anymore. Starting with one boat, we follow their journey across the seas and into a new land, relying on the kindness of strangers and friends to help them adapt to a new life.

Meals provide sustenance and give energy, beds allow rest and warmth, books are the gateway to learning and knowledge, gifts suggest that you are in someone’s thoughts and speak of generous hearts, and finally friendship…sharing a journey is so much better when you add others to your life.

The evocative illustrations beautifully enhance the sparse text and at the end we are encouraged to reflect on how we can be kind to one another and to realise there are many millions of children who have become refugees, running away from war and persecution. On the end paper at the back of the picture book, there are the names and contact details of organisations that help refugees and migrants.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years, and below I have included more suggestions about picture books which explore the themes of empathy and kindness:

We’re All Wonders by R.J.Palacio

I Am Human by Susan Verde Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Four Feet, Two Sandals
by Karen Lynn Williams
and Khadra Mohammed Illustrated by Doug Chayka

My Name is Not Refugee
by Kate Milner

Words Are Not for Hurting
by Elizabeth Verdick
Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

Malala’s Magic Pencil
by Malala Yousafzai
Illustrated by Kerascoet

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Pena
Illustrated by Christian Robinson

The Day War Came
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam by Fawzia Gilani-Williams Illustrated by Chiara Fedele

I’m (almost) Always Kind
by Anna Milbourne
Illustrated by Asa Gilland

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Irene Latham & Karim Shamsi-Basha Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Phillip Gwynne: Small Town

Illustrated by Tony Flowers

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, 2020

When my husband and I married, we moved to Northcote and discovered the delights of inner city living. We made many long-lasting friendships while we were there but there was one special lady who lived around the corner whom I have never forgotten. Her name was Gwen and she was old, ninety something and still living independently at home. Sadly, Gwen is no longer with us, but she told me something one day that I have never forgotten:  be kind.

Small Town by Phillip Gwynne is all about kindness and based on the true stories of small rural townships like Pyramid Hill, Nhill and Strathbogie that have revitalized their diminishing communities by inviting refugees and immigrants to make these places their homes.

Milly narrates the story and tells us all about her wonderful home called Gong Gong: “so nice, they named it twice” is a repeated refrain throughout the book.

Milly is a member of a basketball team whose players are all called Chloe! That is not a big problem, until one by one, members of the team move away to live in the city. Milly’s parents explain that sometimes families move because there is more work in the city and sometimes they move to be closer to larger communities.

At school Milly learns about refugees, war, famine and persecution. Observing all the space available in her hometown, the houses for rent and job vacancies, Milly decides to invite refugees to come and try country living. Milly makes a video with her Granny Mac, they send it out to the world, and wait and wait.

Soon, refugees are coming to Gong Gong by the carload and a township that was diminishing is revitalized with the influx of new families, some of whom play basketball! This is a wonderful story about people being kind to people and the amazing things that can happen when we embrace diversity in our lives.

Tony Flowers created the illustrations for this book and took inspiration for his images from exploring small Tasmanian country towns. Also take a close look at the end papers and check out the Flowers Bakery in the “video”, apparently it’s a tribute to Tony’s baking skills and the fact that his family owned a bakery in Victoria from the late 1800s to early 1920. Phillip Gwynne is an Australian author and best known for his YA novel Deadly Unna?

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below I have included suggestions for other picture books which explore the theme of kindness:

Finding Kindness
by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Irene Chan

Kindness Grows
by Britta Teckentrup

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham

Make Way for the Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson Illustrated by Tara Calahan King

How Kind! by Mary Murphy

All Are Welcome by
Alexandra Penfold
Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee

Should I Share My Ice Cream?
by Mo Willems

Counting Kindness: Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children
by Hollis Kurman
Illustrated by Barroux

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller Illustrated by Jen Hill