We live in an unfortunate time where there is a lot of anger and hatred. Where there is a fear of being different – fear of mean acts, mean words, deportation, violence, and general cruelty. Raising children in this age is extra challenging. It is harder to shield them from cruelty if they are already on social media or when the understand the news we have on the television. It is also important not to completely shield them because they need to understand the larger world around them. In that, I am so happy when I see truly beautiful picture books that show how it isn’t so hard to be kind. How “one person doesn’t represent a family or a race or the people of a land.”
I happened upon Come with Me written by Holly McGhee and illustrated by Pascal Lemaître at my local library. From the cover, you would never know that this was a book of multicultural kindness. Perhaps that is a great way to lure in a larger audience. But from the very beginning you realize that it is a book to empower children to respect the people around them instead of fear them. To offer kindness instead of hatred.
The reality is that empathy starts at home. Children learn from their parents how to act and how to treat others. But picture books also play an important role in expanding the world view of children. With books like All are Welcome and Come with Me, we can encourage children to help make this world a better place.
The little girl in this book watches the news and was frightened by what she saw and heard. When she asks her parents what she could do to make the world a better place, they each, individually, tell her to “come with me” so they could walk through their diverse neighborhood and see that there was no reason to be afraid of the people around them. When she decides to try going out on her own, her neighbor decides to join her and she starts to understand what she can do to make the world a better place – simply put, be “brave, gentle, strong – and kind…to one another and all living things.”
This is a simple book told in simple language, but it has a lot of power. The illustrations by Pascal Lemaître truly help make the point of how multicultural our world is and why just walking around their neighborhood makes a difference. Granted, the book takes place in a large city like New York that has a diverse population and where people walk through neighborhoods and actually see those around them rather than being isolated in their cars, but we can all get the basic notion of how much of a melting pot our country is.
It is books like this that give me hope that we can repair our world.