Author: Anne C Bromley
Illustrated by Robert Casilla
Interest Level: Ages 9-12
About This Book: Rafael is hungry because someone stole his lunch. His mom had packed his lunch bag with two burritos, a bag of corn chips, some carrots, and an apple. Once a week she tucks in a slice of her special lemon pound cake. Rafael saw Kevin, a new kid in his class, sneak his lunch bag from underneath his desk and tuck it in his backpack. But how can he do something about the theft without picking a fight? Inspired by his mother's advice to use his mouth before his fists, Rafael bides his time, but other kids' lunches are disappearing, too. On an errand with his mom, Rafael sees Kevin carrying a bundle of laundry into a motel room, and his mom tells him Kevin's family might be one of the families who lost their homes in the recent wildfires. Rafael rethinks his anger. The next day, instead of accusing Kevin, Rafael invites him to share his lunch, letting him know he's been caught, but offering friendship as well as a good meal.
Why It's On My Bookshelf: When I first get a new book, I usually skim the synopsis to see what I'm getting into. Based on the title I thought The Lunch Thief was going to be about stealing and maybe bullying - so I started to read and went on an unexpected journey. It's the type of picture book I relish reading to students. Never judge a book by it's title. The Lunch Thief is not about a thief, it's about a hungry boy named Kevin living in a motel. And yes, the kids know it's not okay to steal. But why would someone steal? We are a community and need to understand one another. Rafael does this for Kevin. The kids started to make a connection right away that this wasn't a story about bullying or Thou Shall Not Steal. Hands started flying up as I asked questions about what might be going on in Kevin's life that he is taking others' food. Kevin is not mean, not a bully, and not trying to hurt kids on purpose. He's trying to survive. The last page proves this as he offers a quarter to Rafael as payment for his lunch. One student commented, "Kevin never wanted to steal in the first place." Bingo! (great book for inference) I felt really connected to the students as we figured these things out together. The Lunch Thief teaches empathy, understanding, and helping one another. And gosh do we need more of that within our communities. Bravo for this book.
A Link to the Teacher Activities that accompany The Lunch Thief.
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