Archive for the ‘Bal Taschit’ Category

Earth Day – Then and Now

We have been cleaning out our basement, not a fun thing. Especially when one of you is a hoarder (that would be me) and the other is – what’s the opposite of hoarder – a declutterer? (that would be my husband.) I am proud of myself, however, I am managing to send many of my “precious” items to the give away, sell or trash piles. My “keep” pile is much smaller.

Among the many items I have uncovered/discovered in the basement, were my high school scrapbooks  (My collecting habits run deep.) I grew up in California and graduated from San Gabriel Mission High School in 1972 (a Catholic School. Read “About Me”) . I appropriately refer to these materials as “vintage-collectibles.”

Anyway, in my scrapbook from my sophomore year (yes, there is one – or more – for each year including one for my first year of college. Step 1: I admit I have a problem!), I found my page for Earth Day 1970! Proof…I was on the cutting edge of environmental awareness. I celebrated the very first Earth Day 40 years ago. My notes say that we prepared these beautiful (now environmentally wasteful) “tallies” to hand out to everyone:

We also handed out “Stop Smog” bumper stickers

and brochures from “The People’s Lobby” with this marvelous Henry Gibson (z’l) quote on the cover:

In addition, we sang, “This Land is Your Land” at a school assembly at which I note, “I was a Pollution” (I have absolutely no clue, nor any memory, of what that means.) I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. I distinctly remember never being able to see the San Gabriel Mountains during my youthful summers as smog would block the view. Today, thankfully, that has changed, but perhaps my “role” was a tribute to that then menacing presence.

Earth Day has changed as well, what started as a simple grass roots call for individuals to “put your money where your lungs are,” has turned into a global cry to “Save Our Planet!” On that day 40 years ago, a group of Mission High School students planted some small trees across the street on what was then the school’s track. I recently saw a picture of those trees – they are huge! It reminded me, in a very real way, of the story of Honi and the Carob trees. It also reminded me that while so much has changed in me and around me over these past 40 years – FORTY YEARS! – the core values I learned growing up have evolved, but not changed so very much. Looking back, I have so very much to be thankful for. I hope my children feel the same 40 years from now.

Happy reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publishers cited.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Bal Tashchit – Do Not Be Wasteful

While it may be difficult for those of us in the cold northeast to appreciate, at the end of January – on January 30 to be exact – we will be celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees also known as the Birthday of the Trees. Tu B’Shevat literally means the fifteenth of Shevat, referring to the date on the Jewish calendar when the holiday occurs. Because there are not many customs surrounding this holiday, it has become very popular with the Jewish “Green” Movement. As a result, you may hear this holiday referred to as the Jewish Arbor Day or Jewish Earth Day.

Books appropriate for Tu B’Shevat support the Jewish values of Bal Tashchit (do not be wasteful) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).  The following quote says it all:

“See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah §1-7:13

With that in mind, I want to introduce a few wonderful,  secular books about trees, nature and taking care of our planet that can be enjoyed during this holiday:

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont. Ages 4-8.  First published in 1956, this timeless classic is a perfect book for Tu B’Shevat explaining in simple language all the benefits that trees provide children and their families. From fruit to shade to the air we breathe, trees are an important and necessary part of our world.  The Caldecott Award winning illustrations further enhance the message, “Trees are very nice.

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The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Ages 5-9.  If I were to pick an author to write a children’s book to save our planet, Dr. Seuss would be my choice. When Truffula Trees are discovered and their tufts turned into Thneeds, no amount of warning from the Lorax will dissuade the manufacturer from continuing the destruction of the Truffula Tree forest. When the last tree falls, the forest animals have disappeared and the environment damaged beyond repair, the Lorax’s message becomes clear. With his unmistakable Seussian rhyme and his characteristic Seussian illustrations, the inimitable Doctor describes what happens in a world where greed and selfishness take precedence over the needs of the planet, its plants and animals.

