Category Archives: empathy

Patrick McDonnell’s Books Teach Love and Kindness

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How about starting the New Year off with more love and kindness? Treat your family to some books by award winning author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell. His stories show the many ways we can cultivate kindness toward one another and accept others for who they are, especially if different from us. McDonnell’s picture books are written for young children, but his stories touch on big life messages that will resonate with adults.

McDonnell is widely known for his comic strip “MUTTS” that premiered in 1994 and stars a cat named Mooch and a dog named Earl (coincidently McDonnell’s real dog’s name). One of the author’s passions is in helping facilitate pet ownership and kindness toward animals. 5% of all sales of printouts of his comic strips (www.mutts.com) go to The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team.

McDonnell’s work is strongly influenced by George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip (1913-1944, New York Evening Journal). He uses the same bulbous noses, black eyes with no whites of the eyes showing, and loosely rendered black ink lines to define his characters. He does everything without computer technology and hand paints each image with watercolor. In the style of Harriman he also uses tender-hearted colloquial dialog between characters. “Yesh!” says Mooch, quite often.

But an even bigger influence on his artwork was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comics, and a mentor to McDonnell. Schulz was also profoundly influenced by Harriman, the defining comic strip artist in his time. Learning from Harriman, Schulz added depth of meaning and personal feeling into his “cute” characters and passed the value of incorporating sentiment into comics, on to McDonnell.

In 2005, McDonnell broke into the children’s book world with the book “The Little Gift of Nothing” about the significance of giving your presence and companionship to someone instead of a physical gift. Since then he has written and illustrated 12 children’s books and collaborated with Eckhart Tolle (author of “The Power of Now”) on a book for adults, “Guardians of Our Being, Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats.”

Here are some favorite Patrick McDonnell books to read with your young children. Talk about what happens in each story and see if love and kindness grow this year!

  • “Hug Time.” Little orange-striped kitten Jules is so filled with love that he wants to hug the whole world. Jules makes a Hug-To-Do List and visits places around the earth, hugging many endangered species and getting many hugs in return.
  • “Wag!” “Fwip, fwip, fwip!” wags Earl’s tail. Mooch wants to know what makes Earl’s tail wag. After much observation, Mooch finds out. It’s love!
  • “Thank You and Good Night.” How many fun things can you do at a pajama party? These 3 friends have an evening packed with togetherness. They stage a funny-face contest, learn a chicken dance, play hide-and-seek, practice yoga, eat, watch for shooting stars—and they are thankful for it all.
  • “Art.” Art is a boy and art is a thing to do. McDonnell uses this homonym pair to play with the idea that unbridled creation in squiggles, wiggles, and zigzags can be a person’s identity. Can you tell Art and art apart?
  • “The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the hard way)” Great for a child who already knows his or her alphabet, this wordless book is a continuously flowing story that needs the reader to identify what word is represented in each illustration of the alphabet. Here’s the trailer for the book on Youtube.
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Filed under alphabet book, art, author spotlight, creativity, empathy, Feelings, kindness, love, opportunities for conversation, wordless picturebooks

Teaching Children Empathy

by Katrina Morse, Family Reading Partnership

“That’s not fair!” your 4 year-old proclaims. “Why do I have to share?” Being “fair” to a young child means getting what he wants, when he wants it. Your child’s world is constructed with your child prominently in the center and other people and activities revolving around him.

She is the center of her own reality, as she should be. From this place of being sure of herself when she is young, she can begin to imagine how others feel and develop a sense of empathy. This is a natural progression in a child’s development as she approaches her 5th birthday and will continue into adulthood. Having empathy helps us define our own beliefs and appreciate others.

You can encourage and support your child’s growing awareness of other points of view by noticing real life examples. Talk about how other people might feel. Read stories that about conflict and resolution. Discuss how each person has to consider what others are thinking. Why does your child feel strongly about something and then how and why do others feel differently? Is there a right way or a wrong way to think?

Here are some children’s books that offer opportunities to explore empathy and help your child develop compassion.

“Stick and Stone” by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. The rhyming text is brief on words, but big on meaning. The simple chalk illustrations show how tall and skinny Stick and short and round Stone become unlikely friends. Through a series of incidents they help each other, come to the rescue, and stand up for each other. In the end they appreciate each other’s differences and find that they are bonded in friendship.

“The Day the Crayons Quit” and “The Day the Crayons Came Home,” by Drew Dewalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. You may think that crayons don’t have much of an opinion; however, in these stories, each color crayon has its own personality and a lot to say! Telling the story from the perspective of the crayons opens up ideas for children about other viewpoints. If toys, pets, or even furniture could talk, what would they say?

those shoes“Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. Jeremy really wants a new pair of the trendiest shoes—black with 2 white stripes. Everyone has them except Jeremy, who gets practical boots instead. Jeremy is faced with the judgment of his classmates, but then finds the need to be compassionate to someone else.

“Millie Fierce” and “Millie Fierce Sleeps Out” by Jane Manning. Millie knows she has a temper and finds out what happens when she “lets her fierce out.” Millie has to work hard on her self-control because she knows that her point of view is not how everyone else sees the world. Watercolor illustrations are delightfully loose in structure and color but show the details of Millie’s complex life.Millie Fierce

“Yoko,” by Rosemary Wells. Yoko the kitten brings her favorite lunch to school–sushi. But Yoko’s classmates think her lunch of raw fish wrapped in seaweed is strange. When she brings out her red bean ice cream she is called a weirdo. Her teacher arranges for an International Food Day at school and the students soon realized the value of trying everything and appreciating each other’s backgrounds.

 

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