Authors: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and
Douglas Carlton Abrams
illustrated by A.G. Ford
From the Book Jacket: Desmond was very proud of his new bicycle. He was the only child in the whole township who had one, and he couldn't wait to show it to Father Trevor.
When Desmond takes his new bicycle out for a ride, his pride and joy turn to hurt and anger when some boys shout a very mean word at him. No matter what he tries, Desmond can't stop thinking about what the boys said. With the wise advice of kindly Father Trevor, Desmond learns an important lesson about understanding his conflicted feelings and how to forgive.
Based on a real-life experience from Archbishop Desmond Tutu's own childhood in South Africa, Desmond and the Very Mean Word eloquently shows a child's realization that true forgiveness comes from within and that all people deserve compassion, whether or not they say they are sorry.
Why It's On My Bookshelf: This has been an important picture book I've been using with our fourth and fifth graders. Sometimes I'm so saddened to see how horribly mean some of them can be to each other. So when this book arrived I knew it had a message that would touch their hearts and hopefully stop the mean words. Reminding kids they can make a decision to stop a hurtful conversation and take responsibility is what this book is all about.
There is a conversation in the book between Father Trevor and Desmond that we focused on:
Father Trevor sighed. "That is the problem, Desmond. You will get them back, and they they will get you back, and soon our whole world will be filled with nothing but 'getting back.'"
And there it is! Stopping the cycle of hurt is what my students need to hear. Especially because some of them come from homes where that cycle is happening. Forgiveness is an absent thing in many of their lives. When I asked if they could define forgiveness - not many hands went up. We teach a lot about apologies but it became clear the other part of the equation needs to be put out there too.
It is never revealed what the mean word is used against Desmond. I was concerned some kids would get hung up on that. We did have a small discussion on what the mean words might have been. But what we kept coming back to was how those words can have such a damaging impact. And that's why we need forgiveness............yep!
A Link to This Book: