Sometimes It’s Hard To Be Nice

Albert Whitman. Mar. 2021. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807575734.
K-Gr 4–When your cousin comes over and takes the toy you want to play with, and when you get it back, it’s broken—it’s really hard to be nice. Adults and children have grappled with patience, acquiescence, and tolerance—it’s the lesson of 2020! This book takes the topic apart, with gentle solutions for the young Black girl, or the white red-headed boy who has to go to his sister’s recital; and to add insult to injury, she kisses him for attending. Various characters are beset by situations that are hard to tolerate, one after the other, but sometimes the provocateur is a baby brother, who is ripping pages out of a book and is just too young to know better. The older sister, bespectacled, with light brown skin, calls him a name and then cleans up. Rudd has her finger on the pulse of this social-emotional lesson, and gives the problems their due. The illustrations enhance the litany, in cheerful colors and a flat style that doesn’t skimp on facial expressions showing anger, disappointment, fear, and happiness. Readers will relate to the authentic events unfolding and also receive clear instructions for some coping behavior. The author enhances the conceit. Being nice is not an accident, it takes practice. It means courage in the face of potential bullies, and it means swallowing fears and facing the funny-smelling home where your grandfather lives.
VERDICT A pleasant, important book for this age group, giving them words and actions to smooth the course of their days.

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