Sometimes a book comes along that just makes you feel good. Every Little Kindness is one such title.
It’s a sort of ‘pass it on’ message of how one good deed can generate another, and how that in turn can make the world feel better for people in myriad small ways.
The girl protagonist in this story has lost her beloved dog and is desperate to find him. So she has made posters of him, with her phone number at the bottom, to put up around the town. To sustain her on her journey, she has popped a bright red apple into her bag.
When she takes the apple out she notices a busker playing guitar and, in an act of spontaneous generosity, she gives the fruit to him.
A young man passing by observes her kindness, smiles to himself, and shortly after pops some rubbish into a bin.
A boy notices the young man’s action, and subsequently buys a little girl a balloon to replace one that she has lost. Cue more smiles.
Marta Bartolj is a Slovenian artist whose detailed and expressive illustrations are rendered in pencil, ink, acrylic and watercolour. Her palette is mainly sepia-toned but there are highlights of red, yellow and soft blue.
As the good deeds continue, we meet more and more characters and get a strong sense of the neighbourhood with its terraced houses, pretty park, shops and cafes.
In each spread, the sequential pictures make the narrative clear. For instance in the picture above we see the girl first walking in sunshine with her umbrella furled, then spotting the rain clouds, then putting up her umbrella and finally noticing the boy and inviting him to shelter underneath it with her.
There is also an intriguing forward link on each page to the next section of the story. For example here we see the back of the next character’s head, a boy who will shortly be undertaking his own act of kindness.
Eventually a boy in a red-and-white striped top – who has just witnessed someone giving up his bus seat to an older lady – notices the original girl’s lost-dog poster and tears off one of the phone number strips.
And guess who he meets sauntering along the street?
None other than the little black dog!
Although towards the end we still see our protagonist moping around looking a touch sad, we know that very soon all will be well. She and her dog will be reunited and happiness will be restored.
And what about all those other people who have had their days enriched by similar acts of kindness from strangers? Well, they will feel a more positive connection to their local community, as though each one has been given an intangible yet deeply personal gift.
It is a genuinely inspiring message.
Every Little Kindness – or Kje is? to give it its original Slovenian title – has now won many awards, including a 2022 Ezra Jack Keats Illustrator Honor Award.