Empathy Week is an invitation to young people across the world to put empathy into action. From the 22nd through 26th February, a variety of programmes are going out aimed at highlighting ways to build empathy in young people. And we could really use a huge helping of empathy right now.
How do books play into this? As we know, books take us on journeys through the eyes of others. When we pick up a book, we jump into someone elses’ world, see what they see, feel what they feel and experience things that we wouldn’t ordinarily. And as we read, the vision of others’ become part of our own story. We understand and appreciate that life is bigger than ourselves and that starts to make up the fabric of who we become in the world. In short, we gain empathy.
And whether it’s picturebooks for the littlies or young novels as we grow into young adulthood, books play an important role in nurturing empathy and understanding that will stay throughout life. Here are a few to keep empathy going…
Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls & David Litchfield:
When a young girl and her companion fox are moving through uncertain times, while they may find many dark and rainy paths, they learn they are not alone. They encounter even more friends and helpers to guide them along their way. Soon, they discover a bright, new rainbow lit world. Quiet, uplifting and so very comforting.
The New Girl by Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher:
When a new girl starts a new school in a new town; a new country, her classmates just find her strange. She has odd clothes, eats weird food and doesn’t even speak their language. They think the new girl doesn’t belong. But when beautiful paper flowers mysteriously appear in their classroom, things start to change. With understanding and empathy ringing across the pages, this is an insightful, extraordinary book.
Luna Loves Art by Joseph Coelho & Fiona Lumbers:
Luna and the whole class are going on a trip to the Art Gallery and everyone is so excited. Everyone except Finn. The Art Gallery is filled with beautiful paintings and sculptures, but Finn doesn’t even look at them. He stands by himself, staring at his feet. Finn doesn’t want to be there…but maybe he just needs a friend. A sympathetic look at different kinds of families as well as the wonderful world of art; lyrical, joyous and empathetic.
Abracazebra by Helen & Thomas Docherty
Yawnalot is a quiet, sleepy (boring) little town where everybody knows everyone else and nothing exciting ever happens…until Abracazebra rides into town with her marvelous magic show. But Old Goat isn’t happy and a sign soon appears; ‘No Stripes Allowed.’ And when Abracazebra leaves, taking the magic with her, he soon has a change of heart. Friendship, acceptance and celebrating our differences shine in this wonderful book.
The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks
Zoe never met her father. So, when she receives a letter from him on her 12th birthday, it’s a huge surprise. Zoe’s mom always told her that Marcus was a liar, a monster, but he sounds … nice. Zoe starts to investigate the crime – and the deeper she digs, the more she doubts the conviction. Zoe is determined to find the truth. Seen through the eyes of Zoe as she fights to understand. Evocative and intriguing book that explores big issues in a gentle way; clever, heartfelt and full of little surprises.
Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay:
When Tom and Polly marry, blending their families together, Abi, Max and Louis find it hard. The family start over together, renting an eerie, ivy-covered house, big enough for all. But then, strange things start to happen. Abi reads alone, tumbling deep into books. Max loses his best friend and falls in love. And Louis summons a strange creature from outdoors that quickly becomes much too real. It becomes a problem the three of them must solve – together. A beautiful testament to blended families, understanding and the power of stories, books and pictures. Wise, wonderful and magical.
The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley:
When Charlies’ longed-for baby brother is born with a serious heart condition, his world is turned inside-out. Charlie flees into the ancient forest on the edge of town. There he finds a boy; injured, but alive. But when Charlie sets off to fetch help, it seems the forest has changed. It’s become a place as strange and wild as the boy dressed in deerskins. Catapulted into the ancient past, Charlie finds that, while things are very different, the important things are the same…understanding, courage, hope and homecoming.
Teen & YA
No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton:
Aya is 11-years-old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria. When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the dance teacher believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country and make a home for themselves. Deeply personal, extremely insightful, well-written and simply…kind; an important and beautiful book filled with adversity, friendship and triumph.
A Kind of Spark by Ellie McNicholl:
Adeline is a neuro-divergent girl with a love of sharks, synonyms and just wants a friend who will understand her. Her teacher has little patience with Addie and she finds herself targeted and bullied in her class. On a school trip, Addie learns of the witch trials that took place in her small Scottish town, when women were singled out and persecuted for being different. Addie knows there is more to these stories, just like there is more to her own. She begins to challenge how people see her and her own sense of self. An inspired story of difference, acceptance and change; direct, funny accessible and wise.
The Gone Book by Helena Close
Matts’ mother left the family when he was 10 years old. He writes her letters; letters he doesn’t send. He keeps them in his Gone Book. Five years of letters spelling out his longing, pain, loneliness and confusion. And five years of telling her he will find her one day. And then…he discovers his Mum is back in town. Matt needs to find her and deliver one final truth. But it may be Matt who gets the truth served to him. There is real heart and humour here; real emotion; extremely contemporary and relevant and filled with truth, compassion and soul.
You can read all about Empathy Week and it’s amazing mission here.
And as ever, you can get your hands on any our featured books from the LitVox online bookshop.