Cover image for What is given from the heart
What is given from the heart

1st ed.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm.
Added Author:
Despite their own poverty since Daddy died, Mama tells nine-year-old James Otis they need to help Sarah, whose family lost everything in a fire.


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This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving.

"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.

Author Notes

Patricia C. McKissack was born in Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Tennessee State University in 1964 and a master's degree in early childhood literature and media programming from Webster University in 1975. After college, she worked as a junior high school English teacher and a children's book editor at Concordia Publishing.

Since the 1980's, she and her husband Frederick L. McKissack have written over 100 books together. Most of their titles are biographies with a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Their other works included Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States. Over their 30 years of writing together, the couple won many awards including the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal, a Newbery Honor, nine Coretta Scott King Author and Honor awards, the Jane Addams Peace Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?. In 1998, they received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

She also writes fiction on her own. Her book included Flossie and the Fox, Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt, A Friendship for Today, and Let's Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout; Dance, Spin and Turn It Out! She won the Newberry Honor Book Award and the King Author Award for The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural in 1993 and the Caldecott Medal for Mirandy and Brother Wind. She dead of cardio-respiratory arrest on April 7, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

James Otis and his mother don't have much. Daddy died last April-he didn't even "have a suit to be buried in" -the family farm is gone, and the two of them now live in a "run-down shotgun house" that floods when it rains. But when their pastor asks the congregation to help a family who lost everything in a fire, Mama does her part, sewing an apron made from her cherished white tablecloth, and she expects James to find "a li'l bit of something" for the girl, Sarah. "What is given from the heart reaches the heart," Mama says, echoing the pastor's words. After much thought, James Otis creates a book for and about Sarah herself-a gift the girl presses to her heart. This final book by the late McKissack (Let's Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout) showcases the legendary author's signature lyricism in full force and receives a stunning, aesthetically ambitious interpretation by Harrison, a fine artist making her picture book debut. Flattened perspectives lend her characters quiet stature and communal strength, and elaborately textured colors exude translucence and light, almost as if these mixed-media images were created from stained glass. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

From the late Patricia McKissack, a story of givingeven when it seems one has nothing to spare. James Otis and his mother lost their farm and have lived in a run-down shotgun house in the Bottoms ever since Daddy went to sleep on the front porch and never woke up. Then one Sunday, Mama and James Otis hear an exhortation from Reverend Dennis, who tells the congregation that a family in their church community has lost everything in a house fire. James Otis marvels that Mama is considering contributing to the Temple familys love box because, as far as he can tell, they themselves have nothing. But Mama repeats the reverends wordsWhat is given from the heart reaches the heartand James Otis starts thinking differently about what he does have. Harrisons illustrations embody the transformation that takes place not just within this small family but in the entire community. Sad expressions permeate the earlier pictures, but after Mama and James Otis begin to focus on those who have even less than they do, the mood brightens; and it turns out that giving has its own rewards, both figuratively and literally. Harrisons detailed, highly textured, and strikingly patterned collage illustrations invite readers to linger over the pages and also add depth to the storys secondary characters. michelle h. martin January/February 2019 p 80(c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

In the months following the death of his father, life is hard for young James Otis and Mama. Still, when Reverend Dennis requests donations for a family that has lost everything to fire, Mama is the first to respond, sewing an apron from her best tablecloth. James Otis has a harder time deciding what to give, but finally settles on an illustrated book of his own creation. This posthumous offering from award winner McKissack (Who Will Bell the Cat?, 2018) recounts a heartfelt story demonstrating that joyful giving can have many rewards. Harrison's mixed-media and collage artwork portrays a close-knit, African American community, where fancy possessions are in short supply, but love and caring abound. Using folk-style illustrations and favoring earth tones, Harrison utilizes mottled backgrounds and colorfully collaged pieces to depict the characters' clothing. The faces are particularly expressive, conveying a full range of emotions. Appropriate for one-on-one sharing and story hours alike, this is a moving story that attests to life's most important values.--Kay Weisman Copyright 2018 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

