Kitty O’Meara’s newest picture book, Oliver and the Night Giants, celebrates the power of creativity in community building. Oliver, a young red-headed boy, lays in bed feeling sad after classmates ridiculed one of his paintings at school earlier in the day. Maybe there’s no purpose to being creative, he wonders. He learns otherwise when three giants tap on his bedroom window, asking for his help. They need someone with the heart of an artist to help mend and tend the world.
Oliver worries that his art isn’t good enough, but the second giant reassures him, saying, “You painted your dreams. You see beauty and magic in the world, and you notice what is missing.” So Oliver goes with the three giants and helps paint the moon and stars, fireflies and crooked mountains, snowflakes made of dough, and so much more. Afterward, the night giants return Oliver to his bed, and he sleeps peacefully, no longer haunted by his classmate’s cruel words, but instead remembering how his art can help change the world for the better.
The Importance Of Art
Many children and adults have experienced childhood bullying, or sometimes any criticism about a piece of art, especially when young, can feel shattering. This affirmative picture book shows children how important their art is, regardless of whether someone deems it as ‘perfect’ or not. Studies show that children often stop drawing or making out somewhere between 9 and early adolescence. This is when they begin noticing imperfections in their art. Yet creating art has so many benefits, and it’s vital children still feel welcome to make art, no matter how messy it might be. Oliver and the Night Giants encourages children to do just that. It also shows how important art-making is for community enrichment.
Kitty O’Meara And Her Community Building Picture Books
O’Meara frequently centers community in her picture books. In her most popular picture book to date, And the People Stayed Home, O’Meara writes a lyrical poem depicting children and families staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping one another company, reading, learning instruments, and more. And by staying home, the earth healed, and when the danger passed and people returned to their lives before the pandemic, they took more care of their community and the earth. And the People Stayed Home is a beautiful picture book showing how communities can grieve and heal and take care of one another and the environment.
O’Meara’s lyrical, rhyming picture book The Rare, Tiny Flower depicts a community on the verge of collapse due to a lack of communication. When a colorful bird drops a seed, an equally vibrant flower blooms. But no one can decide what color the flower is, and their disagreement turns into fighting. It takes a perceptive and brave girl to calmly ask the fighting adults to look again and listen, to understand that they have a choice in how they react. When everyone looks at the flower with this new wisdom, they notice it could be any color. When the flower seems to die, they despair, but the girl replants it, and another flower blooms. The people rejoice in their new acceptance of one another and vow to listen and appreciate all the colors of the world.
At the back of the book, O’Meara describes how she was inspired to write The Rare, Tiny Flower after listening to the news during the pandemic, and how much fear instead of compassion led discussions. This is just as true today, and all three of O’Meara’s picture books depict compassionate community building. These picture books have lovely illustrations and are larger than average. They would make great additions to a child’s bookshelf, particularly if a caregiver or teacher is trying to find more picture books that center the importance of community.
You can purchase any of these picture books on the publisher’s website or on Amazon. Thanks to Tra Publishing for sharing them with me!