Do you know the “Ordinary Mary” series by Emily Pearson, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka? I first discovered the original, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed, a few years ago, when searching for books similar to one of my favorites, Because Amelia Smiled. I was thrilled when a friend reached out last fall to make sure I knew about the second in the series, Ordinary Mary’s Postively Extraordinary Day. These books celebrate the good in all of us, and the power that our choices have to changes other’s days, too, not just our own. Read on for more information about each!
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed introduces us to Mary, a perfectly ordinary girl having a perfectly ordinary day. Perfectly ordinary, that is, until she decides to pick blueberries and anonymously leave them for a neighbor. This pleasantly surprises the neighbor so much that she makes blueberry muffins for five friends, who then do something kind for five other people, and so on and so on…
As a teacher, I talked a lot with my students about expected and unexpected behaviors, and how expected behaviors (kind acts) usually result in more expected behaviors (more kindness going out into the world). With our children, we talk about how our actions can either fill or empty others’ buckets, and when others’ buckets are full, they are more likely to want to fill not only ours, but other people’s, too. Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed highlights this phenomenon perfectly, and in a way that is truly accessible for children!
Are you reading this with upper elementary children? You’ve got a built-in math lesson, too, as children can explore multiplying by 5, as it connects to the multiplicative power of their good deeds!
In Ordinary Mary’s Positively Extraordinary Day, we once again see Mary, whose random act of kindness once again changes the course of not one, but many, people’s day. On her way to school, Mary decides to pick a sunflower, which she then gives to a girl who is being teased on the bus. A boy who sees her kindness is inspired to say “thank you” to the bus driver AND helps a friend carry a project into school. That friend then writes an uplifting note to a sad classmate, and so on and so on.
I love that Ordinary Mary’s Positively Extraordinary Day focuses on how children can notice others around them and change their day by simply responding with kindness. Sometimes, it is hard to understand the effects that compassionate and empathetic choices have on people around us, but Pearson and Kosaka make these results tangible and understandable to children, as they see that first kind act rippling out to touch the hearts of not one, but many, other community members.
I’d be remiss to skip addressing Kosaka’s illustrations. I love when books depict a great diversity of characters without making that diversity the focus of the story. When we can normalize our similarities and differences, they become more normal for our children, too!
If you liked these books, check out:
- Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis — You can read my full review here.
- Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein — You can read my Instagram review here.
- Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill — You can read my Instagram review here.
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud or How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer
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5 thoughts on “The “Ordinary Mary” Series by Emily Pearson”
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