What Is Given From the Heart


This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving. 

"Misery loves company," Mama says to James Otis. It's been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they're blessed. One Sunday before Valentine's Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service-- the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple's "love box," but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack--with stunning illustrations by Harrison--delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.--from the publisher

40 pages         978-0375836152          Ages 4-9


When you are talking about giving something from your heart, you are talking about sharing your most precious gift, your love.  That gift of love is exactly what Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison have shared in this gorgeous, poignant new picture book.  Interestingly, this is Patricia C. McKissack's final picture book and it is April Harrison's first picture book.  What an amazing intersection of great minds, great hearts and great talents.

James Otis is a young fellow who lives with his mother.  Times have been tough for them.  We're talking finding Daddy dead on the front porch and the house flooding and the dog, Smitty, disappearing.  But they have some important things still with them and those things are hope, health and strength.

That gives you a sense of the kind of people we are going to share a story with.  With these important gifts fully present in their own lives, they are turning their thoughts and compassion to the Temple family who have recently lost their everything in a fire.  Through the church the community is coming together to give "love boxes" to those in need.

This is a Valentine's Day story.  It's an every single day story.  It's a story that makes you stop and ask yourself, is this kind of hardship in my community?  It's a story that makes you stop and recognize that all of those wonderful things that come through online shopping really don't satisfy us the way we need to be satisfied.

We all need love.  We all need to know we are a valued part of our community.  Each one of us needs to know we are special and we are seen.

That's what love is all about.  Thank you, Patricia C. McKissack, for sharing your heart with our children and with us, the bigger children in the room, through all the decades of your oh-so-important stories.  Thank you and welcome, April Harrison, for discovering the world of children's book illustration and giving pieces of your great heart to all of us in these pictures.

Read the story and look closely at the gorgeous love in the words and the colors and the lines.  As Tonya Bolden said to me one fine day, "It all comes down to love, doesn't it."

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com


Richie’s Picks: WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison, ill., Schwartz & Wade, January 2019, 40p., ISBN: 978-0-375-83615-2

“I don’t know how you keep on giving

For your kindness I’m in debt to you”

-- Natalie Merchant, “Kind and Generous” (1998)

“It was a rough few months for Mama and me. We were already poor, but we got poorer last April, when Daddy went to sleep on the front porch and never woke up. Mama cried and cried, ‘cause Daddy didn’t have a suit to be buried in.

Come June, we lost the farm and moved to a run-down shotgun house in the Bottoms.

On Friday the thirteenth, it rained frogs; everything flooded, and Smitty, my dog, disappeared.

‘Misery loves company,’ Mama said, shaking her head as she swept water out the back door. I hugged her up close, the way I always did when she was sad or I was scared.

‘Long as we have our health and strength, we are blessed, James Otis,’ Mama said, tryin’ to sound brave. But things didn’t get any better.”

James Otis is being raised well by a kind and generous mom. One Sunday, the preacher asks the congregation for donations for a mom and daughter in their black community who have lost everything in a fire. He reminds them that, “What is given from the heart reaches the heart.”

Despite their own dire circumstances, James’s mom immediately takes her prized possession, a tablecloth, and stitches it into an apron for the mom in need. Meanwhile, heeding his mom’s words and example, James contemplates his own meager possessions, none of which are in good shape. But the young boy digs deep into his heart and comes up with the brilliant idea of using his worn-down crayons to craft a handmade picturebook for seven year-old Sarah about a character named after her. Delighted by James’s gift, in an illustration that is also used for the back cover, the little girl holds her new and special book up against her heart.

WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART is illustrated by April Harrison in a distinctive and unique palette that is anchored by hues of baby blue, tan, and brownish-tangerine. The illustrator employs mixed media and found objects. For instance, she uses fiberglass drywall mesh to give Sarah tights their texture and a burlap-like material for James’s Sunday vest.

This is the final book by Patricia McKissack, who died in 2017. I have fond memories of meeting Ms. McKissack and her late husband Fredrick at conventions. Her award-winning GOIN’ SOMEPLACE SPECIAL, which was inspired by Ms. McKissack’s own childhood trips to the Nashville Library, remains a favorite of mine. WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART is a memorable story to remember her by.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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