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Measuring Angels by Lesley Ely, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Ages 4-8. “Every blade of grass below has a guardian official above.” Zohar (Book of Enlightenment.) In this charming and brightly illustrated book, a smart teacher uses sunflower seeds and flowerpots to help rebuild a friendship. A little girl, who used to be best friends with Sophie, is very unhappy when she finds out that she and Sophie are partners in the sunflower-growing contest. Their flower does not grow at all until…they begin talking nicely to it every day, and together with their friend Gabriel, create a beautiful angel to watch over it. This delightful story demonstrates the power of working together for a common cause and that every living thing needs tender loving care.

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Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister. Ages 4-8. Milo and his mice friends live comfortably on an island mountain in the middle of the sea. When Milo finds a beautiful, glowing stone, buried deep in the mountain that gives off light and warmth, everyone wants one. As the mice hurry off to grab their stones, the wisest mouse warns, “Don’t forget, the stones belong to the island. If you take something from the island, you must give something in return.” With two endings, one happy, one sad, you decide which direction to take. You can make comparisons to the choices we make everyday as we live on our personal islands on earth. This is a great discussion starter about the consequences of our environmental choices and actions.

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Once There Was a Tree by Natalia Romanova, illustrated by Gennady Spirin. Ages 4-8. A tree falls during a forest thunderstorm. Its stump becomes home to many of the forest’s animals from the smallest termite to the largest bear.  All claim the stump belongs to them, but who actually owns it? With rich text and magnificent illustrations, the author and artist make the interconnectedness of all living things clearly visible in this outstanding book.

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Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. Ages 3-8. For the very youngest children, this delightful, colorful book tells the simple story of a how a maple tree found its way to a young child’s yard, how the child helped to plant it and now watches it – and their friendship – grow. The text is simple and the illustrations are vibrant. The back of the book shares tips for selecting and planting a tree at your own home.

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Last but not least,  a new book I stumbled upon while wandering through my local bookstore. The Tree that Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science and Imagination is filled with the most amazing poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, and Linda Winston. All Ages. It is a perfect collection of poetry for Tu B’Shevat or anytime of year. It comes with an audio CD of some of the poets reading their verse aloud. Here is one of my favorites from this marvelous book:

FOR THE FUTURE

by Wendell Berry

Planting trees early in spring,

We make a place for birds to sing

in time to come.  How do we know?

They are singing here now.

There is no other guarantee

that singing will ever be.

May your Tu B’Shevat be filled with an appreciation and delight in the world around you.  Enjoy these books and allow them to add to your celebration.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection or my local library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I  may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You,
however, will incur no additional cost. I appreciate your support.

Imagine – One World, One Voice, One Topic…One Book

Today I am participating in Blog Action Day ’09 and the topic is Climate Change. The concept of over 8000 bloggers from all over the world all writing about the same topic on the same day in order to spark a worldwide discussion is any educator’s dream. One would think we could change the world with this action, right? Read more about this incredible event at http://www.blogactionday.org/.

As I considered what I would write about for my blog on this important and somewhat overwhelming day (Al Gore…the Smithsonian…Engineers are blogging!), I thought about the mission of forwordsbooks. I have always been about building a foundation of values for children (and adults) using quality children’s literature as a base. Can you think of a better way to start any discussion on any topic than with a good book? Since Torah is one of the best books I know, I will start with a very short D’var Torah (a word of Torah).

Is it a coincidence Blog Action Day ’09 – Climate Change so closely coincides with beginning our new Torah cycle? As we read, Bere’shit, this upcoming Shabbat morning, we will hear (in Hebrew, of course), “God said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.’” (Genesis 1:28)  Further on we will listen to, “God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” (Genesis 2:15) Both of these verses remind me of the passage in Midrash, “See to it that you do not soil or destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah §1) There is certainly nothing like a good call to action from the Torah and our Rabbis to get things moving, wouldn’t you say? The human race seems to have the being fertile and increasing, mastering and ruling down pat, the tilling and tending, I am not so sure about. If several thousand years ago, an incredibly intelligent Rabbi interpreted the message as THERE WILL BE NO ONE ELSE TO REPAIR IT, why haven’t we been listening?

