Title: I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: 2018.04.24
My Rating Out of 10: 9
Vanessa has recently moved into the neighborhood, and is starting her first day at her new school. She is nervous and shy…she sits alone during recess; and she walks home alone. But on her way, a bully stops her and is so mean to her, that she runs away in tears. Another girl in Vanessa’s class witnesses this. She isn’t sure what to do, but after she thinks about it all day and all night, she comes up with a solution! The next day of school, she goes to Vanessa’s house, introduces herself, and they walk to school hand-in-hand. As they walk together, more and more children join them, until she is surrounded by friends.
In this wordless picture book, husband and wife team Kerascoët show Vanessa’s first day in a new school. She is nervous, shy, and bullied. Although the reader can clearly see that the bullying hurt Vanessa, the focus of the story is on the protagonist’s reaction to the situation. The young girl witnesses the bullying, and while she does not do anything in the moment, she is clearly distressed by what she saw. The reader follows the young protagonist as she disscusses what she saw with her friends, and how she goes home…her mind clearly on what happened to Vanessa. As the story progresses, the reader sees how the protagonist is able to create a welcoming and safe environment for Vanessa by one simple act of friendliness.
Watercolor and ink illustrations clearly and simply tell the story. Most of the pictures use pale and muted colors on a white background; however, key illustrations use bright colors to convey emotions. In the scene where Vanessa is being bullied, the background is made up of broad strokes of red. In another spread, the scene-which takes place at nighttime-is very dark. The sky is black, and the neighborhood is different shades of dark blue. The only light colors come from the lit-up rooms of the protagonist and Vanessa; showing that they are both awake late at night.
Kerascoët also includes details for the attentive reader. As Vanessa and her new group of friends walk her to school, they pass by the bully, who is shocked and surprised. In subsequent pages, the reader sees the bully become frustrated and red in the face; but ultimately, the focus is on Vanessa.
At the back of the book, there is information for both children and adults about how you can help someone who is being bullied.
This is a beautiful and simple story of how one child can make a huge impact by simply being kind. Share with a classroom, a storytime, or at bedtime; but be prepared to have a discussion on bullying, kindness, and standing up for one another.