This is a delightful picture book that conveys Jewish — and universal — themes of the importance of intergenerational friendship and helping one’s neighbors. The illustrations are brightly colored and contain many details for children to notice and focus on as they listen to the story, or read it for themselves. It is instructive without being preachy and it has a happy ending.
Mr. Tempkin is Marky’s next-door neighbor and, in the summer, it is Marky’s job to water Mr. Tempkin’s beautiful flower garden. They enjoy each other’s company as Marky takes care of the flowers and Mr. Tempkin tends to his bird feeder, sharing his knowledge and appreciation of birds with his young friend. Marky is surprised that someone so “old” can do so many things by himself. One day Mr. Tempkin overestimates his ability to climb a tree to properly position his bird feeder. He falls out of the tree and must be taken to the hospital. Marky spends a long day anxiously waiting to see if his friend will be alright. Happily, Mr. Tempkin returns home with just a bandage on his sprained ankle and Marky continues to help him, with even more opportunities to assist such as pushing the wheelchair up the hill so Mr. Tempkin can continue to attend synagogue services every morning. By the end of the story, Marky and Mr. Tempkin have become good friends and Marky has learned much about independence, friendship, kindness, responsibility, and mitzvot.
This story is clearly written and easy to understand and the sophisticated concepts are not overly simplistic. Reader and listener alike will identify with the characters and appreciate the friendship between them despite their age difference.