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Hollis Kurman writes poetry and children’s stories.‘Hello! A Counting Book of Kindnesses’, illustrated by Barroux and published by Otter-Barry Books, is Hollis’ debut picture book. Her poems (one nominated for a Pushcart Prize) have been published in multiple journals. When not writing, Hollis moderates literary events and is Chairperson of the Ivy Circle Netherlands; member of the Fulbright Board NL; Founder of the Human Rights Watch NL Committee and member of HRW Women’s Rights Advisory Council. She was born in New York but lives in an old canal house in Amsterdam with her Dutch husband and their two children.
Counting books are very much a staple of the bookshelves at home and nursery but this collaboration between a human rights activist and poet and an award-winning illustrator is so much more than just a tool for learning numbers and could be shared and used throughout the primary age-group for the discussions it will provoke. This is the story of a family that had to run away from an image of a war-torn, smoking settlement. “Hold my hand and count to ten- together we’ll make it better again.” Then the journey begins with 1 boat and 2 hands “lifting us to safety”, then counting through the meals, beds, wishes and books which help them on their way to the 7 days “celebrating our first week in a new land”. With the “gifts” that surprise them with “things they like and need” in the relief parcels and the welcome notices at their new school to the 10 new friends they make there, this is a hopeful and uplifting journey. However, the images powerfully capture the full gamut of emotions the refugee family experience, as well as the love and support they give each other. The book ends with a challenge to the reader by asking how many ways can they think of to be kind? And there is a reminder of the grim statistics that millions of children are running from war or disaster and many of them have no family to take care of them. The end papers have websites and sources of information for the adult reader, no doubt spurred on by the discussions this book will prompt, who wants to help. Endorsed by Amnesty International, this is an outstanding example of how a deceptively simple picturebook can develop empathy and understanding. Highly recommended.