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With a little help from their friends

We could all use a reminder that there is kindness in the world — as well as a reminder to extend kindness to others. These new picture books for young children show how small gestures of generosity can make a big difference.

meshon_deliveryA woman bakes a special batch of red heart-shaped cookies and sends them off in the mail to her grandson in Aaron Meshon’s nearly wordless book Delivery. It takes almost every mode of transportation imaginable as the package travels over oceans, around mountains, and even briefly into space before arriving at its (surprising!) destination. In a sweet and visually effective touch, each time a person receives the package, some part of his or her vehicle turns into a red heart. Trails of red hearts in the digital illustrations trace the package’s progress across the pages — and show that the cookies are truly being handled with care. (Atheneum, 3–5 years)

kim_cat-on-the-busA stray cat, protagonist of Cat on the Bus by debut author-illustrator Aram Kim, is having a rough day. She scrounges for food in a trash can (“CLACK / Clang / Rattle / Clatter!”), gets shooed away from a grocery store (“Scat, cat!”), and is rudely rebuffed when she attempts to board a bus (“Scram / Scoot / SHOO!”). The dejected kitty manages to get out of the snow and onto a second bus; there she meets a kindly elderly man who shares first his scarf, then his home, with her. The man’s young granddaughter is delighted at the new arrival, and the trio cuddle up to read a book — about a little girl and a cat, of course — for a “purrrrrrr-fect” ending. Spare text (consisting mostly of sound effects) and a dynamic mix of shapes and sizes in the pastel, colored pencil, and digital illustrations effectively pace this heartwarming story. (Holiday, 3–5 years)

edwards_hat for mrs. goldmanIn A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, elderly Mrs. Goldman knits warm hats and sweaters for everyone in the neighborhood, and her young neighbor Sophia embellishes the projects with pom-poms. It’s their mitzvah, or “good deed.” One cold, windy day, Sophia wonders where Mrs. Goldman’s own hat is (“‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen,’ she explains”). Worried that her friend must be cold, Sophia decides to knit Mrs. Goldman a hat. There are bumps along the way (and on the hat!), but through perseverance and creativity Sophia is able to present Mrs. Goldman with a thing of beauty and love. G. Brian Karas’s unfussy mixed-media illustrations in muted hues enhance this ode to intergenerational friendship. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 4–7 years)

johnson_small thing but bigAn anxious little girl called Lizzie. A small dog named Cecile. A dapper old man. A mother not afraid to give her daughter some space. A park, perhaps in Paris. These are all small things that add up to very big things for everyone involved in Tony Johnston’s A Small Thing…but Big. Lizzie, playing happily by herself, comes face-to-face with a dog. She’s hesitant, but the dog’s owner gently encourages her to join them on a walk around the park (Mom waves permission from a bench). The composition of Hadley Hooper’s light-toned relief-print illustrations highlights the growing trust between Lizzie and Cecile on each page. A twist at the end shows that it’s not just children who can take small steps toward something bigger. (Roaring Brook/Porter, 4–7 years)

From the April 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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