Many Jewish children in the United States have an image of Israel, which comes from news headlines, Hebrew school classes, or tourists’ accounts. These impressions are often skewed; they present only a small slice of the complex life in the vibrant, modern Israeli culture where children, similar to the reader, live daily lives that are different than and yet parallel to their own. It is always refreshing to find a story written for American children which reflects everyday Israel in a way that is both characteristic, yet familiar.
This simple picture book about a young Israeli boy who feeds a stray kitten near a construction site addresses a universal theme but has an authentic Israeli flavor. Young Ari feeds the abandoned kitten and worries about its future, hoping to find a family who will adopt the little cat and will care for it with love. The story uses Hebrew terms in a natural and unforced way, blending the Hebrew vocabulary seamlessly into the tale. While roaming the streets, the kitten passes a felafel stand, the local borekas man, and the shuk. Israel is known for its stray cat population and Ari’s safta (grandmother) and doda (aunt) tell him about the many street cats prowling the cities. Ari is overjoyed when he finds a family who wants to adopt the kitten and care for it, blending the story’s theme of Israeli life with the important Jewish value of kindness to all living beings.
The bold, bright illustrations are an integral part of this colorful picture of Israeli life. Round-faced, smiling, lively people reflect the diversity of Israel’s population, red-roofed houses evoke Israeli cities and towns, and the appealing kitten will make young readers wish for pets of their own.
An author’s note tells readers that the story is based on her own personal encounter with a stray kitten in Israel and a glossary of the Hebrew terms used in the story is included.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. She has lectured on a variety of topics relating to children and books and her greatest joy is reading to her grandchildren on both sides of the ocean. Michal lives in Great Neck, NY and Efrat, Israel.