Book Title:  Ella & Mrs Gooseberry – Discovering what love looks like

Author:  Vikki Conley

Illustrator:  Penelope Pratley

For Ages: 4-8

Themes: love, empathy, compassion, kindness, understanding, giving, character, community

Related learning areas: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), feelings awareness, character education

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Overview of the book

Ella lives next door to an elderly lady named Mrs Gooseberry. She sometimes watches what Mrs Gooseberry does in her backyard. She sees how she talks to her chickens while collecting the eggs and tending to her vegetables. She notices that Mrs Gooseberry seems to be happy in her backyard but when she is in her front yard, she always looks grumpy and slams her door.

She talks to her mother and discovers that Mrs Gooseberry has lost her love. This confuses Ella who hadn’t realised that love could be lost.

Ella decides she wants to find out if was possible to find love again and starts asking different people; ‘What does love look like?’ As she gathers their thoughts, she has an idea that might just help Mrs Gooseberry find happiness and love again.

At the end of the story, Ella is able to see how her kind and thoughtful actions make a real difference to the life and happiness of her neighbour. She notices a difference in Mrs Gooseberry who now likes to be in her front yard and connects with the people in her neighbourhood.

A word from the author, Vikki Conley

While chatting with Vikki, I asked her what her motivation was for writing such a lovely book. She was kind enough to provide a little insight into her why.

I wanted to explore a story about giving and kindness…

Through Ella’s actions, we witness the true act of giving, where nothing is expected in return.

Mrs Gooseberry and Ella never actually meet, yet a ripple effect occurs as a direct result of Ella’s selfless act of giving. We see Mrs Gooseberry rediscover love because of Ella’s gift.

This theme is an important and timely message. In today’s busy society, we often lose sight of the most important aspects of giving – the thought and love behind the gift, and the exchanged of love as part of giving.

The story’s timeless family-centric themes of love and giving are very relevant to children, particularly during their early years of social development. Ella & Mrs Gooseberry offers many opportunities for discussions around love, giving, kindness, empathy, community and helping others.

I wanted to explore a story about love and community…

Because love is a timeless and very important theme for young children.

I can see how important it is with my two little people. Their first understanding of love is ‘a hug and a kiss’ from mum and dad. But as they grow older, we have begun exploring with them the issues of kindness and giving and how these actions can be seen as expressions of love.

I also wanted to support the ‘resurgence’ of “community” through the idea of love — that it goes beyond your own home, that it comes in many forms, that everyone can find it, even if at times it may appear momentarily lost.

I’m also very supportive of the current trend that encourages children to label their feelings and to describe how each emotion feels in their bodies. In classrooms and therapy rooms the emotions are often about anger, sadness or being happy — I wondered how “love” might be explained and felt for different people. And hoped that this book might encourage children and families to describe their love for each other in some delightful and creative ways!

Why I love it

Loss is something everyone has to face at some point in their life. Whether it be the breakdown of a friendship, the death of a pet or the passing of a loved one, it can be a very traumatic and emotional time, especially for children.

This lovely book is tender in the way it addresses Mrs Gooseberry’s loss and explores the many ways people feel and view love. It helps children see love from different perspectives, highlighting that it can mean different things to different people.

I love how Ella’s mindful observations encourage kids to look deeper at the people around them to consider how happy or sad they may be. She shows how a problem can be resolved if they take a little time to step into someone else’s shoes and reach out to help.

The book also touches on problems that elderly people face such as being lonely and isolated and how a community can support those around them.

The first time I read the book I loved everything about it. When I re-read it, I loved it just as much but this time saw an opportunity to talk about responsible pet ownership and the importance of considering a person's circumstances before giving a pet as a gift.

Vikki Conley has done a great job shining a light on love, what it means to different people and how kindness and caring can reignite love for someone who has lost it. I also love the gentle pictures by Penelope Pratley.

I hope this sweet book encourages children all over the globe to show kindness, love and consideration to help unite communities and give life meaning for those who are lonely. Kids really can make a difference and this book shows just how much power they have to create change!

Vikki Conley - Author

- Illustrator

Disclaimer: There are some affiliate links on this site. They help fund our outreach program Nourish Network which supports disadvantaged school families in Melbourne. 

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