The kindness project by Deborah Abela

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Well-known children’s author Deborah Abela has written a brilliant debut verse novel. The Kindness Project shares the stories of four very different children all dealing with complex family situations and deep feelings. Throughout the novel, the reader is drawn into the emotions and experiences of the children by the rich language used and the clever positional text techniques employed to emphasise key moments.

The story is told in first person by Nicolette, the quiet and lonely child who has an unbreakable bond with her beloved Nanna now in a care home with early signs of dementia. Then there is new boy Leaf, a talented graphic artist and Nicolette’s first friend, who is staying with his aunty, Layla the pretty, perfect, popular girl who appears to have it all, and finally DJ, the class bully who terrorises the other students for no apparent reason. All four are seemingly chosen at random to work together on a classroom task called The Kindness Project.

At first the group struggle to find a common purpose, with DJ’s negativity and relentless barbs, and Layla’s indifference causing great angst for Nicolette as she and Leaf come up with idea after idea. But all that changes when good girl Nicolette breaks her Nanna out of the nursing home in order to spend a day at the beach with her. Her bravery leaves DJ and Layla in awe of what she has done and the group of four gradually learn to accept each other’s differences and come up with a fabulous idea for their version of The Kindness Project.

The Kindness Project would be a wonderful class novel for Year 5 or 6 students as there are many relatable themes presented in the story. The four strong protagonists show great depth of character, flaws and all, and the way they learn relate to each other and work together is inspiring.

Two important messages resonate throughout this book. Firstly, that we often never know what is going on in other people’s lives to cause them to act the way they do and secondly, that with shared kindness and problem solving the pain of challenging situations can be diminished or resolved.

Themes: Verse Novel, Friendship, Kindness, Teamwork, Worries, Dementia, Mental illness, Families.

Kathryn Beilby