A World of Kindness

Pajama Press sent me an advance copy of their forthcoming children's book, A World of Kindness.

It took me about two seconds to fall in love with it.

One thing only a very few friends know about me is I was bullied as a child. It wasn't until I moved to the United States and, I'm pretty sure looking back, it had something to do with my English accent. Not to mention I was a scrawny little English village child who didn't know the ins and outs of being a kid in Southern California. That experience made me especially sensitive to how we should all treat each other. Bullies, of course, really make my blood boil. To this day.

This amazing book covers it all though, from how children should treat other children to how they should treat anyone, young or old. It gets that message across in the most simple and beautiful way possible. Every home should have a copy, whether they have children or not.

Here is how Gail Winskill, Publisher of Pajama Press, tells the story.

Gail Winskill
This book began when my three-year-old granddaughter Alice started pre-school and experienced a little unkindness from a fellow student. Her supportive mom reassured Alice that being kind was the best solution, which prompted Alice to ask me, “Nana, how can I be kind?” So we explored some of the many ways we can be gracious to others and how simple, thoughtful acts of kindness can become part of our everyday lives. Listening to Alice, I knew right away that here was a book I wanted to publish. Our editors at Pajama Press eagerly embraced the challenge. We worked together to create a unique book that would spur conversations about how to be considerate of each other. Ann Featherstone, our Senior Editor, polished the text. 

Ann Featherstone
I reached out to many of our illustrators to see if they would be interested in collaborating on this special project. I felt that each illustrator could approach the text with sensitivity and in their own style, allowing every spread to tell its own story. The unanimous response from our artists was so passionate that I knew we were onto something powerful. What has been most rewarding for Pajama Press has been the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve received to this picture book. Our decision, therefore, to donate the royalties to the organization ThinkKindness just seemed like the natural thing to do: a way for us to continue the book’s impact. We hope that A World of Kindness will inspire you to talk with the children in your life about kindness and how important it is in our uncertain world. 

Below are some of the wonderful illustrations from the book and commentary from the artists:

 The artwork that accompanies "Are you gentle with animals big..." is from Kim's previous title When the Rain Comes

"What got me thinking about the art?  When you have a good story the images immediately start coming to me as I read. For me, it was about the scale of this huge ox and this tiny girl, playing with those proportions and the wonderfully violent movement of  the monsoon wind and rain.   

From there it's a matter of doing the research and getting familiar with the landscape, the vegetation, the people, and costume.  Then putting all that aside and drawing from memory and imagination....easy as pie."

For his original illustration for "Will you stand up to a bully?" Kim says: 
"It’s funny how these things come about. I was on the phone with the publisher discussing the illustrations for one of the "Ben" books I was working on, and we got talking about "A World of Kindness" and the trouble they were having coming up with an idea for the spread on "Bullying." They weren't sure what to do with it and thought they might not even include it in the book.  The idea of kindness and bullying wasn't feeling like a very good fit. 
I thought it was important to get across the idea of standing up for the underdog. It's not easy to do at any age, to find the confidence and the courage to stand up for someone in need.  Its important to remember that everyone is worthy and deserving.

My thought was to root for the underdog and take it from the point of view of a little guy, who may not be the biggest or the strongest kid on the block but he's still willing to stand up for a friend in need. To my mind that takes real kindness and a special kind of courage."

  "Kindness is one of my favorite behaviors. It feels so good, I try and practice it every day. One of the ways I do is to say "sorry."

I say it a lot, especially to people I know.

So, when the publisher asked me if they could use an illustration I had done for a book titled Timo Goes Camping by Victoria Allenby, I was delighted. The act of kindness they thought I was best suited to was the act of saying "sorry."

In the scene, Suki (the squirrel) is facing her friend, Timo (the rabbit) and saying sorry for making a mess of things in their camping trip. It is that quiet, split second moment between, "I'm sorry" and "It's okay." It's a very short moment, but a very significant one. It's the moment the emotions are out, and the feelings are felt, and friendship becomes stronger.

Though the core of the illustration was done, because it was a vignette, they asked me to enlarge it to a full page.
Here is the original piece.

And here is the expansion.

"Before I started I thought it would be an easy-peasy thing that I could have done in a couple of days, but then that became a week. I had to say sorry for that.  

I do the drawing on paper and scan it into Photoshop, where I color it using reference photos I've taken. When doing scenes like this, the characters don't take very long at all, but it's the forest of details that I end up getting lost in. Moss on branches, lichen on rocks and bark, blades of warm, yellow grass.

That summer I had taken my daughter to Skutz Falls (on Vancouver Island), and while there, I ended up taking lots of reference photos of all the things I love about the forest. The beautiful, warm colors, the dry grasses and the bits of fallen cones and small twigs and branches. The dappled light on the path and especially the thick, carpet of moss. I love moss."


I always feel sorry when summer ends, but looking forward to the fall colors.

I am grateful to have been involved in such a wonderful book with such talented artists. I'm sorry I haven't met them in person (I hope I can one day). 

