Reviewed by Dannielle Viera
At first glance, this appears to be an ordinary counting book that couches the lesson in terms of kindness. However, as readers delve into the pages, they will discover a deeper story that draws them into the experiences of child refugees. As youngsters go from ‘1 boat’ that helps the refugee family and ‘2 hands’ that lift them to safety, all the way to ‘9 signs’ that welcome the refugee children to their new school and ‘10 friends’ who make them happy, readers will learn how to count from one to ten in a memorable manner. But, more importantly, they will develop empathy for new students who have had to face a fearsome question: ‘What if a place got so scary that we had to run away …?’
Hollis Kurman’s repeated use of the present participle in her short counting sentences ensures that the young reader is right in the middle of the action, journeying with the refugee family from their war-torn homeland to the shelter of a new country. At the end, she includes information about child refugees to situate the story in context, and there is a list of websites for organisations that help refugees around the world. Hollis is donating 10 per cent of her author royalties from the sale of this book to Amnesty International.
French illustrator Barroux (Stephane-Yves Barroux) adds a layer of movement to the book with the visible brushstrokes in his acrylic paintings. Calming blues and warm oranges invite young eyes to explore the pages, while small details etched in black line work give the illustrations an immediacy that matches the text style. Simple but expressive character faces and a serene seagull that sneaks into most of the spreads enhance the enchantment of this book.
Hello! A Counting Book of Kindnesses is a refreshingly modern take on a traditional concept book, and tugs at the heartstrings with every turn of the page. Children of all ages will be compelled to return to this book again and again, as they shift from the pure joy of learning how to count, towards an understanding of complex ideas such as migration, inclusivity, and compassion.