Kindness from A to Z…a treasury of goodhearted stories

Earlier this week I looked at resources speaking to the kinds of suffering many children face.
Today I’m focusing on the good that thrives even in tough times,
even in a year like 2020.
I’ve been reminded that…
…quarantine and shut downs have provided for added stillness, creative making do, centered living.
…lives lost unjustly exposed inequities needing attention, moved masses of people to cry out for justice.
…risks taken by ordinary workers highlighted their often under-appreciated value.
Suffering set in motion community, compassion, provision.

volunteers from the Navajo Nation distribute water

Without minimizing pain, we can acknowledge that in dark times, light appears brighter.
Today’s list shines a light on kindness, community, friendship, generosity
via an entire alphabet of warmhearted stories, stories that display the best of human nature.
I hope they are a balm to your hearts and souls as we move through the days and weeks ahead, and a beckoning to pathways of love.

Alfie Gives a Hand
written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
reprint edition 2009 by Red Fox

From the grande dame of children’s literature comes this classic story of one little boy reaching out to comfort and befriend a child having a bit of a hard time at a birthday party. A Swanson family favorite, for ages 3 and up.

BBig Friends
written by Linda Sarah, illustrated by Benji Davies
published in 2016 by Henry Holt and Co Books for Young Readers

Two best buddies make room for a newcomer to forge a solid trio. Honest, tenderhearted, endearing. Ages 4 and up.

CA Chair for My Mother
written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams
25th anniversary edition 2007 by Greenwillow Books

A brilliant, classic story about a family who loses their belongings in a fire, the community who helps set them on their feet again, and the patient, long road to earn a longed-for piece of home, the perfect, comfy chair. Ages 4 and up.


Dozens of Doughnuts
written by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Brianne Farley
published in 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

LouAnn the bear is a generous baker, so generous that the dozens of doughnuts she makes for her pre-hibernation feast all get eaten up by her friends. But don’t worry. Those good friends notice and surprise LouAnn in the end. Jolly and scrumptious for ages 3 and up.


Ernestine’s Milky Way
written by Kerry Madden-Lunsford, illustrated by Emily Sutton
published in 2019 by Schwartz & Wade

The Great Depression called forth courage and neighborliness. This is the story of one five-year-old’s stouthearted trek across the holler to deliver milk to some needy folk. Plucky, goodhearted, lovely. Ages 4 and up.

FThe Friend
written by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
published in 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers

A poignant story of one lonely girl, the black caregiver who provides her with love and companionship, and in the end, literally saves her life. Powerful, deeply emotional, for ages 7 and up.

George and Martha
written and illustrated by James Marshall
published in 1974 by HMH Books for Young Readers

These two ridiculous hippos have been loved for generations. Despite the tetchy tiffs that sometimes pester even BFFs, George and Martha are always there for each other in the end. Silly, lovable, guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of kids ages 3 and up.

HA Hat for Mrs. Goldman
written by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade

Mrs. Goldman is an epic knitter, knitting cozy hats for everyone in the neighborhood. Sophia makes the pompoms. When Sophia realizes that Mrs. Goldman has no hat of her own, she sets out to make things right. One of my very favorite, kindhearted, can-do stories. Ages 4 and up.

IIf You Plant a Seed
written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
published in 2015 by Balzer + Bray

If you plant a carrot seed, you get a carrot. If you plant selfishness, you get a scratchy kerfuffle. What happens if you plant kindness? Gorgeous illustrations by Kadir Nelson demonstrate the joyous results. Ages 3 and up.

JJulia’s House for Lost Creatures
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
published in 2014 by FirstSecond

Julia’s magical house plunks her down in a lonely location, so she invites any ol’ lost creature to move in. Her hospitality is lovely, though there are some definite kinks to work out when so many different sorts of persons live together! Imaginative, fantastical, and joyous. Ages 4 and up.

KKing of the Sky
written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
published in 2017 by Candlewick

An extraordinary account of a newcomer, a young Italian boy, overwhelmed by the loneliness and strangeness of his new homeland, and a kind old man who welcomes him onto a team-of-two in the annual pigeon race. Stunning in word and image, for ages 5 and up.

LLetters to a Prisoner
a wordless book by Jacques Goldstyn
published in 2017 by Owlkids

In a powerful sequence of images, we witness the arrest and solitary confinement of a peaceful protester by a harsh regime, and the way letters from perfect strangers bring him hope and freedom. A rich testimony inspired by Amnesty International’s letter writing campaigns.  Ages 6 and up.

MMr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold
written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
reprint 2003 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Mr. Putter has come down with a whizbanger of a cold. His dear friend and neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, along with her good dog, Zeke, come up with a dynamite way to deliver tender loving care. Perfect for new readers or for reading aloud to kids ages 4 and up.

