By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, illustrated by Aura Lewis. Chronicle Books, 2022. 32 pages. $16.99/hardcover; $11.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 3–5.
This lovely, whimsical book shares a tradition central to Judaic culture in a way that is accessible to any young reader. The short answer to the titular question is a resounding yes!
When Sophie asks her grandfather what he would like for his birthday, Sophie is encouraged by him to change the world by performing a mitzvah, a kind deed, in his honor. Clearly a conscientious little girl, Sophie worries a bit about how to go about changing the world with her behavior. Each day for a week, Sophie finds opportunities to perform acts of kindness, yet she worries at the end of each day that her deeds were not enough to change the world.
When Grandpop’s birthday arrives and she approaches him with a heavy heart, feeling that she hasn’t fulfilled her mission, her grandfather points out how many lives Sophie has touched during the week with her kindness. Sophie and her grandfather then work together to create a lovely card that chronicles her mitzvahs. The story is certain to inspire members of its audience to find ways to better their communities.
For crafty parents and early childhood teachers, the logical follow up to this read-aloud would be to create a card like Sophie’s. However, this story could also be shared with older children as a starting place for a discussion about community service. The story gently highlights the connections among people in a community, and it also offers a refreshingly non-materialistic alternative to purchased birthday gifts. The bright, rosy mixed-media illustrations perfectly complement this small gem of a story. After reading Can Sophie Change the World?, it is clear that not only can Sophie change the world, but so can each of us.
Reviewed by Karen Clark is a member of Little Falls Meeting in Fallston, Md., and a fifth-grade teacher at Friends School of Baltimore. In a beautiful Quaker wedding this past summer, past reviewer Karen Heidenreich became Karen Clark. She is truly embracing the Quaker tenet of simplicity by taking on a name that most can spell and pronounce without assistance.