One concept that is really difficult for children to grasp is that everyone is different and that not every family can do or buy the same things. For the most part, children socialize with people that tend to be in very similar socio-economic situations. But it is incredibly important for kids to understand that the world is made up of lots of different people with different lifestyles, especially as they start going to schools that have a wider mix of children and demographics.
Maddi’s Fridge, by Lois Brandt, is a very well written picture book that broaches a key topic of what to do when your friend doesn’t have enough to eat. Maddi & Sofia are close friends who love to do things together, but one day Sofia learns that while her refrigerator is always well stocked with healthy foods, Maddi’s is nearly empty and that things like milk are saved for her younger brother. Maddi is embarrassed and doesn’t want Sofia to tell anyone.
When Sofia goes home to her full fridge and a healthy dinner prepared by her mother, she wonders what she can do, but also wants to stick to her promise not to tell anyone.
Sofia keeps trying to bring healthy food to school, but it doesn’t survive as leftovers in her backpack. Finally, one day she succeeds. But even with that, she still feels badly when she thinks of her own fridge compared to Maddi’s and decides to tell her mom.
Together, they fill grocery bags of food to take over to Maddi’s house, even Sofia’s brother’s beloved cheesy pizza bombs, which he only gets to eat as a special treat. The mothers talk and Sofia apologizes for breaking her promise. While a promise to a friend is important, Sofia realized that “You’re more important. I wanted you to have milk too.”
In addition to being an awesome story, the final page has ideas about how to help friends with empty refrigerators. I especially like the idea of getting kids involved in the local food bank. It is important to make sure that kids who live comfortably understand that not everyone else does. We are also strong believers in giving back and the best way for children to understand that notion fully is to participate in things like bagging food at a food bank or working in a soup kitchen. This book does a remarkable job of dealing with a very tricky subject.