The Power of Kindness

The past year has been strange and difficult for most of us. It has been a time of loneliness, isolation and feeling unsure and we had to find new ways of being ‘normal’. Throughout this time the theme of kindness has been constant, with people volunteering to support their communities, donating food or cooking for frontline workers and fundraising for the NHS.

An act of kindness can be the tiniest thing, a simple smile as you step aside to let some pass on the street, it can start small and become huge. Kindness can improve our self-esteem, heighten our sense of belonging, reduce isolation, and help to keep things in perspective. Kindness also has the potential to make our world a happier place.

To celebrate kindness, we have put together a collection of books for adults and children, that promote kindness and its power to change our lives, communities, and world. Look out for these books in your local library or borrow them as eBooks and eAudiobooks from BorrowBox.

Jonny Benjamin – The stranger on the Bridge
In 2008, 20-year-old Jonny Benjamin stood on Waterloo Bridge, about to jump. A stranger saw his distress and stopped to talk with him – a decision that saved Jonny’s life. The Stranger on the Bridge is a memoir of the journey Jonny made both personally, and publicly to not only find the person who saved his life, but also to explore how he got to the bridge in the first place and how he continues to manage his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.

Christie Watson – The Language of Kindness
Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, this book is an astonishing account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion, and kindness. In our most extreme moments, when life is lived most intensely, Christie is with us and in these dark days of division and isolationism, she encourages us all to stretch out a hand.

Akwaeke Emezi – Freshwater
A sparkling debut novel exploring the idea of many ‘selves’, how we develop our identities and the impact of others around us.

Ingrid Persaud – Love after love
Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, ‘Love After Love’ asks us to consider what happens at the very brink of human forgiveness, and offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.

Elizabeth Laird – Secret Friends
Rafaella finds it hard to make friends when she starts at a new school. Her name sounds strange, her ears stick out, she feels different from the others. And Lucy is the first to tease, the first to call her Earwig. But then a secret friendship begins.

Onjali Q Rauf – The boy at the back of the class
Told with humour and heart, The Boy at the Back of the Class offers a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

Empathy Day

10 June marks Empathy Day, a day that aims to raise awareness among society and young people about empathy and how to put it into practice.

Research carried out by Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab demonstrated that people who often read fiction have better social cognition, meaning they’re more skilled at working out what other people are thinking and feeling. Shifting focus onto other people’s feelings and perspectives encourages a person to become more empathetic, as they’re able to put themselves in other people’s shoes.

EmpathyLab, the organisers of Empathy Day, suggest doing this through three practices: Read, Connect and Act. Read empathy-rich books to deepen your understanding of other people and take part in use of the #ReadForEmpathy social media campaign; connect by going on an Empathy Walk to connect to the reality of your local community; and act, by using increased understanding to make changes and making an empathy resolution.

We’ve created a collection of titles for children and teens that encourage empathy, based on the suggestions put together by Empathy Lab. These titles include: A Hurricane in My Head by Matt Abbott which tackles the themes of friendship, bullying, technology, and the life of a modern teenager; A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll encourages understanding of others – through the eye of autistic protagonist, Addie; When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson, a book that explores life as a refugee for 8–12-year-olds, with a heart-wrenching but happy ending.

All these books can be found in our libraries and through our BorrowBox, our eBook and eAudiobook provider.

Empathy Day 2020

Read stories – Build empathy – Make a better world

9 June marks the fourth annual Empathy Day; a day to open up conversations about the benefits that reading can have on a developing mind. Research shows that books are a great way to encourage empathy in children; whilst reading, children learn to identify with characters and see situations from points of view different from their own.

Studies have shown all ages benefit from reading stories, and that everyone can train their brain to be more empathetic. And through stories and characters we began to understand other people’s feelings, and are able to get a glimpse of what others go through. This is especially true in the case of children and teens, and empathy and kindness is a key part of life, and through these two we can create a stronger community and a better world.

We’ve put together collection of etitles, based on the amazing collection done by Empathy Lab, that encourage empathy, as well as being a good read. These are all books that you can find through the BorrowBox app, our eBook and eAudiobook provider. For the full list, visit the Empathy Lab’s website here.
If you’re looking for some books on kindness, check out our kindness blog!

