“Those girls are mean.” Lovebug pointed to the two kitties who were picking on Yoko for writing and reading in Japanese.
Japanese is Yoko’s first language, but all of the other kids in the class had English as their first languages. The Mean Kitties didn’t understand her language, so she became their target. It was that easy. We’ve all seen it, haven’t we?
I admit, I had told him the girls weren’t being nice. At the age of four, he is learning what being mean looks like. So when I see it, I point it out; I try to make a lesson out of it if it’s appropriate. And this story is an eloquently appropriate guide for little readers who are drudging through the jungle of meanness vs kindness: recognizing it, responding to it, experiencing it, surviving it.
“Is that boy being mean?” He pointed to a friend of Yoko’s. “Oh, no,” I said. “He is kind. He’s teaching her to write her name in English. He’s a Helper.” (Lovebug and I have had lots of discussions about Helpers; but that’s a story for another day.)
Kindness is contagious, and when it is embraced, it becomes woven into the fabric of our environments. This story comprises the evolution of Yoko being rejected for her differences to Yoko’s differences being celebrated. And Yoko becomes the brave winner in the end as she forgives and becomes the Helper herself. This message is a nice reminder for all of us, not just the little readers.
Yoko Writes Her Name © Copyright 2008 by Rosemary Wells, Hyperion Books for Children (an imprint of Disney Book Group.)