Lunch Every Day by Kathryn Otoshi

Hello, Kathryn Otoshi! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! I have such fond memories of reading Zero and One with students in my former school library.

Kathryn Otoshi: Thanks so much for having me, John. I’m thrilled to be a part of Watch. Connect. Read.!


Thank you for stopping by to discuss Lunch Every Day, a picture book that will help facilitate important and meaningful conversations about compassion in classrooms and libraries. I love scenarios, so here is my scenario for you: Imagine you are celebrating picture books with 2nd graders in Naperville, Illinois (we are all traveling again). What would you tell them about Lunch Every Day?

KO: I would tell them that Lunch Every Day is all about the unexpected! And how you never know how a single act of kindness you enact, can blossom tenfold many years later. Jimmy is this bully who takes another kid’s lunch at school every day. While everyone is upset by Jimmy’s behavior, no one asks why. I’d ask your students: Do you think he’s doing it just to be mean? Is it because he’s hungry? Is it because he doesn’t want to stand under that FREE LUNCH sign?

The story is also about how people can surprise us if we let them. We have “Skinny Kid” who is picked on every day. He has every reason to be vengeful – but chooses not to be. We have someone else in the story who certainly doesn’t have to be kind – but is.

And then there’s Jimmy himself, who knows he’s falling into a hole by being a bully. But deep inside, he knows there’s so much more to him than that. How will he break free of the labelling and how he sees himself? Once he’s shown some genuine kindness by someone, what will he do? Will he accept it or reject it? Will it be his own hurt and pride that overtake him? Or will he embrace someone else’s generosity? It’s a story about choices, how we react in tough situations, and mostly how our positive actions can later reverberate into some truly remarkable outcomes.


What materials did you use to create the art?

KO: I used acrylic paints, watercolors, and colored pencils.

My concept for the illustrations was to have Jimmy silhouetted throughout the book with him standing off to the side or with his back turned to us – as if he was an outsider or observer. The reader will never clearly see Jimmy’s face until he is actually ‘seen’ by the person who goes out of their way to be kind to him.


You write about Jim Perez in the author’s note. Please tell everyone about him.

KO: I’d be delighted to! Simply put, Jim Perez is one of my favorite people on the planet. He’s kind, charismatic, and a man-of-action! He’s helped so many people with his school and community-building initiatives. I met Jim a few years ago at a bullying prevention conference, and he invited me to come speak about One to some of his schools in his district. After that, I was invited back every year and over time we became friends. One day while we were having lunch together, I complimented Jim on all the programs he’s implemented to support students and schools. He paused and gave me this look, and said, “You know, Kathryn, I was a bully growing up.” I almost dropped my fork. “What! Really?” I asked. “So what turned you around?”

After he told me, I was nearly in tears. I said, “You need to write about this!” And he said, “No, but you can!” I kept telling him he should do it. But he kept saying “you can!” A year later the whole story came tumbling out of me, all in one go. It was weeks before I showed it to him. I worried about what he would think. But he loved it! Later when I shared the final mock up with the illustrations in it, we both cried a little that day. Tears of release and triumph all mixed up together with brightly colored paint. And there you have it: Lunch Every Day.


Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Picture books are key to our developmental process. We learn visually and audibly, and process information with our minds – all which we engage through picture books. But we also learn best when our hearts are engaged. We as humans want to be inspired, and stories do that for us. Lastly, we learn through our physical bodies. So when we create, for example, an art project related to a picture book, the meaning of that story will stay in our psyche much longer because we had an actual experience with it.


Mr. Schu, you should’ve asked, “You free for lunch?” I believe making and having meals together is also about taking time out of our busy schedules to enjoy each other’s company and catch up. Different kinds of foods are opportunities to discover new cultures, customs and backgrounds. It’s also about how we can express love in different, meaningful ways. It takes time to prepare a meal, and energy to consider the ingredients we put it in. Food can be a nurturing gift not just for the body, but also for the mind and spirit. If you’d like me to have lunch with your students this fall, I’m saving at least a dozen virtual dates for you. Reach out! Let’s have lunch. 

That would be wonderful! Thank you so much, Kathryn!

Photo Credit: Sam Breach 

Kathryn Otoshi is a multi-award winning author/illustrator and national/international speaker best known for her character-building book series, “Zero”, “One”, and “Two”. She goes to schools across the country to encourage kids to develop strong character assets, and helps teachers find customized, creative methods to engage students through art, reading and the power of literature. Her latest books, “Beautiful Hands” and “Draw the Line” (Roaring Brook) make important statements about connecting, reaching out and building community.


Look for Lunch Every Day on September 7, 2021. 

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