Teach lessons about sensitivity, empathy
Today's titles offer glimpse of life through others' eyes
It's often true that people can't truly comprehend what they have no exposure to or knowledge of. The converse is also true — that many people, through experience, are better able to view other people with a more sensitive understanding and empathy.
Heightening awareness comes from many different sources. The most obvious is what people directly experience in their day-to-day relationships and interactions with others and what they observe around them. But sometimes that isn't enough to enhance their understanding. In direct relationships, the ego can get involved, diminishing the ability to be wholly empathetic.
That's where excellent books can nudge us along, allowing readers to safely enter another person's world without direct confrontation, without any possibility of ego interference and ultimately provide us with snippets of wisdom to foster greater growth of empathetic feelings toward others.
Such is the case with the children's books reviewed below. Not only will these books touch a child, but they will touch the adult reading the books aloud, for each has something strong to say about loyalty and kindness, sorrow and hardship and, ultimately, goodness.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog" by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene, Houghton Mifflin, 32 pages
Read aloud: age 4 and older
Read yourself: age 7 — 8 and older
Hachiko was still a puppy when he came to live with Dr. Ueno. Dr. Ueno worked at Tokyo Imperial University. Every morning, Hachiko walked with him to the train station, and every afternoon, Hachiko was waiting for Dr. Ueno when he got off the train.
One day, Dr. Ueno died while at work, and Hachiko, waiting for him to return, would not leave the station until the last train had gone. Every day thereafter, Hachiko went to the station in the morning and waited for Dr. Ueno until the last train of the day. Hachiko's loyalty was boundless, for the dog maintained his daily ritual for 10 years until he, too, died.
Told through the eyes of a fictional boy, this true story of Hachiko's endless love for Dr. Ueno is at once sad and wonderful — and to this day, there is a special Hachiko festival held every year at the statue erected in his honor at the train station in Japan.
Powerful and perfect in every way, this selection will long be remembered.
Library: Sutter Branch Library, 2147 California St., Sutter
Library Director: Karen Crocker
Choices this week: "Gran's Bees" by Mary Thompson; "Winter's Gift" by Jane Monroe Donovan; "Kira Kira" by Cynthia Kadohata
Books to Buy
The following books are available at your favorite bookstores.
"Born and Bred in the Great Depression" by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root, Schwartz & Wade, 2011, 36 pages, $17.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 5 — 6 and older
Read yourself: age 8 — 9
"When I think of the Great Depression, I picture a whole country of people tough as Grandpa and Granny Winter, not giving up, even when it seemed like there was nothing left to lose."
A tribute from the author to his father who grew up during the Great Depression, this tender and candid story describes some of the hardships and joys of everyday life during those difficult times.
Above all, "Born and Bred in the Great Depression" weaves important messages about family, optimism and "learning to love those things that didn't cost a single penny."
An important book in many regards, this selection excels.
"Something to Hold" by Katherine Schlick Noe, Clarion, 2011, 250 pages, $16.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 9 and older
Read yourself: age 10 — 11 and older
It's 1962, and Kitty and her have family have moved many times before, but this move is different. Her father has taken a job on Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon where almost everyone is Native American.
The very white Kitty finds many of the resident kids unfriendly toward her. But as Kitty develops some friendships, she learns a lot about tribal customs and the strength of her new community's spirituality and sense of extended family. Kitty also learns about resentment and negative attitudes about Native Americans, especially among the few whites on the Reservation.
When several events begin to spiral out of control, Kitty finds the courage and conviction to speak out against injustice. In so doing, Kitty discovers who she really is and who her friends really are — and those friends number more than she ever knew.
Beautifully written, this heartfelt, deeply moving novel is perfect in every way.
Kendal A. Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at her website: greatestbooksforkids.com.