DIAMOND BAR, CA — Children’s author and illustrator Kathryn Otoshi brought her message of tolerance, acceptance, and kindness to Quail Summit and Castle Rock elementary students last week.
She read from her number books “One” and “Zero” that focus on standing up for each other and making sure everyone counts.
“These stories touch my heart!” commented Castle Rock 5th grader Nicolas Matias after a September 9 assembly.
The simply drawn pictures books feature symbolic characters with layered messages that teach children they can be part of the solution.
In “One,” when the quiet Blue dot is picked on by the hothead Red dot, the other colors don’t know what to do, until number One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count.
“Sometimes it just takes one to make a difference!” the author said. Otoshi shared that she penned “Zero” to pay tribute to a new classmate from another country that was bullied during the fourth grade. “I didn’t say anything because I was afraid,” she admitted.
Now, Otoshi circles the country to empower the next generation to become “upstanders” and not bystanders. “Inside you lives courage and kindness. Don’t be afraid to tell someone in charge,” she urged.
A 15-foot mural was unveiled after assemblies at Quail Summit Elementary on September 8. The painting features handprints of all 650 students and staff members inspired by Otoshi’s book “Beautiful Hands,” which was co-written with friend Bret Baumgarten who was battling pancreatic cancer.
For three days, artist and former parent, Margot Bloom carefully brushed red, green, yellow, or blue paint on every hand before positioning as leaves on the giant tree.
“The children all understood the connection of what we were creating,” said principal Jeanette Koh, who invited the author to add her handprint to the one-of-a-kind painting.
“It is our hope that the mural will be a ‘living piece of art’ that will inspire students, staff, and parents at Quail Summit to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others,” added elementary learning specialist Leann Legind.
Otoshi told students that Baumgarten would ask his young children “What will you do with your beautiful hands today?” “If we do something meaningful for somebody we can touch their heart,” she said. “Make a commitment to doing something kind for someone else. Spirits soar when we put our hands together!”