Books perfect for ages 5+

Pie in the Sky
by Remy Lai

Available as an eBook and as an eAudiobook

When Jingwen moves to Australia, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible, since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother’s rule: no using the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake more elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up more elaborate excuses to keep their baking a secret–and continue the dream their father started.

The Last Human
by Lee Bacon

Available as an eAudiobook

An unlikely friendship. A dangerous voyage. A story about what it means to be human.Humans went extinct thirty years ago. Now the world is ruled by machines. And twelve-year-old robot XR_935 is just fine with that. Without humans around, there is no war, no pollution, no crime. Every member of society has a purpose. Everything runs smoothly and efficiently.Until the day XR discovers something impossible.Until the day XR discovers a twelve-year-old human.A funny, adventurous and poignant story set in a world ruled by robots.

Check Mates
by Stewart Foster

Available as an eBook

Felix is struggling at school. His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it. When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandfather, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died. Plus he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess. But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.

Cloud Boy
by Marcia Williams

Available as an eBook

The diary of an irrepressible girl learning to deal with friendship, grief and growing up, perfect for fans of Jacqueline Wilson.Harry Christmas and Angie Moon are best friends and almost-twins. Ever since they were born two days apart they’ve been partners in cloud-spotting, sweet-eating and treehouse-building. But when Harry is taken to hospital for headaches that won’t go away, he needs Angie more than ever. Because when things fall apart, only a best friend can stitch them back together.

Charlie Changes into a Chicken
by Sam Copeland

Available as an eBook

Charlie McGuffin has an incredible secret . . .He can change into animals. All sorts of animals: a flea, a pigeon, even a rhino.Trouble is, he can’t decide when – it only happens when he gets worried. And right now, Charlie has quite a lot to worry about:· His brother (who is in hospital)· His parents (who are panicking about it)· And the school bully (who has Charlie in his sights)And even though every kid wants a superhero power, Charlie isn’t keen on changing into a chicken in the middle of the school play.So with the help of his three best friends, Charlie needs to find a way of dealing with his crazy new power – and fast!

No Ballet Shoes in Syria
by Catherine Bruton

Available as an eBook

When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and 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, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling – filled with warmth, hope and humanity.

The Afterwards
by Emily Gravett

Available as an eBook

Fact: Ember and Ness are best friends. There’s nothing more to say about it. It is what it is. It is what will always be. Ember and Ness.Then Ness dies. It is sudden and unexpected and leaves Ember completely empty. How can this be?When Ember finds a way into the Afterworld, she determines to bring Ness back. Because that’s what friends do isn’t it? They rescue each other. They help. They never give up. Ember and Ness. That don’t change.

by Vanessa Harbour

Available as an eBook

Jakob hides from them, but has to watch the officer shoot one of his beloved Lipizzaner horses just for spite. Jakob and his guardian know they must get the other horses away, but is it possible to get them all over the mountains to safety? A fleeing Roma girl, Kizzy, joins them, but they face one gruelling trial after another as they try to cross the Austrian mountains, through Nazi territory. Can they do it, and what will be waiting on the other side?

Books perfect for ages 11+

Somebody give this heart a pen
by Sophia Thakur

Available as an eBook

From acclaimed performance poet Sophia Thakur comes a powerful first collection of poems exploring issues of identity, difference, faith, relationships, fear, loss and joy. Intricate, evocative and dazzling – these are poems that explore the experiences that connect people; they encourage readers to look within and explore the tendencies of the heart.

Furious Thing
by Jenny Downham

Available as an eBook

Furious Thing roars with justifiable anger at an unfair world, as one girl fights to claim back the spaces that belong to her and battles to be heard…Lexi’s angry. And it’s getting worse. If only she could stop losing her temper and behave herself, her step-father would accept her, her mum would love her like she used to and her step-brother would declare his crushing desire to spend the rest of his life with her.She wants these things so badly she determines to swallow her anger and make her family proud.But pushing fury down doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, it simmers below the surface waiting to erupt. There’ll be fireworks when it does.

by Sarah Crossan

Available as an eBook and an eAudiobook

Allison is in danger at home. Her stepmother has run away and her father is getting worse. So she runs away too and with no where to live finds herself hiding out, miles from home, in an elderly woman’s shed. But this woman, Marla, has dementia and doesn’t recognise her as Allison, believing she is an old friend from her past called Toffee. So this is who Allison becomes, morphing into a person Marla usually knows and trusts but sometimes fears and fights. Eventually Allison’s stepmother shows up, armed with a new baby girl, a new sibling. Marla then finds herself, once lonely and vulnerable, the saviour to three desperate women. But Marla’s son is frustrated with his mother, and can be angry and violent. Is there a way for this new family to stay together?

