My Heart Will Not Sit Down. I cried.
Although the story is fiction, Rockliff was inpsired by a true event. In 1931, New York City received $3.77 from the people of Cameroon. The money was to feed the hungry children, victims of the Great Depression.
How did the illiterate and poverty-stricken people of Cameroon even know about the Great Depression? Rockliff imagines a mission teacher telling his classroom about the hungry children in his home village, New York City. One of his students, a girl called Kedi, wants to help. "Her heart will not sit down" after she hears of children who have no food. She knows what it is like to go to bed hungry. She cannot imagine how sad it must be to have no food at all. So she asks everyone in her village for a coin or two. Coins are rare in her village. The next morning, her mother gives her a tiny coin and the thought that this is all she has to share makes her sad. But her village knows the right thing to do when someone is in need and her small coin is joined by many others.
Rockliff's words carry this story along like a song. Anne Tanksley's bright, chunky, almost childlike illustrations give the book an accurate sense of time and place. The story stands alone as a lesson in caring and kindness. I highly recommend that everyone read Rockliff's Author's Note which explains where the story came from, the life of the people of Cameron in the first half of the twentieth century, even where she found the descriptive phrases such as "my heart will not sit down".
In a time when we are all busy protecting what we have, this book points out that even a small kindness is meaningful, to the giver and to the recipient. This book reminds us that one small coin can become many and that small gifts can lift a heart.
My heart will not sit down now that I have read this book. I want to pass this kindness on.