A group of children learn about the environment and the decaying condition of the Earth but don’t know what to do in order to ameliorate the situation. Then the Topsy-Turvy Bus rolls into town with its message of tikkun olam — meaning that it is the obligation of everyone to help improve society for the betterment of all. The bus, partially right-side-up and partially upside-down, takes the children on an unusual tour through town. It stops at a restaurant not to buy food, but to collect used oil to recycle and use as fuel. The children then go to an organic food market to find fruits and vegetables, some of which they deliver to local families. An organic worm farm, where they learn about recycling earth, is their next destination. When the day is done, the children return to school with two important refrains etched into their minds: tikkun olam and “recycle, rethink, reuse, and renew.” Bright illustrations reinforce these principles, depicting children, teachers, and community members with smiling faces and a will to improve the world in which they live.
Extensive backmatter includes pictures of the two actual Topsy-Turvy Buses, one based in Connecticut and the other in Michigan. Used for teaching purposes, the buses belong to Hazon, the largest faith-based environmental organization in the country. Interested readers can learn more about Hazon’s work here.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.