A boy and his dog head to the moon, a crab bakes cakes, a cat foils a bakery break-in: These books send imaginations soaring. ONE IS A PIÑATA Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong. Illustrated by John Parra. Thong and Parra have explored shapes ("Round Is a Tortilla") and colors ("Green Is a Chile Pepper") with adorable bilingual flair, and this take on the numbers one to 10 is just as appealing. Each object is named in Spanish, with surrounding text in English ("six flavored aguas to quench our thirst"), while Parra's folk-art illustrations give visual clues to scenes from Latino life. Each friendly page beckons - to find stuff to count, or just to imagine lying on the beach under one of the five palapas. 32 pp. Chronicle. $16.99. (Ages 3 to 5) THERE ARE NO BEARS IN THIS BAKERY Written and illustrated by Julia SarconeRoach. A protective tabby named Muffin, a shop called Little Bear Bakery, a nighttime intruder. Is it a giant mouse? Or... a baby bear, helping herself to the goodies? Muffin is on the case. Sarcone-Roach ("The Bear Ate Your Sandwich") draws her audience in with I'm-the-boss cat humor and expressive mixed-media art in shades of blue and orange, perfectly capturing moods ranging from a terrified kitty ("I was smooshed, like a muffin between the couch cushions") to a satisfying bear hug. This delightful caper calls out for multiple readings. 32 pp. Knopf. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) TEN RULES OF THE BIRTHDAY WISH Written by Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Admit it, that annual wish you make before blowing out the candles is a huge deal. This antic step-by-step guide at first plays it for laughs, pulling in dinosaurs, rhinos, penguins and many more creatures to sow amusing chaos. Dogs howl the birthday song off-key, and puffer fish are warned not to take a big breath. But the always vibrant Lichtenheld and Ferry turn sweetly serious for the moment we've been waiting for, with a gentle reminder: "Don't forget that wish ends in 'shhhhhh.' " 40 pp. Putnam. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) GOOD BOY Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. This latest from Ruzzier (the Fox & Chick books) has just one or two words per page. But with lovely art that turns effortlessly surreal, that's all it takes to tell a clever, comical story of a truly mutual relationship. A boy and his dog, whose coat is the same shade of yellow as the boy's hair, practice canine training commands like "Sit" and "Jump" that soon morph into wondrous feats like "Cook." Before you know it, the devoted pair are off on an outer-space adventure. 40 pp. Atheneum. $15.99. (Ages 4 to 8) WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART Written by Patricia C. McKissack. Illustrated by April Harrison. In this exquisite story of generosity from the beloved McKissack, who died in 2017, a little boy named James Otis and his mama have fallen on hard times after his father's death. But they keep their spirits up, focusing on a request by their minister to add to a "love box" for a family that lost everything in a fire. Harrison has created soft yet dazzling illustrations for this tribute to faith, hope and the African-American community 32 pp. Schwartz & Wade. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) THE NEIGHBORS Written and illustrated by Einat Tsarfati. Translated by Annette Appel. All apartment buildings contain tantalizing mysteries, and the red-haired girl who narrates this zany treat tells what's behind each door in hers: a tiger, a vampire, a family that "celebrates someone's birthday at least once a week." Tsarfati ("An After Bedtime Story") balances visual extravagance with sneaky insight into how kids think of home. 40 pp. Abrams. $16.99. (Ages 4 to 8) CRAB CAKE Written and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi. The sea creatures who populate Tsurumi's underwater idyll live harmoniously, yet each does its own thing, including Crab, who bakes cakes. But when someone dumps trash into their home, the psychedelic colors darken. What to do? The eco-friendly lesson goes down easy as "everybody comes together," pitching in to haul the trash away, with another cake from Crab waiting at the end. 40 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8) CICADA Written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. Like all Tan's genre-defying books, this one vibrates with profound questions about how we choose to live and how we treat one another. A gray-suited cicada is an office drone, insulted and underpaid by the humans; he lives in an office wall space. After 17 years, he's shown the door. Despondent, he seems about to jump from the roof, but instead sheds the suit and becomes dozens of bright red insects, flying away to freedom. 32 pp. Arthur A. Levine. $19.99. (Ages 12 and up) MARIA RUSSO is the children's books editor of the Book Review.

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-Although he and his mama are poor, James Otis struggles to find something he can give the Temple family, who have lost everything in a fire. After his daddy dies suddenly, the boy and his mom lose their farm and move into a "run-down shotgun house." A flood further adds to their misery. Yet when Reverend Dennis announces the congregation will deliver "love boxes" to needy families for Valentine's Day, the boy and his mother decide to provide gifts for the Temples. "Stitchin' with a loving heart," mama turns her one treasure, a tablecloth, into an apron for Mrs. Temple. Considering several of his possessions unsuitable, James Otis finally decides to make a book for Sarah Temple. The delighted Temples receive their box with the congregation looking on. Their hearts filled with joy at having given to others, James Otis and mama return home to discover a love box has been delivered to them. Textured backgrounds that bleed to the edges and often include spreads form the backdrop for the folk-art illustrations rendered in mixed media and found objects. All the figures are elongated, and the brightest colors appear in a striking scene of the close-knit African American community walking to church dressed in their Sunday best. There are depictions of the modest neighborhood and touching close-ups of the boy and his mom in loving embrace and Sarah clutching her treasured book to her chest. VERDICT This story of the joy of giving despite one's own needs is a must-have for group discussions of empathy. A treasure from a marvelous storyteller.-Marianne Saccardi, Children's Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A boy who has little learns that he can still give. James Otis and his mama have fallen on hard times. His father died, and they had no suit in which to bury him; they lost their farm, their new "run-down shotgun house in the Bottoms" flooded, and his dog ran away. Though they have very little, his mama says, "Long as we have our health and strength, we are blessed." As Valentine's Day approaches, their pastor announces that "love boxes" will be delivered to the needy in the community, including a mother and daughter who have lost everything in a fire. He reminds them that "what is given from the heart reaches the heart." Mama gets right to work sewing her best tablecloththe one nice thing she ownsinto an apron that she hopes will please the mother, Irene. But James Otis can't think of anything he has that the little girl would want. Finally, he comes up with a plan, and what he gives from the heart, little Sarah cherishes. Debut illustrator Harrison's heartfelt mixed-media illustrations, which include collage, acrylic, and found objects, emphasize the closeness between James Otis and his mother. The full faces of the characters and the muted palette and spare backgrounds reflect the dignity and joy to be found within black culture and community life even in lean times.A sweet story, one of the legendary McKissack's last, enhanced by delectable art from a prodigious new talent. (Picture book. 4-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.