Lentil: Encouraging Children to Embrace Volunteerism

 My son…on a fishing trip with us last year.

I can’t believe it is Friday already!  The days are flying by.  In a way, I’m happy because I am looking forward to May 11th when my younger son is flying in from Chicago to spend the weekend with us.  We already have a cabin reserved near Eleven Mile Canyon where we plan to go fly-fishing.

Living here in Colorado, we sometimes take for granted the pristine rivers and streams that are only a short drive away, as well as the faucets we can turn on to receive clean drinking water .  This is not the case for millions of people in other parts of the world.

I’m fortunate to have connected with Angela over at From the Faith of a Child.  She has started a new blog for a wonderful project that will benefit children who don’t have access to clean water the way we do.   Her son, Jackson, decided to forego birthday presents this year for his sixth birthday.  Instead, he wants to raise money so that a well can be dug in an area where children and their mothers have to walk hours each day to collect water for drinking and cooking and washing…and the water that they finally collect is often dirty and virtually unusable.  These children are being robbed of their childhoods…and often their lives are cut short because of the contaminated water.

If you click http://www.charitywater.org/whywater/ you can view the three minute video clip that will move you to tears…and hopefully to action! 

Your children can participate by drawing a picture to add to the Water Wish Art Gallery that Angela and Jackson have set up.

I hope everyone will read Angela’s post, look at Jackson’s art work that depicts his “Water Wish” and donate whatever they can to this worthwhile project.  The most impressive element in all of this is that it is a child who is leading the way.  Encouraging young children to contribute to the community and care about others is one of the most important lessons a parent can teach.  If you have the time, you can check out another organization that champions children who help others: www.KidsAreHeroes.org.

Now, since today is Perfect Picture Book Friday where I link up with Susannah Leonard Hill’s fantastic group of picture book writers, illustrators, librarians and others who contribute a picture book review and related resources for parents, teachers and children, my entry is about a young boy who also understood the importance of helping his entire community by using his ingenuity and special talents.



Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey

Publisher: Viking Juvenile (1940)

Ages: 4 and up


Music, community, cooperation, perseverance, problem solving, self-esteem, self-worth, teamwork, coping with disappointment, celebrating our uniqueness

Opening Line:

“In the town of Alto, Ohio, there lived a boy named Lentil.  Lentil had a happy life except for one thing – he wanted to sing but he couldn’t.”


When Lentil discovers he cannot sing, he works very hard learn to play the harmonica instead.  One day, the townspeople gather to welcome home one of their leading citizens.  A jealous member of the town sabotages the homecoming and the band is unable to play.  Will Lentil and his harmonica save the day?

Why I like this book:

It is written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey…who also gave us One Morning in Maine, Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal!  Enough said!  The book was published over seventy years ago, but the issues it touches on remain relevant today.

The story shows children that even when they have a disappointment, they should never give up and that each of us has unique gifts and talents of great worth.  It also encourages community-mindedness and teamwork.  When so much of the world is in poverty and so many young children are suffering, we want our children to learn to reach out and help others, now and as they grow into adulthood. 

Related Activities:

Most children love music.  An empty oatmeal container and a wooden spoon make a great drum.  A piece of waxed paper wrapped around a plastic comb becomes a kazoo.  Check out the websites below for enough homemade instruments to form your own rhythm band.

Picture from Tania Cowling at Suite 101 

 Savvy Homemade egg shakers 

 Simple Homemade Musical Instruments For Kids

Quirky Momma tin can balloon drums 

 Picture from Quirky Momma

More homemade instruments from The Crafty Crow

Learn about multi-award-winning author/illustrator Robert McCloskey here

Read more about Mr. McCloskey on Laura Frazin Steele’s LA Books Examiner site.

LAST CHANCE: If you haven’t nominated your local library to win one of the 25 FREE copies of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking that we are donating, PLEASE do so now!  Click the book title link above to read a review from Summit Series for Families.

Help your favorite library win a copy!  Just leave a comment on this post or email me at vivian@positiveparentalparticipation.com, naming the library and telling why the people in your community would benefit from having the book available to them.  There are only a few more days…nominations close on April 30 and twenty-five libraries will be chosen using Random.org.

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill.  Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.  And please don’t forget to leave a comment here, nominating your local library to be the recipient of a copy of Show Me How!

