About the Holiday
Today’s holiday was established by Food for Health International to encourage people to take a holistic approach to taking care of themselves, not only their physical health but their emotional health as well. Celebrating all that life has to offer while taking time to enjoy family and friends and be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude goes a long way towards greater happiness and health. Sharing today’s book with your kids is a wonderful way to celebrate this month-long holiday all year around.
A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human
Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by André Ceolin
“Welcome to Humanity! You’re really going to enjoy it.” With this expansive greeting, Matt Forrest Esenwine invites kids in to learn what they need to know “… to get the most out of [their] human experience….” First up is family—that group of people who spend so much time with you and “care about you the most.” But what does a family do? “Families love each other, disappoint each other, support each other, and get angry with each other, over and over—sometimes all in the same day. Weird, right?” But you can be sure that the “…whole ‘caring about you’ part never stops.
So what do you do with all of that caring that comes your way? You can share it! How? Well, by being kind. Sure, we hear that word all the time, but what does “being kind” really look like? Esenwine and André Ceolin give some easy-to-emulate examples that don’t take any money or super strength or extra time. In fact, everybody carries one of the easiest—maybe even the most meaningful—way to show kindness right on their face: their smile.
Once kids have kindness down, Esenwine moves on to empathy and urges kids to imagine why others may act the way they do, to think about what else may be going on with someone at home, in school, or elsewhere. Using empathy leads to compassion. What does compassion mean and how does it work? Esenwine and Ceolin show readers a few examples as well as reminding them that “we humans are quite good at ending up in the same situations again and again. Whatever another person is feeling, chances are, you’ll feel the same way at some point too” with a gallery of portraits of kids depicting emotions we all experience from time to time—and, often, every day.
One way of thinking about and reacting to situations that “has produced excellent results for over two thousand years,” Esenwine reveals, is the Golden Rule. He then shows kids how to apply this thoughtful idea to a range of situations to create better communication and understanding than getting angry or pushy or impatient.
Esenwine acknowledges that there will be bad days among the good, but these too can be handled with honesty, apologies, and forgiveness. Yes, “being human can sometimes be messy,” but that’s where family and friends can help. And, of course, they’re there to celebrate the good times too. So what does all of this kindness and compassion and empathy come down to? The thing that connects us all: Love. “So, welcome to Humanity!” Esenwine emphasizes, “We hope you enjoy your humanness. And we love that you’re here.”
Sprinkled throughout the text are brief “Pro Tips” that in one sentence expand on an idea and give kids confidence in understanding and/or applying the values in their own life.
Matt Forrest Esenwine has created a book about treating others according to the Golden Rule that goes to the heart not only of how to do that but, so importantly, when and why. Sometimes the need for kindness and empathy can be apparent, as when a child or adult is sad, alone, or has a disappointment or obvious mishap. But what about when someone’s behavior seems to be a personal slight, disrespectful, or just going against the rules?
That’s were Esenwine’s gentle, straightforward, and honest storytelling invites readers to stop and really consider every person and situation individually, to dig deep into one’s own memory and experiences for better understanding and supportive responses. He also addresses the importance of apologizing and forgiveness. And he does all of this with humor and examples that will resonate with kids. Moreover, these elements provide a spark for further conversations among children and adults about specific incidents in a child’s life, possible reasons behind them, and how the child can respond in a kind, empathetic, and compassionate way.
From the first spread, which shows a sidewalk busy with people all thinking their own thoughts (some of whom reappear elsewhere), André Ceolin engages readers in looking closely and thinking about how the people may be feeling, what they are doing, and why they might be behaving in a certain way. He depicts the characters in detailed places and situations familiar to kids that will spark recognition and lead to meaningful discussions and understanding. Ceolin’s images on each page, as well as a portrait gallery of universal emotions, provide excellent social emotional learning tools for adults to share with children when talking about recognizing and reading others’ feelings through facial expressions. Bookending the text, Ceolin emphasizes the support and enduring love of family and good friends.
A well-conceived, heartfelt, and impactful book you’ll want to share again and again, A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human reminds readers that we’re all in this—school, work, sports, clubs: life—together and is a timely must-have addition to home, school, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Beaming Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1506481739
About the Author
Matt Forrest Esenwine is an author and poet from Warner, New Hampshire. His debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Picture Books for Kids of 2017. His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies, including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge, 2019), and Highlights for Children. You can visit him at mattforrest.com and connect with him on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube.
About the Illustrator
André Ceolin studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has illustrated over twenty books for children. André lives in Brazil with his family. You can visit him at andreceolin.com and on Instagram.
Celebration of Life Month Activity
Here are some cheery cards that are sure to make the recipient’s day happier! Give them to a friend, a family member, your teacher, or your bus driver to show them that you care and that they mean a lot to you!
Random Acts of Kindness Cards Sheet 1 | Sheet 2 | Sheet 3
You can find A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
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Picture Book Review