Today is Empathy Day: founded by EmpathyLab in 2017, Empathy Day focuses on using books as tool to build more understanding between us all – encouraging everyone to read, share books, and put empathy into action. To support the project, EmpathyLab have created a series of resources, guides, and reading lists for schools, libraries and bookshops – 50 library services are running Empathy Day activities, and several book shops and schools are trialling pilot schemes. You can find out more on the EmpathyLab website, here.
And to celebrate Empathy Day, we’ve come up with a list of some brilliant Nosy Crow books that demonstrate empathy – you can find out how to win copies of some of them below. And we’ve also asked some of our authors to suggest some of their favourite books that celebrate empathy and understanding.
Here are some of our own recommendations for Empathy Day reading:
Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe is a beautifully written middle grade debut, with an incredibly authentic voice, hugely relatable characters and relationships (with real psychological depth), and a gripping story with heart and warmth. Here’s a look inside the book:
Running on Empty by S. E. Durrant is a beautifully told story of unorthodox families, grief, adolescence and running. The Sunday Times called the book “Lyrical, moving and realistic … With a rich and diverse cast, it sings.” Here’s a look inside:
Splash, by Charli Howard, is a hugely exciting debut with a classic underdog story, a wonderfully relatable protagonist, and an important message of friendship, body positivity, and celebrating who you are. Publishing in July, you can take an early look inside the book below:
And combining cutting-edge science, gripping adventure and real heart, The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge is a mind-bending mystery for 9+ readers, perfect for fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce, Ross Welford, and Neil Gaiman. The Guardian called the book “a heartbreaking, head-melting science fiction mystery … Huge ideas – gravity, relativity, time and space – interweave seamlessly with themes of sibling jealousy and familial love; slim yet super-dense, it’s another unforgettable offering from the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright”. Here’s a look inside the book:
And here are some of our authors’ own recommendations for Empathy Day.
Chosen by S. E. Durrant, author of Little Bits of Sky and Running on Empty:
One of my favourite books as a child was The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. The Silver Sword follows four children, alone in Warsaw in World War Two, who travel to Switzerland in the hope of reuniting with family. Reading it as a child, I was amazed that I could enter a world which was so different from my own and where children were facing such terrible dangers. The children’s experience was an eye-opener to me, as was their stoicism and courage.
I also recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. This book plunges the reader into the life and world view of Christopher, a fifteen year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, as he tries to make sense of unexpected events. Written in the first person, Christopher’s way of thinking and his experience of being different is very thought provoking.
For early readers, The Sneetches by Dr Seuss is a powerful introduction to discrimination. The Star-Bellied Sneetches are considered superior to the Plain-Bellied Sneetches but when the Fix-it-Up Chappie offers to put stars on the bellies of the Plain-Bellied Sneetches (at a cost) things unravel. The Sneetches try to differentiate themselves by having their stars removed and replaced until no-one can tell who is who, the only winner being the Fix-it-Up Chappie who has earned all their money. Ultimately the Sneetches decide to settle for just being Sneetches, stars or otherwise.
Chosen by Cath Howe, author of Ella on the Outside:
The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen – Really interested by the bleakness of the world and the power of people getting together to support each other. I liked the mix of generations and the way some characters step up to defend someone they don’t even know. Hugely empathetic ending.
Too Small to Fail by Morris Gleizman – Boy from a rich home who longs for a dog. Incredible range of characters and warmth at the heart of this book. The way people are generous and open- hearted. Gleizman has such a light touch and humour.
The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold – Really explores idea of what it means to be loyal to someone. Hard to combine comic with incredible force of some of the ideas, but this book achieves it.
Little Bits Of Sky by S.E. Durrant – I think there’s a theme of altruism running through my choices. This book perfectly captures the longing for home and kindness shown to these two children. The reader is taught to believe in small miracles and changes that make the world better.
Chosen by Christopher Edge, author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, The Jamie Drake Equation, and The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day:
Books are empathy machines, but for me three stories that showcase this quality best are Thunder and Lightnings by Jan Mark, Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.
Thunder and Lightnings is a story about a boy called Andrew who moves to a new school and meets a boy called Victor, who is obsessed by the Lightning jets which fly from the nearby RAF base. A wonderful depiction of friendship and the interests and obsessions that sometimes drive this.
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce is a beautiful story about two brothers, Damian and Anthony, and the two very different ways they cope with the death of their mother and the sudden arrival of a large bag of cash. A novel that shows how grief can twist our lives into different shapes, but also how love can guide us through.
And finally Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson is a glorious comic strip which was a childhood favourite, but re-reading these strips as a parent has been a poignant experience as I often find myself empathising with Calvin’s mum and dad.
And we’re also giving away copies of some of our favourite empathy-inspiring reads to celebrate Empathy Day! You can win a book bundle containing Ella on the Outside, Running on Empty, and The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day – head over to the @NosyCrowBooks Twitter feed for more information.
You can find out more about Empathy Day on the EmpathyLab website, here – if you’re taking part, we’d love to hear about it!
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