About viviankirkfield

Writer for children - Reader forever Mom of 3, educator, author of FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (Pomegranate Press, 2019), PIPPA'S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, 2019), FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY WE MOVE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019), SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, 2019), picture book junkie, lover of travel, hiking, fly-fishing, cooking, and playing Monopoly with my 9-year old grandson.

Posted on April 27, 2012, in children's picture books, Crafting with Children, Earth Day 2012, Free Books for Libraries, Kids Are Heroes, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Reading with Children, Water Wish Project and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Thank you for sharing this Vivian! Another nobble act that I do hope get well deserved support. I’ll go ahead and share this out.

    I love the book! I have included this in my list of books that I want to be able to read to our little one when she’s older. I’m sure she’s going to love this 🙂

    Spanish Pinay


    • Thank you, Marilou! I agree…what a wonderfully noble act…all the more impressive because it is a six-year old child who wants to help others. And kudos to his momma, Angela, for encouraging this and putting in the effort to set up the blog and follow through.
      Glad you liked the book…Lentil is an old classic…with values we want to instill in our children today. 🙂


  2. What a great thing Jackson and his mom are doing! I am going to check it out!
    I think your PPB pick is great! I like books with messages like this!


  3. How is it possible that there is a Robert McCloskey book I haven’t even heard of, never mind read? This one sounds wonderful – I will have to go find it! – and as always your activities are amazing! Thank you so much for introducing me to this one, Vivian!


    • Thanks, Susanna! Glad I could find an oldie, but goodie that you haven’t seen yet…it’s kind of a challenge for me. 🙂 Mr. McCloskey was a gifted wirter and illustrator…the pictures in Lentil remind me of the Norman Rockwell style.


  4. I love fly fishing abut haven’t done it since I was about 10. I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your son later on in May. This book sounds great as usual Vivian. Some lessons for kids just never go out of style, do they?


    • Thank you for the lovely comment, Tracy! I’ve been fly-fishing with my husband for over 40 years…our two sons love it…and we’ve taken our three grandchildren fishing already…it’s a great intergenerational activity!


  5. This is wonderful, Vivian. I have added it to my list. The activities are so cute. I headed on over to The Crafty Crow and had a look at the other instruments…what fun! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, too.


    • It’s so amazing how many wonderful websites there are out there…filled with crafts and activities for kids…there aren’t enough hours in the day to check them all out…that’s what I love about Susanna’s PPBF…it helps narrow down the choices and you can focus on the ones that are recommended. 🙂
      My daughter is in Chicago right now…business convention on Thursday…and now she is staying with her brother and his wife for a couple of days…hurray for Skype…we just chatted with them and were able to throw kisses to each other…almost as good as being all together. 🙂


  6. I’ve never heard of this book, but we’ve read “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Blueberries for Sal.” I’ll have to add this classic tale to our “to read” list.


  7. A six-year-old who opted for no birthday presents? Now that is impressive and inspiring!

    Lentil looks great. I haven’t ever heard of it, but love his other books, so I am sure it is a great read. Thanks, Vivian!


    • Amy, I think I need to be fair and clarify he opted for no birthday presents except the ones from his parents and grandparents! We’re having a birthday party with family and friends from school, and instead of getting gifts, he’s asking everyone to give to his Charity:Water project! (I could hardly imagine not getting him anything for his birthday, and neither could his grandparents!!) 🙂 But I hope it is still inspiring. It was a really big deal for him!!! Every day he is more excited about his water project and watches the “Water Changes Everything” video 3-4 times a day! 🙂 ~Jackson’s mom


      • Angela, Thank you for clarifying about the birthday presents. 🙂  I know we are all probably very happy that Jackson is getting some presents for his birthday. 🙂 And because Jackson has decided to do this, he is introducing his kid friends to volunteerism, as well. 🙂   


        • Vivian, it just wouldn’t seem right, would it?? 🙂 I think it is wonderful that Jackson has taken so excitedly to being able to help others and not been so concerned about getting endless gifts for himself. He has so many people in his life… and toys do not stay of interest for very long. So I think it’s the best of both worlds! Meaningful gifts from parents & grandparents, and just plain “celebration” with his friends. Our party is Saturday… he’s getting so excited! 😀


    • You are so welcome, Amy…and I’m glad Angela clarified the “gift” issue. 🙂 She is a wonderful mom and role model for Jackson…I was thrilled to be a little part of the Water Wish project by posting about it. 🙂


  8. Boy, is this a classic! Have read other books by McCLosekeym byt I’ve never heard of this one — and it is set in Ohio, where I live. As always great home made musical instruments activities. Kids would love this activity!


