An Poignant Tale of Compassion and Kindness: What is Given From the Heart

Sometimes a book has a way of moving readers to the point where the story resonates with them long after reading it. What is Given from the Heart is one of those books that really does tug at the heartstrings. This final release from author, Patricia McKissack, was written for children, however it carries various themes and undertones that can inspire and uplift multiple generations.

“Misery loves company," Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service— the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box," but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack—with stunning illustrations by Harrison—delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

PATRICIA C. MCKISSACK is the author of many lauded books for children, including, most recently, Let's Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout, a 2017 Parents Choice Gold Award winner, a New York Public Library, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and recipient of 3 starred reviews; The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner, and its companion, Porch Lies: Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and other Wily Characters, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book; Never Forgotten, a Corretta Scott King Honor book; and The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book and winner of the 2008 Parents Choice Award. Ms. McKissack passed away in the summer of 2017. This is her final work.

APRIL HARRISON is a renowned folk artist born and currently residing in Greenville, South Carolina. Her work appears in the public collections of Vanderbilt University, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, the Atlanta Housing Authority, and the Erskine University Museum and in many private collections. This is her first picture book. Learn more at

What is Given from the Heart begins by introducing the Otis family, a mother and her son, James. We soon learn of the many hardships that they've recently encountered, such as the loss of Jame's father and the family's home. Times are definitely tough for Mama and James, but that doesn't stop them from wanting to help others in need. When their reverend let's the congregation know that a local family, The Temples, had just lost everything they've owned in a fire, the whole town steps up to help, including Mama and James. Knowing they've also lost a lot doesn't stop the Otis family from wanting to give to the Temples. Mama begins sewing a new apron for Mrs. Temple using the nicest thing she has left, her white tablecloth. James also wants to give something special to Mrs. Temple's daughter, Sarah, but what does he have that could possibly be useful to her, and even more importantly, meaningful enough to give to a little girl that has lost everything? During the last church visit, the reverend reminded the congregation, "Remember, what is given from the heart, reaches the heart." As James really reflects on this, he soon comes up with a thoughtful gift that ultimately reaches the heart of little Sarah.
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and so pleasing to the eye. I fell in love with the use of April Harrison's color choices, as well as the subtle details given for each character in the book. As you progress through the various moments in the story, you can clearly read the different range of emotions on each person's face. The illustrator's artwork really helps bring each character in the story to life, which in turn, will engage the reader even more.

What is Given From the Heart is an endearing tale of compassion and kindness. This story is powerful with the turn of each page, you feel for the characters as they cope with a series of different emotions, including sadness, empathy, worry, determination, and ultimately compassion and joy. While the story touches up on some sensitive themes, such as death and loss, it also teaches kids (and even adults) about the pure joy of generosity and giving, not just to loved ones, but to everyone. With Valentine's Day right around the corner, there's no better way to spend the time, then to pay it forward and share God's blessings with others, especially those who may need a little extra encouragement in their lives.