Lunch Every Day

KO Kids. Oct. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781734348200.
Gr 1-3–Otoshi uses her vibrant palette and probing storytelling to great effect as the story of a bullying victim actually sheds light on the other victim in the story—the bully himself. Readers will be immediately connected to the plight of the target during a painful opening scene in the cafeteria where a young boy is preyed upon and his lunch is stolen. But the story quickly deepens, and the bully’s own victimization at the hands of his older brothers is portrayed. While that does not negate the bullying that continues, it does add to the layers of the story, showing children that there is more to the story than what is first seen. When birthday party invitations go out to everyone in the class from the target, even the bully, Jimmy, is included, despite the fact that he has stolen many, many lunches. The bully goes to the birthday party, and there he meets the mother of his victim. As the fear of this encounter literally flashes across his face, Jimmy is instead met with an act of kindness that would seem too good to be true. But the story is true, and the author provides details about Jimmy and the work that he does now as an adult to combat bullying. There is a dedication at the end “to the lady who kept making all those lunches for him (Jimmy), day after day.” The illustrations, done in acrylic paints, watercolors, and colored pencils, do an outstanding job of conveying emotion in Otoshi’s signature style. With all the challenges that children face today, it is vital that they hear stories that expose hard truths and offer hope through simple acts of kindness. The difficult exercise of empathy is showcased in this brilliant title.
VERDICT Highly recommended.

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