I Can Help

Eerdmans. Jul. 2021. 44p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802855046.
K-Gr 3–Earnest Zahra, an energetic girl with brown skin and black hair, is always happy to help a boy in her class until the day she is teased for spending time with a weird-looking “baby.” Kylem, who has pale skin, is generous, great at drawing, and good at telling jokes, but he has trouble with reading, writing, and cutting. Zahra works so well with him that their teacher calls her a “super helper.” But when two girls question why she volunteers to do so, Zahra closes Kyle out while hating the sound of her own mean voice. She doesn’t know how to act on her remorse until the next year when she is at a big new school without Kyle. The minute an anxious new girl arrives, Zahra wastes no time in offering to help. Children will immediately recognize the dynamics at play in this diverse classroom. Zahra’s emotions are vividly depicted through action, from riding high on the swings, to sharing a joke with Kyle, to blinking the right amount of blinks so she doesn’t cry. Mixed media illustrations, with the feel of those by G. Brian Karas, are a wonderful match and amplify the feelings in the text through body language and facial expressions.
VERDICT Lessons about kindness, regret, and making amends are all here without being the least bit didactic. An excellent conversation starter for any adults who work with groups of children.

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