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds

Available as an eBook

Everybody ran,ducked, hid, tucked themselves tight. Pressed our lips to the pavement and prayed the boom, followed by the buzz of a bullet,didn’t meet us.After Will’s brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don’t cry. Don’t snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn’s gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will’s friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he’s doing.This haunting, lyrical, powerful verse novel will blow you away.

New Kid
by Jerry Craft

Available as an eBook

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enrol him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of colour in his entire grade.As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighbourhood friends and staying true to himself?

The Deepest Breath
by Meg Grehan

Available as an eBook

Stevie is eleven and loves reading and sea-creatures. She lives with her mum, and she’s been best friends with Andrew since forever. Stevie’s mum teases her that someday they’ll get married, but Stevie knows that won’t ever happen. There’s a girl at school that she likes more. A lot more. Actually, she’s a bit confused about how much she likes her. It’s nothing like the way she likes Andrew. It makes her fizz inside. That’s a new feeling, one she doesn’t understand. Stevie needs to find out if girls can like girls – love them, even – but it’s hard to get any information, and she’s too shy to ask out loud about it. But maybe she can find an answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls, and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum.

Kick the Moon
by Muhammad Khan

Available as an eBook

Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSE’s are looming and his teachers just won’t let up, his dad wants him to join the family business and his mates don’t care about any of it. There’s no space in Ilyas’ life to just be a teenager.Serving detention one day, Ilyas finds a kindred spirit in Kelly Matthews, who is fed up with being pigeonholed as the good girl, and their friendship blows the social strata of high school wide open. But when Kelly catches the eye of one of the local bad boys, Imran, he decides to seduce her for a bet – and Ilyas is faced with losing the only person who understands him. Standing up to Imran puts Ilyas’ family at risk, but it’s time for him to be the superhero he draws in his comic-books, and go kick the moon.

Frankly in Love
by David Yoon

Available as an eBook and an eAudiobook

Frank Li is a high school senior living in Southern California. Frank’s parents emigrated from Korea, and have pretty much one big rule for Frank – he must only date Korean girls. But he’s got strong feelings for a girl in his class, Brit – and she’s not Korean. His friend Joy Song is in the same boat and knows her parents will never accept her Chinese American boyfriend, so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks fake-dating is the perfect plan, but it leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love – or himself – at all.

A Country to Call Home
by Lucy Popescu

Available as an eBook

From the editor of A Country of Refuge comes an anthology of writing on one of the defining issues of our time; focusing on the fate of refugee children and young adults, it is aimed at children and adult readers alike.There are tales of home, and missing it; poems about the dangerous journeys undertaken and life in the refugee camps; stories about prejudice, but also stories of children’s fortitude, their dreams and aspirations.A Country to Call Home implores us to build bridges, not walls. It is intended as a reminder of our shared humanity, seeking to challenge the negative narratives that so often cloud our view of these vulnerable young people, and prevent us giving them the empathy they deserve.The book will include stories, flash fiction, poetry and original artwork from some of our finest children’s writers: Michael Morpurgo, David Almond, Chris Riddell, Moniza Alvi, Simon Armitage, Sita Brahmachari, Eoin Colfer, Kit de Waal, Peter Kalu, Judith Kerr, Patrice Lawrence, Anna Perera, the late Christine Pullein-Thompson, Bali Rai and S. F. Said.

Jemima Small Versus the Universe
by Tamsin Winter

Available as an eBook

Jemima Small finds it hard to measure up. Especially because she’s the very opposite of her name. And being forced to join a healthy eating group at school means no one will let her forget that. But if there’s one big thing she has going for her it’s her attitude – and she’s determined to prove that Jemima Small is a Big Deal.

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