Because of You: A Book of Kindness by B. G. Hennessy
Hennessy, B G. Because of You: A Book of Kindness. Illus. Hiroe Nakata. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press, 2011. Print.
Because Of You was originally published in 2005 and was the second collaboration between author B. G. Hennessy and illustrator Hiroe Nakata. The popular book has now been issued in a smaller hardcover edition that preserves the layout of the original in a compact size that would be useful to parents who want to stow the book in a bag for use on the go.
The book uses simple but effective means to introduce the idea of kindness and link it to the related concepts of friendship, world peace and personal responsibility. Watercolour illustrations by Nakata convey a gentleness and warmth that match the message of the text. The first half of the book enumerates different ways of showing kindness: loving, caring, learning, sharing and helping. The text follows a pattern for each example that asks the young reader first to consider the benefits he or she has received from that type of kindness, and then to imagine the opportunity he or she has to reciprocate. The second half of the book begins by summing up the examples in order to define them as kindness, and then figures friendship as mutual kindness between two people, and world peace as a species of friendship. The book concludes by linking the enormous task of achieving world peace to the power of "something small and precious" that the young reader can contribute. In the final illustration, a child, holding a globe, literally has 'the whole world in his hands.'
The text does a good job of presenting abstract concepts like kindness and world peace in terms that a child can understand. Throughout the book, the repeated phrase "because of you" is used to address the young reader and personalize the message, while the phrase "there is one more person who can..." emphasizes the impact a single individual can have. Kindness is never characterized as an imperative or a responsibility, but rather as a choice one is free to make. The subtext is that kindness means more because it is chosen. Kindness may be the currency of friendship, but it relies on personal commitment, not on debts and accounts.
Once or twice the text feels a bit laboured, such as the phrase "and there is one more person who can share feelings and ideas, as well as things," which mixes the abstract and the concrete, or metaphorical and literal sharing. The patterns of repetition in the text do not achieve the regularity of a meter, so each sentence relies on its own internal structure for rhythm. In spite of the linear, cumulative nature of the message, the text works best aurally when spoken at a slow pace that sets off each sentence and gives individual words ample room. Unfortunately, the smaller size of the reissued text does not naturally lead the reader to choose that pace, at least not quite like the larger format edition does. This is, however, a small complaint of an otherwise excellent book. Interested libraries might consider acquiring the original edition.
Reviewer: John Huck
Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
John is a metadata and cataloguing librarian at the University of Alberta. He holds an undergraduate degree in English literature and maintains a special interest in the spoken word. He is also a classical musician and has sung semi-professionally for many years.