Posts Tagged tzedakah

Blog Action Day — Poverty — Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn

Wednesday August 15th is the official Blog Action Day– Poverty so I wanted to give a big shout out to my favorite book for children dealing with homelessness: the new, award winning Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn!

Lily and the Paper Man

Lily and the Paper Man

Lily and the Paper Man (winner of the ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year) is about LIly, a sweet little girl who loves jumping in puddles and saying hello to neighbors. But one day, as she and her mom are walking, Lily accidentally backs into Ray, the homeless man who sells newspapers on the street. His gruff voice and scruffy appearance scares Lily, who no longer wants to walk down the street with her mother anymore. Her mom (who does a great job modeling good behavior to Ray and listening to Lily’s fears) takes the bus with her instead until the day when the first snow comes. Then, Lily can’t help herself, she can’t wait to walk outside in the snow and eat snowflakes.

This time when they pass Ray, Lily notices: “a thin shirt through the holes in his coat and bare feet through the holes in his boots. Lily shivers.” As the weather turns colder, Lily keeps wondering about Ray (who she calls the Paper Man) and how he is managing in the cold. Finally, she decides she will help her Paper Man, and goes around to all her neighbors and friends collecting things for him. The scene of Lily giving Ray a bag full of warm clothing is lovely, especially when she adds her own special quilt for him to have as well.

I think teaching children’s about poverty and people who are homeless is a tough thing to do. As parents, we don’t want our children to really understand that other people don’t have enough money for heat in the winter or new clothing when they need it (except of course when our children are whining on and on about another toy they want and you want to scream: “Look how many toys you have! Other children don’t have this many toys..” But I digress.). But children do need to learn about poverty and learn, from an early age, to be agents of change — just like Lily in this story. Lily does something that is really so small, but that shows that she recognizes the humanity in another person, even if that person is gruff or doesn’t look nice, or smell nice. By doing the simple task of collecting a few items from her neighbors, she changes Ray’s life. When you read this story, you can talk with your children about how important it is to help even one person.

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Sukkot Books

I’m not sure what I’ll write about when these Jewish holidays are over. I feel like every other entry is holiday related. Then again, I also feel like every other day is a holiday …

Anyway, back to books. So, next up is Sukkot and we’re just going to go with a roundup on this one. Here’s what I see as the best books out there on the ole Festival of Booths.

Best for children ages 1-2:

Tamar’s Sukkah by Ellie Gellman

Tamar's Sukkah

Tamar

OK, the pictures are a little corny and old fashioned which gets points deducted in my book, but the story is lovey. Tamar is building her sukkah and each page, there’s something she needs help with, so she finds another child to help. But even when that task is complete, Tamar says that: “Something’s still missing.” It turns out that only when there are friends to share the sukkah is the sukkah really finished.

Best for children ages 2-3:

It’s Sukkah TIme by Latifa Berry Kropf & Sammy Spider’s First Sukkot by Sylvia Rouss

Sammy Spider's First Sukkot

Sammy Spider's First Sukkot

It's Sukkah Time!

It's Sukkah Time!

I’m giving this age group a tie. I’ve talked about both of the series before so I won’t dwell on them here. Younger kids seem to really like the “It’s [insert holiday name] Time!” stories which take place in a lovely looking Jewish preschool. In this book, the kids learn about sukkot, decorate the sukkah and create little miniature sukkahs. In terms of Sammy Spider, kids seem to love him, though adults grow weary of him (and his mother’s penchant for dwelling on all things spiders can’t do…). But, Sammy does learn all about Sukkot in the latest installment of Sammy’s adventures in the Shapiro house.

Best for kids ages 3-5:

Leo & Blossom’s Sukkah by Jane Breskin Zalben & Hillel Builds a House by Shoshana Lepon

Leo & Blossom's Sukkah

Leo & Blossom

So here, it’s not so much a tie as a split based on what kind of family you live in. Leo & Blossom’s Sukkah (which is sadly out of print) is great for children in a variety of different homes. Zalben, who has created two main series of stories about little animals that live in Jewish homes and celebrate Jewish holidays, here tells a lovely Sukkot story. The pictures are very small but it’s a nice story and there are many more where that one came from. The story is also anthologized in Beni’s Family Treasury where you’ll find many more stories like it.

Hillel Builds a House

Hillel Builds a House

Hillel Builds a House is also a lovely story (with very out of date illustrations) but it’s better for families that actively celebrate Jewish holidays on a regular basis (which does not just mean Orthodox folks). Hillel loves to build houses and wants to always have his own little house. Every holiday, starting with Hanukkah, he tries to have his own little house (at Hanukkah he builds it in the basement but he can’t light his candles in it; on Purim he makes a house costume but it gets rained on; etc. etc.). Finally, it’s Sukkot which is a perfect holiday for building a house!

Best for children ages 5-7:

Night Lights by Barbara Diamond Goldin

Night Lights
Night Lights

Night Lights is a great story by Barbara Diamond Goldin about sleeping outside in a Sukkah. While last year, Daniel (who you may remember from the Rosh Hashanah story: The World’s Birthday) was OK sleeping outside because he grandfather was there, this year he is scared to do it. Not making things easier, his big sister Naomi keeps telling him that he won’t be able to do it because he’ll be too scared. In the end, even Naomi is scared and they realize that being together, they can make it through the night. I like this story a lot, but I am a little disappointed in the re-illustration that was done when the book was re-released. So, on the one hand, I fully support buying the edition in print because then the money actually goes to the author, but on the other hand, the artwork in the original edition (by Louise August) is exceptional and I would advocate buying that edition, even though it’s used. The one other note I would make is that the new edition (published by UAHC Press/ URJ) is less scary than the old edition because the illustrations are less intense. So, decide on your own — or get both and compare!

Best for children  ages 6-9:

The Mysterious Guests by Eric Kimmel

The Mysterious Guests

The Mysterious Guests

The Mysterious Guests is a gorgeous new book that is new this year. According to the prologue:

It is said that our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, return to Earth for the harvest festival of Sukkot. Disguised as weary travelers, they appear at the sukkah, asking to share the holiday meal. If they are welcomed as honored guests, they leave a blessing. If not, they teach a lesson that is not soon forgotten.

The Mysterious Guests shows us how some people who have much to give, give so grudgingly, while those with little to give, give all they can. It’s a lovely lesson about tzedakah and a model of how to greet guests.

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Even Higher by Richard Ungar

This week is going to be all Rosh Hashanah all the time, for fairly obvious reasons.

One of my favorite Rosh Hashanah books is Even Higher by Richard Ungar. I have to admit, the illustrations do not thrill me. It’s a question of taste — it’s not that they are bad, I’m just not into the Chagall colors.

Even Higher

Even Higher

But the story is lovely. Based on a story by the great I.L. Peretz, It’s about a couple of boys who see the rabbi disappear the day before Rosh Hashanah every year. This year, they’ve decided that one of the boys should follow him to prove that he goes up to heaven to talk with God. When Reuven sees him disguise himself as a woodcutter and bring wood for a bedridden widow, he realizes that one’s actions can actually bring you “even higher” than heaven.

Even Higheris a wonderful story for Rosh Hashanah about the power of human actions and can be a fantastic conversation starter about the value of Tzedakah (charity). Rarely do we get such a wonderful portrait of charity being given without hope of recognition.

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