The Top­sy-Turvy Bus

  • Review
By – October 30, 2022

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.

Discussion Questions