Pat Zietlow Miller's BE KIND

Our world seems to be in both a difficult time, and a time of positive awareness. In this climate, it is so important that we remember to be kind. Which is why I'm so excited about Pat Zietlow Miller's new book, BE KIND, illustrated by Jen Hill for Roaring Brook Press. Pat stopped by to talk about this important book to share with children.

by Pat Zietlow Miller

     What does it mean to be kind, anyway?
      Kindness is such a big idea.
      So when I started writing BE KIND, my latest book, I was a little intimidated. How could I write about kindness in a way that would be accessible to everyone?
      I think the secret was starting with one small, everyday incident – Tanisha spilling grape juice on her dress and feeling embarrassed.
Everyone has done something, sometime, that’s brought them unwanted attention and left them feeling embarrassed or vulnerable, so it’s a relatable moment. And everyone has felt like the main character at some point, too – wanting to be kind, trying to be kind but not having things turn out well.
      So what then? What can you do when your first attempt at kindness doesn’t work?
      That question led to the rest of the book, with the main character thinking about what other people might value. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. So having the main character consider several kindness options and try another one when the first attempt doesn’t work is pretty true to life.
      I didn’t think about this when I was writing the book, but in many ways, the main character is similar to me as a child. I was quiet and thoughtful but second-guessed myself a lot, especially when I was with kids who seemed more confident. I wanted to do the right thing, but couldn’t always pull it off, and people didn’t always understand my intentions. I spent a lot of time thinking about situations and what I could have done differently. It took me a while to learn to trust myself and my instincts.
I’ve obviously never lived inside anyone’s head but my own, but I suspect feelings like this are part of growing up. I hope readers can relate – even if they are more confident than I used to be.
      Jen Hill’s art for this book is everything I ever could have imagined and more. She drew the world I wish I lived in. My two favorite drawings from the book are:
      • The page where the main character is drinking tea with Aunt Franny and listening to her stories. For reasons I can’t fully explain, it feels like it could have been from a scene in Harriet the Spy.
      • I also really like the page where the narrator is watching as one child is being unkind to another. The art portrays such a universal emotion. Every reader has – at one time or another – been one or more of the three characters shown on that page.
After they read the book, I hope people will think of even more ways to show kindness. The book certainly doesn’t cover them all.
I’ve been thrilled to see kids using the book at school to talk about how they can be kind to each other. I’ve seen walls filled with sticky notes listing ways to be kind. Paper chains where every link represents an act of kindness. Drawings and essays describing kindness.
      Some schools have even chosen BE KIND as the book every student reads (or has read to them) and planned activities and discussions around it.
      That’s awesome. And something I also didn’t see coming when I was first writing the book.

e: Check out Pat's fave writing spot with her cat, Sunny!

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