Not only that, those incredibly intelligent Rabbis gave us the values of Shomrei Haadamah (protecting the Earth) and Bal Tashchit (do not destroy or be wasteful). If that wasn’t enough, they provided the holiday of Tu B’Shevat (the Fifteenth of Av, commonly known as the Birthday of the Trees or the Jewish Arbor Day). Can you hear God now?

The books I am reviewing and recommending to you today will be helpful in discussions of those values, the holiday and the subject of Climate Change. However, in true forwordsbooks fashion, they will not hit you over the head with information so much as provide you and the children in your care with a place to start on their journey of discovery about the fascinating and important topic of Climate Change.

Measuring Angels

By Lesley Ely. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. © 2008 Frances Lincoln Limited.

Ages 4-8

“Every blade of grass below has a guardian official above.” Zohar (Book of Enlightenment) Rabbi Moses ben Shem Tov de Leon

Measuring AngelsIn this charming and brightly colored book, a smart teacher uses sunflower seeds and flowerpots to help rebuild a friendship. A little girl, who used to be best friends with Sophie, is very unhappy when she finds out that she and Sophie are partners in the sunflower-growing contest. Their flower does not grow at all until…they begin talking nicely to it every day, and together with their friend Gabriel, create a beautiful angel to watch over it. Demonstrates the power of working together for a common cause and that every living thing needs tender loving care.

Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green

By Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Anne Kennedy. © 2009 Albert Whitman & Company.

Ages 4-8

Mrs Fox Goes GreenWhen Miss Fox rides her bike to school to help reduce air pollution, she starts a chain reaction that involves the students in her class and ultimately the entire school. There are many simple ideas for young and old to help reduce-reuse-recycle in school and around the house. This book would help begin a discussion of ways to help the environment in and around the classroom and at home.

Vegetable Dreams/ Huerto Soñado

By Dawn Jeffers. Illustrated by Claude Schneider. © 2006 Raven Tree Press.

Ages 4-8

Vegetable DreamsErin has a beautiful dream of planting a vegetable garden in her backyard. When she tells her parents about it and asks to create her own garden, they tell her she is too young for that responsibility. When her next-door neighbor, Mr. Martinez, learns of her dilemma, he offers to give her part of his garden and teach her everything she needs to know – but she must do the work. When Erin and her parents agree, a wonderful partnership begins.  This is a book about sustainable living, the gifts of intergenerational friendships and supporting our kids’ dreams. This book is bilingual English/Spanish

The Man Who Flies With Birds

By Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem. © 2009 Kar-Ben Publishing.

Ages 10-15

A unique and fascinating book about Israel’s history and wildlife through the lens of bMan Who Fliesird migration, the authors cover everything having to do with bird flight over Israel. Such subjects as the impact of birds on airplanes, the science of bird migration, the effect of global warming on bird nesting grounds, how birds fly, where birds fly, tracking bird travels, keeping birds safe, using birds for peace and ecological tourism are covered. This is an excellent place to look for ideas to give children interested in working to save the planet. A list of many resources in the back of the book provides additional research and connections.

The Kids’ Catalog of Animals and the Earth

By Chaya M. Burstein. © 2006 Jewish Publication Society.

Ages 9-14

As with all the Kids’ Catalogs, this is a comprehensive overview of what Kids Catalog Animals EarthJudaism has to say about taking care of planet earth and everything on it, in it and around it. It contains many kid-friendly activities from creating a compost pile to writing letters to Congress. Primarily, it is a well-written and understandable look at what is happening to the earth, the issues society must deal with and what kids’ can do about those issues.

This, of course, has been a very brief overview of books about Climate Change that I am currently reviewing or have reviewed. As Tu B’Shevat approaches (January 30, 2010) I will look for additional books to review and add to my forwords Catalog of Jewish Books. In the meantime, keep checking here for more book reviews and commentary on what is happening in the world of Jewish children’s books.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

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