Friday, September 19, 2014

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 153

Terrific Trio: Book 2

Picture Book: Desmond and the Very Mean Word
Authors: Archbishop Desmond Tutu                                        & Douglas Carlton Abrams
Illustrator: A. G. Ford
Summary: This story from Bishop Desmond Tutu’s childhood is a very honest look at the obsessive desire for retribution when wronged and the struggle to forgive. While riding his new bike, Desmond is called a mean word by 3 white boys in pre-Apartheid South Africa. Desmond's response of shouting at them with mean words is not satisfying to him. Father Trevor Huddleston, mentioned as a mentor in yesterday’s biography about Bishop Tutu, councils Desmond to try to forgive the boys rather than contributing to an escalation of hatred. Father Trevor says, “When we hurt someone, it hurts us too.” Desmond struggles with how to forgive them when they are not sorry. After Desmond witnesses one of the boys being mistreated, he decides to try an apology and forgiveness. The white boy doesn’t apologize, but Desmond experiences a sense of relief and freedom from his anger and obsession. Note: the “mean word” is never revealed.
Hanna’s Comments: What I especially love about this story is the detailed way in which Desmond’s feelings are honestly explored over a period of days. The tender care and council that Father Trevor offers Desmond is mirrored in this text as the struggle and change in feelings on the part of both boys is explicit. This is rare in children’s books especially with boy protagonists. Also, there is not a “happily ever after” ending. The cultural limits of racism in South Africa are still very real for the two boys as this story ends. Tomorrow’s post of the 3rd book in this Terrific Trio, offers Archbishop Tutu's beliefs about God’s dream for us to be empathetic, forgiving, and joyful human beings.
Publisher & Date of Publication: Candlewick, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
# of Pages: 32
Available in Spanish? Not at present
Formats other than Book: Tablet
PBT Category: Non fiction
PBT Topics this Book Connects with: acceptance, action, Africa, anger, brokenness, bullying/martyrs/persecution/oppression, call/calling/vocation, challenges, choices/decisions, conflict, cruelty, differences, difficulties, discord, emotions/feelings, encouragement, enemies, forgiveness/justifying grace/mercy/redemption, freedom, golden rule/great commandment, hatred, joy, judgment/judges/judging, pacifism/peace/peacemakers, perspective, power, race relations/racism, relationships, resisting evil, self-control, temptations, victims, wisdom
Scripture Connections: Peter asks how often he should forgive (Matthew 18:21-22); Be kind, tenderhearted, & forgiving of one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Idea(s) for Application: Forgiveness is an important subject for children to honestly explore in the safety of their faith communities. This book would be a valuable addition to any lesson relating to forgiveness. Consider explaining the remarkable Truth and Reconciliation Commission on which Bishop Tutu was a member.