In this charming picture book for young children, Ann D. Koffsky presents the concept of tzedakah through the characters of a kitten and her mother. With kinetic images and bright colors, children learn that a simple box provides not only an opportunity to climb and play, but is also a means to contribute to charity. The book’s simple text mimics the way a child learns from her parents about an important mitzvah.
For parents and caregivers considering the most effective way to introduce the concept, Tuli the kitten provides one answer: concrete experiences and few abstractions. Tuli is as active as a toddler, and just as focused on exploring her world. Koffsky begins with Tuli becoming interested in a box labeled tzedakah. Neither this nor its slit for depositing a coin means anything to her. Through touching, pushing, and listening, she discovers the box’s physical qualities, while her mother offers more information. The box is not a toy, she comes to find, although the clinking sound of a coin dropping would seem to suggest that it is.
Koffsky combines feline and human characteristics with subtle humor. While the characters look like real cats, their facial expressions of curiosity and affection, coupled with the mother’s purple pocketbook, add a different visual element to the story. Gentle explanations from Tuli’s mother confirm what the kitten has learned, but also extend the possibilities. Tuli is finally ready to hear that the coins are meant to help those in need. As mother and child rest their heads against one another, young readers finish the book with a sense of satisfaction. Tuli’s energetic activity has become a path to empathy, and to the reward of her mother’s pride and love.
Emily Schneider writes about literature, feminism, and culture for Tablet, The Forward, The Horn Book, and other publications, and writes about children’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures.