The Kindest Red
S. K. Ali
40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
It’s school photo day and, unlike Australia where students are encouraged to wear school uniform, Faizah wears a special red dress that belonged first to Mama and then handed down to her older sister, Asiya, Faizah adores the dress because of the kindness of family that has been woven into the fabric over time. To complete the picture, Asiya does Faizah’s hair in a special style and Faizah pins Asiya’s hijab with a special, sparkly pin.
When they get to school Faizah finds she matches with her friend Sophie, who is wearing a dress with red roses and a huge red sash. When their teacher. Ms. Ramirez asks the class to imagine the kind of world they want and to draw it, while others want an ice cream world or a unicorn world, Faizah draws a kind world, and Sophie draws a superhero world. Then, throughout the day, they use their superpowers to make the world kinder, helping other kids by doing little things that seem little but mean much at the time, and brightening their days. By the time it is their turn for photos, everyone in class is smiling.
But when it’s time for sibling photos, Faizah is upset when she sees that, , she and Asiya don’t match., unlike all the other sibling pairs. She is in her special red dress, and looks nothing like Asiya. Can her friends find a way to help?
We first met Asiya and Faizah in The Proudest Blue and this story is another charming celebration of family and friendship woven together through the strong thread of helping others not only being just what you do, but that kindness can come in many forms, and does not need acknowledgement or reward. Being kind is an end in itself – it should never be accompanied by a “what’s in it for me?” motive.
In The Proudest Blue, Mama advised her daughters, “Don’t carry around the hurtful words that others say. Drop them. They are not yours to keep. They belong only to those who said them.” And in this story she tells them, “My kind, beautiful girls. Remember, you are strong and smart. You can do and be anything!” – again, wise words that should resonate with everyone, regardless of their ancestry or beliefs.
There are comprehensive teachers’ notes available to support the book, but for littlies it might just be enough to explore Faizah’s main point – a kind world is one where there is always a friend nearby to help each other – and let them share stories of how a friend has helped them or vice versa, to emphasise the point that kindnesses can be small, almost unnoticeable deeds and can permeate every minute of the day. Because, despite the subtitle of the book being “A Story of Hijab and Friendship” kindness is not restricted or limited by anything. It is universal.