The Circle of Kindness: An Irish Journey of the Heart
"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted" - Aesop
"It is a wonderful thing, a circle...You see it everywhere. The circle has no beginning and no end. In our lives we may travel far from home, but we will someday come back to where we began." - Shannon in The Circle of Kindness
Jana Kolpen and Mary Tiegreen's book is precisely what the title says it is - a simple tale of the circular nature of kindness. Mademoiselle J., the main character, travels to Ireland as a continuation of her "journey of the heart", a journey which she began in an earlier book The Secrets of Pistoulet. In Ireland she stays with the red-haired Shannon upon a picturesque Irish farm. It is from Shannon that Mademoiselle learns about the Circle of Kindness, and it is during her time in the Irish countryside that she witnesses the big impact that small acts of kindness have upon both the recipient and the giver.
While she stays with Shannon, Mademoiselle meets many of the local people of the small Irish Village Dunwalsh-by-the-sea. Each of the characters she meets have in some way become jaded and lost sight of the simple joys that life has to offer. Their zest for life is restored by a chain of kind deeds, a chain that is self-perpetuating because every person who receives a kind turn passes it on to another who is in need of one. The continuation of this chain is reinforced by the passing of a circular charm with two linked hands. As each character receives an act of kindness they also receive the charm, and as they pass on kindness to another they pass on the charm as well. In this way, the book illustrates exactly what the Circle of Kindness is and how, once begun, it grows and extends of its own accord.
The kind acts of the book are all based upon the simple enjoyments of life, especially friendship and good food. It is the simplicity of these kind acts that makes them so effective. It may seem that simply taking freshly baked scones to a lonely friend would be an insignificant action, but The Circle of Kindness reminds us that doing just such a thing can make all the difference in the world. When Mademoiselle takes warm scones and jam to the lonely Legendary Lady of Shanagarry, she is not only giving her the warmth and comfort of homemade food, but also the warmth and comfort of friendship.
The Circle of Kindness is an easy and enjoyable book to read. Throughout it are spread colourful illustrations, removable letters and recipes that reinforce the message of the book. Short lines at the end of each character's tale sum up the moral of their stories. These lines serve as small reminders for the reader to keep in mind that which is truly important in life, namely kindness and love.
As the book finishes, it explains to the reader how it is itself a part of the Circle of Kindness. A last letter from Mademoiselle J, to her "friends" asks that the reader "please share the book with a friend in need. You will become part of the Wonderful Circle of Kindness" This sentence reinforces the central idea of the book that sharing kindness with others is of as much benefit to the person who gives as the one who receives. It also reminds the reader that having something precious, for instance a beautiful book like The Circle of Kindness, is no good if you are not able to share it with others. Jana Kolpen and Mary Tiegreen's book, is itself, in the end, a perfect example of a simple yet meaningful and joyous piece of kindness to be shared with those you care about.
The Circle of Kindness was reviewed for Jumping Tangents by Kimberley Davis, BA (Eng.) Hons.
Copies of The Circle of Kindness and The Secrets of Pistoulet can be purchased through Jumping Tangents by clicking on the links on this page.