Book Review: The Power of One: Every Act of Kindness Counts

By Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Mike Curato, Borzoi Books, Knopf, 2020

I first heard about this book from my daughter who came home from her pre-school talking about a book they’d read called ‘One’. A little clarification from her teachers and I was able to find it online – The Power of One. I must add my thanks to the endlessly wonderful Helen and Nancy and Natalie for many, many things – including introducing us to this book.

It’s a book that we read slowly; there’s lots to notice and talk about on every page. And it’s a book that tells its story as much through Mike Curato’s rich illustrations, layered with meaning, as through Trudy Ludwig’s compassionate words. The first page is a shock, the boy’s face shows such anger, and we see the girl (who looks a lot like my daughter). And then we keep looking and we see one person, one person in a grey crowd who notices. All this before we even reach the title page. The children are busy analysing, reading the faces, naming the emotions, ‘He’s yelling at her, she’s surprised.’ ‘She’s noticing. The other people don’t notice.’

The use of black and white and colour, the rubbish, the graffitied skip giving way to new growth, to change, to a community garden works as a simple metaphor that the children can understand. The message is one of rebuilding together, of hurt, and friendship, and apology and new start.

As I celebrated too in Julius and Macy (reviewed here) there is no bad guy, no one to defeat – the angry boy is brought back into the community. It’s a lesson that my children know and yet need to keep re-learning from both sides. The last year has cut us off from many things, but it has also given the two of them an immense amount of time together – for better and for worse. Countless games and giggles together, but also so many angry words, arguments and reconciliations. Saying sorry is hard, my daughter tells me. But when she does, her brother thinks she does it well, ‘She’s so sweet and really means it.’

The reminders here help us, lift us up again, set us on a hopeful path, rich with a diverse community, supportive friendship – and the second chances that we all need somedays.

Also by Trudy Ludwig, The Invisible Boy, reviewed here by Joseph and Noah.

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