Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  When Tanisha spills grape juice on her new dress, the narrator tries to be kind (“Purple is my favorite color”), but Tanisha is too upset to appreciate the gesture.  The narrator wonders what she could have done differently, and reflects on what it means to be kind.  She thinks of kind acts she’s done in the past, like bringing a neighbor cookies or helping around the house.  Sometimes it’s easy (saying thank you), but it can also be hard (sticking up for someone when others are unkind).  In the end, she decides to paint Tanisha a picture, knowing that small kindnesses can lead to much larger ones.  The final illustration shows that her efforts have not gone unappreciated by Tanisha.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  A good addition to the character education bookshelf.  Kindness is explained in terms even the youngest reader can understand and discuss.  It’s not clear if the narrator is a boy or a girl, making his/her experiences universal.

Cons:  Tanisha is clearly having a bad day, but she seems a bit ungrateful.

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Stella Diaz Has Something to Say! By Angela Dominguez

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Summary:  Stella Diaz has something to say, but she often has trouble saying it.  She’s shy, and sometimes she stumbles over English words.  Her family moved from Mexico to Chicago when she was a baby, making her feel somewhat disconnected from the extended family that sometimes visits.  Her father has moved to Colorado and only occasionally gets in touch, but her mom and older brother Nick more than make up for his absence.  As Stella moves through third grade, she experiences successes that helps her confidence to slowly build.  She makes new friends, speaks up for herself to the mean girl, and participates in a spelling bee in front of the whole class.  By the end of the story, she’s even made friends with a boy, and he and her other friends have helped her to put together an amazing presentation about her favorite topic, undersea animals.  The end of the year sees Stella excited about spending the summer with family and friends and more than ready to move on to fourth grade.  208 pages; grades 2-4.

Pros:  Fans of Junie B. and Clementine, especially more introverted ones, will enjoy Stella’s story and will cheer her on as she finds the courage to try new experiences.  Readers who are bilingual or new to the United States will connect with Stella’s struggles to fit in.

Cons:  Nick occasionally seems too good to be true for a 14-year-old older brother.

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