The Night Gardener
written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers
published in 2016 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

An absolutely stunning book unfolding the mysterious workings of a night-time gardener who gradually brings immense beauty and community spirit to a bleak neighborhood. This story can be enjoyed for its artful fantasy by the very young, yet offers a great deal more to reflect on for older readers. Ages 4 to adult.

Otto Goes North
written and illustrated by Ulrika Kestere
published in 2019 by Gecko Press

Otto has arrived in the far north after an epic bicycle trip undertaken with one goal in mind: to paint the northern lights. Lisa and Nils generously take him in and selflessly provide the warm sweater Otto needs to survive in their cold homeland. Quirky and monumentally friendly, for ages 4 and up.


The Pirate Tree

written by Brigita Orel, illustrated by Jennie Poh
published in 2019 by Lantana Publishing

Sam loves playing pirate in the branches of a tree near her home. One day a newcomer shows up wanting to play. His name is Agu and he’s just moved into the neighborhood from Nigeria. Sam tentatively accepts Agu into her imaginative world, and discovers a first-rate friend. Imaginative and welcoming, for ages 4 and up.

The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories
written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2019 by Chronicle Books

Fox and Chick are good, though unlikely friends. Join them on three adventures and discover the fun that can be had, even when two such opposite personalities have to work through some differences of opinion. Silly, warm, delightful. A great choice for new readers or for reading aloud to children ages 3 and up.

Rainy Morning
written by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
published in 1999 by Atheneum

This will be the toughest book to find on today’s list but I could not resist including it. It’s a wildly-absurd tale of one rainy morning when Mr. and Mrs. Submarine take pity on an ever-increasing string of wet folks, inviting them all in for a nice breakfast of tea and muffins. An outlandish, neon-bright, frolic for ages 3 and up.

SSwashby and the Sea
written by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
published in 2020 by HMH  Books for Young Readers

Captain Swashby is a cantankerous old retired sailor who prefers to be left alone, thank you very much. When a young gal and her granny move in next door, their joyful, convivial living initially vexes Swashby, but little by little, his heart opens to them and a dear friendship results. Clever, vibrant, endearing. Ages 4 and up.

TThank You, Omu
written and illustrated by Oge Mora
published in 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Omu is cooking a fragrant pot of tasty red stew in her apartment, looking forward to a scrumptious dinner later on. The aromas of her cooking, though, draw one passer-by after another, and as Omu ladles out portions for all who ask, her own dinner dwindles to nothing. The joy of giving and the bounty of community star in this gem. Ages 4 and up.


Under the Umbrella
written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona
published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A rainy day brings out the grumpies for one curmudgeonly fellow, while simultaneously a lemon-yellow bakery window lined with tempting fancies entices a little boy. When a gust of wind whooshes these two people together, the result is a smile, a kind gesture, a spilling over of sweetness. Delicious, razzle-dazzle gladness for ages 3 and up.

VA Visitor for Bear
written by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
reprint 2012 by Candlewick

Bear and Mouse are two friends who never fail to make me smile. Bear is such a stodgy old grumpus, and Mouse a bright-eyed, forever persistent fellow who will be Bear’s friend, no matter how many forays it takes. Laugh along as these two become friends despite all odds in this story perfect for beginning readers or for reading aloud to ages 4 and up.

Wolf in the Snow
a wordless book by Matthew Cordell
published in 2017 by Feiwel and Friends

This poignant story set in the snowy north strikingly conveys the anchoring love of family and the sacrificial love of a stranger. So much is crammed into this stunning account, including beauty, courage, kindness, the warmth of home, and what it looks like to put another’s needs ahead of our own. Brilliant for ages 3 to adult.

XExtra Yarn
written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
published in 2012 by Balzer + Bray

Here’s an extraordinary fantasy about young Annabelle who stumbles across a box of magical yarn and proceeds to knit gorgeous, fantastical sweaters for every creature, even transforming the whole neighborhood. But a greedy archduke spies all that loveliness and steals the yarn for himself! A fairy tale lighting up the glories of kindness for ages 4 and up.

YYou Hold Me Up
written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel
published in 2017 by Orca Book Publishers

Ah, I love this book. In spare prose we simply encounter the ways in which we bless one another, love one another, hold each other up. Gorgeous illustration work with a First Nation flavor makes every page a joy. Ages 2 and up.

ZZ is for Moose
written by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
published in 2012 by Greenwillow Books

Last but not least, this immensely funny story about a Moose who does not want to wait his turn in the alphabetical revue. Fall in love with an overly-excited moose and witness the wisdom of the guy in charge, Zebra, who comes up with a gracious and comforting solution to the mayhem. A blast for ages 4 and up.

That’s it! I hope you can find a few of these gems and feast your hearts on the kindness and friendliness within them.
Love is the answer, friends.