    • Oh my goodness…that’s right…you are in Ohio! This is the perfect book for gift-giving in your area, I would think…with a regional flavor. 🙂 Glad you liked the activities…I was blown away by those websites!


  9. Hi Vivian! I’ve read some of his others, but not this one. Thanks for the review!

    Really cool idea on the charity well. Thanks for the link. I will go check it out.

    Have a great weekend!


    • It’s an awesome book…really full of humor…and I’m glad I was able to unearth it from the classic book neverland…from the comments, it sounds like many have never heard of it. Glad you will check out Jackson’s Water Wish site!


  10. Dear Vivian,

    Thank you SO much for supporting Jackson & me in our Water Wishes project!! It means so much to me. What a wonderful opportunity we’ve had this year to do something truly good while celebrating Jackson’s life! I have never handled well the idea that some of us are born into so much (including LOVE) while others begin their lives in so much deprivation and pain. When Jackson was a baby, it made me cry every night to look at him with so much love when I put him to bed at night, thinking how EVERY child deserves what we are so humbly able to give our child– warm & loving homes with all basic needs met. Any time I think of it, it still does make me cry. It is tragic and unacceptable to think of how many children go without… So, from my heart, I thank you for helping us do something good to give back to those who have so much less… it seems such a small thing to do… oh, but with a great wish, for a small number of people, this little project could really “change everything.” How great would that be?

    Hugs & gratitude,


    • Angela…
      I am so glad to be a tiny part of this wonderful effort! I’ve always believed that even if we change just one life for the better in our journey here, we have done a good thing. You and Jackson will be helping so many…how special is that!!


  11. p.s. I am going out to buy this book for Jackson for his birthday!!


  12. What a lovely book Vivien and such a great message, one could share with any child. Hope you have a great holiday.


  13. Christie Wright Wild

    I love my harmonica. And I have a story about a girl who plays the piccolo. I’ll have to check this one out. Thanks.


    • Is the piccolo story the one you did for PPBF today? I haven’t been to read them all…it will have to wait until Sunday…I work Fridays and Saturdays…and I have come down with a cold 😦 runny nose and sore throat…so I need to get to bed on time and not stay up till the wee hours of the morning, reading and commenting. 🙂


  14. Hi Vivian, I do enjoy and lovelove books that have been published decades ago, I feel that they have a different quality to them that remains timeless. And oh, Robert McCloskey, you had me at that. Very beautiful. Do enjoy the time with your son. Fly-fishing sounds like such an adventure, we haven’t tried that yet, but my husband is crazy about fishing (which he has not done for the longest time now). Thank you for this lovely post. 🙂


    • Thank you so much, Myra! My husband’s health issues have kept us from fishing lately…which is sad because he loves it so…and, over the years, I’ve grown to really enjoy it as well. 🙂 I’m hoping that when our son comes for Mother’s Day weekend, my husband will be in less pain and be able to enjoy the special time with him. I’ll let you all know if we catch any fish…I know the time will be precious, no matter what!

      Yes, the older classics have a timeless quality about them…and important lessons that children should always be learning, like loyalty, determination, working together, believing in oneself, etc. 🙂


  15. I’ve never heard of this book. It sounds lovely! Thanks.

    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs


    • Thank you, Barb…again, I’m so so happy to be able to unearth these wonderful old classics and bring them into the light! Lentil is such a charming book…with important lessons for today’s children and adults. 🙂


  16. Stacy S. Jensen

    I always love your crafts Vivian. I’m reading your post on Sunday right after reading a post about hydraulic fracturing taking place in my (our) hometown. We are using a lot of our water resources to get another resource oil/natural gas.


    • Thanks, Stacy…glad you liked the crafts. 🙂  I loved your A-Z book choice. 🙂 I know, water is wasted so much…often without people even knowing about it when pipes break or crack underground.   


  17. Lentil sounds like a character I can love. And Robert McCloskey! Excellent. What a wondrous tale. Adding this to our list. The activities are super awesome. 🙂


  1. Pingback: Calvin Can’t Fly by Jennifer Berne & Illustrated by Keith Bendis « Book Reviews by Mrs. LaCaze

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