  "I think I was initially quite taken by the premise of illustrating the idea "Kindness" in a manner that would connect with children as well as adults. In this day and age, the world seems a little upside down in how people treat each other with not enough thought of our impact on others.

It took a while, but the image that kept coming to me was of children giving kindness (so to speak) through their outstretched hands - giving and receiving. To me, a simple but beautiful gesture. It seemed to fit. I had the girls of a friend down the street pose and worked up my image based on them. It was a plea
sure to work on. Thanks to Pajama Press as they are always great to work with."

"To me, this illustration reveals what kindness can do when 
you reach out to someone who needs a friend. It depicts the magical moment when a new friendship clicks; when you understand that person on a deeper level, accept their idiosyncrasies, and find out that they like to fly down the hallway like a butterfly too."

"When Gail Winskill, publisher at Pajama Press, first shared her A World of Kindness project with me I was excited and immediately interested in contributing artwork to such an important, timely book. The theme of kindness is explored in child-centric questions which will get kids thinking about how they can practice being kind in their daily lives. It also acts to empower children to think and then act to positively impact the world around them.  I hope this book finds its way into classrooms, households, hands of all children, and everyone everywhere. With today’s conflicts- from political climate, social injustices, and world conflicts, our world needs kindness now more than ever.
I had the honor to have three pieces of art, all created in polymer clay and acrylics, accepted for the A World of Kindness Project; the cover art, and 2 interior pieces of art- one piece of art was selected from my previous picture book, My Beautiful Birds, and I also created an original piece of art specifically for this project." 
For the cover art, we wanted artwork that represented all children, of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds etc. interacting and showing kindness towards each other.  We decided that depicting children’s hands, with their inherent uniqueness, was a fun, pure, yet eye-catching way to achieve this objective, by including a variety of hand shapes and sizes, ages, skin tones, individuality/personality through clothing choice, and adornments like nail polish, friendship bracelets, and henna mehndi. I took inspiration from my own children’s hands, and from an end-of-year photo memento idea used by school teachers, were they photograph their class of students’ hands together in a circle. I chose to position the hands in my illustration in a heart-shape, with fingers overlapping, to capture the playful, togetherness of children and reinforce the kindness theme." 

Below are from the artists that contributed original work for the book.
"Will You Help Someone Younger?" by Wallace Edwards
"When Gail Winskill at Pajama Press asked me if I would like to be involved with the upcoming book on kindness I was delighted to say yes.  My contribution was an illustration on the theme “Are you kind to children?” The question brought back a very early memory of mine.  At about the age of four, I was walking around the block (children could wander freely back then) and noticed my shoe lace had come untied. Not knowing how to tie my shoes, I walked up to the front door of the house I was in front of and knocked on the door.  A very elderly lady opened the door and looked at me intently as I informed her that my shoelace had come undone and I needed a grown up to retie it for me.
I remember to this day the radiant smile that spread across her face as she invited me in to her screened-in porch and sat me on a chair.  As she tied my shoe we chatted about the neighborhood and the kinds of things the very old and the very young have in common.  I thanked her and was on my way.  Although she told me to drop in anytime, I don’t recall ever going back.   Still, I have never forgotten how kind and gentle that helpful lady was.  The image that sprang to mind for “ Will You Help Someone Younger” was an adult duck tying the shoelaces of a duckling.  It seemed fitting." 

"Will You Help Someone Older?" by Francois Thisdale

"In that image, I wanted to express, of course,  the reciprocity between a child and an elder, what they have to share. A simple gesture of helping someone crossing the street could help to understand what the person really is. I wanted to show the man happy and grateful but also the child having fun, being happy to help him, to give kindness and to receive happiness in exchange. The pleasure on both sides. Kindness is a good remedy to our society too often focused on individuality.

Being older could mean to be different from what you were when you were young. It could mean walking slower, having more health problems, or changing your habits sometimes but also it could also mean being wiser and enjoying life more easily, knowing what to do and what to avoid with the experience acquired. We have a lot to learn from older people."

"Do You Wait Your Turn?" and "Are You Gentle With Animals Small...?" by Tara Anderson

  "When I approached the manuscript in this book I related it to my daughter. Alice is 4 and a half.  She was three when I painted the spreads. The illustration about being gentle with animals small features Alice and her cats.

"Do You Wait Your Turn" was a reference to kind school yard manners. I illustrated Alice sitting on the slide with all of her friends waiting their turn. I have worked with children but I tend to imagine how the world looks through Alice's eyes when I draw for Pajama Press.

This is actually my third picture book with Pajama Press. Nat The Cat was my first and Rhino Rumpus was my second. I have been working with Gail for 20 years now. This book feels like a family album of the Pajama Press illustrators. We have all been with Gail for years. I was so honored to be apart of it. To be surrounded by so many accomplished artists is a dream come true for me."

Manon Gauthier also contributed these two lovely pieces below.

Manon Gauthier

My sincere thanks to everyone who helped make this project such a success. Congratulations to Pajama Press and all the very talented artists involved.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog please contact me at jonwilloughbymayes@gmail.com


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