Posts Tagged ‘Tu B’Shevat’

Delving Deeper into Sustainability and Tu B’Shevat

Once, while the sage, Honi, was walking along a road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree.  Honi asked him:  “How many years will it take for this tree to give forth its fruit?”  The man answered that it would require 70 years.  Honi asked:  “Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?”  The man answered:  “I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me.  So, too, will I plant for my children.”  (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 23a)

This story, written a couple thousand years ago, perfectly illustrates Jewish sustainability. We do not plant trees for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children. We, each of us, must act today, in order to protect the world for the future.

I usually recommend books for elementary school age children and younger. This year, I will also be recommending books for readers in Middle School through High School. After all, older readers should be equally prepared for, in this case, Tu B’Shevat on January 19-20, or whatever the value of the month is, right? What better way to start thinking about the future than with some great books?

My Life in Pink and Green. By Lisa Greenwald. © 2009, Amulet Books. Ages 10 – 13 years. After 12-year-old Lucy joins the eco-club at her school, she comes up with a brilliant plan to save her family’s pharmacy. She’ll open an eco-spa with a “going green” grant from the city!

Seedfolks. By Paul Fleischman. Illustrated by Judy Pedersen. © 1997, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.. Ages 10 – 15 years. Thirteen people living in apartments around a vacant lot in Cleveland share stories of how turning that lot into a neighborhood garden saved, changed and empowered their lives.

Who Really Killed Cock Robin?: An Eco Mystery. By Jean Craighead George. © 1991, HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.. Ages 10 – 14 years. Cock Robin, the mascot of Saddleboro, the cleanest town anywhere, has mysteriously died. Who would have killed such a beautiful bird? Or perhaps the question is what killed it?

The Carbon Diaries 2015. By Saci Lloyd. © 2008, Holiday House. Ages 13 – 17 years. The year is 2015. Global Warming is wreeking havoc on the world’s weather systems. Great Britain has volunteered to be the first nation on earth to try Carbon Rationing. You hold in your hands the diary of 16-year-old Laura as she documents the world as it “may be.”

The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story By Jean Giono. © 2005, Chelsea Green Publishing Company. Age 15 +. One man, living alone with his dog, transforms his isolated and barren part of France into a verdant forest by planting 100 acorns a day for more than 40 years.

As you read one or more of these books, think of ways to improve your “Sustainability Quotient.” Research Jewish organizations like Hazon and COEJL (The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) that have many wonderful ideas, and be sure to attend your local Tu B’Shevat celebrations where there will surely be environmental demonstrations. If not, why don’t you offer to do one?

Whatever you do during this month, find ways to appreciate this beautiful world and its miracles and say a blessing for all the Source of All Things has provided.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public 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 will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Waste Not, Want Not

One of the things I love about Judaism is that it has answers before we even know we have questions. Today, you cannot go anywhere without seeing a sign reminding you to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, but several thousand years ago, the Torah wrote a simple rule:

“When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy (lo tash-chit) its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?” (Deuteronomy 20:19)

The Rabbis of the Talmud took those words “you must not destroy (lo tash-chit),” created a mitzvah/commandment, Bal Tashchit /Do Not Destroy Needlessly, and layered everything one might possibly think of as wasteful behavior onto it. Thus, have Jews been reducing, reusing and recycling for thousands of years.

What about the trees, you might ask, because yes, that verse, did mention trees. Trees have been part of God’s plan from the beginning of time. “…Vegetation: seed bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind…” (Genesis 1:11-13) were fashioned on the Third Day of Creation even before the sun, the moon and the stars. Trees get their own New Year on the Jewish calendar. The Birthday of the Trees or Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of Shevat occurs in order that their fruit not be harvested before they are ready. This year, Tu B’Shevat begins at sundown January 19 and ends at sundown January 20, 2011. For many, Tu B’Shevat has become the Jewish Earth Day or Arbor Day, so you will see activities in and around your community encouraging you to learn how to  Reduce-Reuse-Recycle the Jewish way.

In preparation for this holiday, I have selected some books for younger children and their families to enjoy reading together:

This Tree Counts. By Alison Formento. Illustrated by Sarah Snow. © 2010, Albert Whitman & Company. Ages 4 – 8 years. Before planting more trees behind the school, Mr. Tate wants his class to “listen” to the story the old oak tree has to tell. A counting book about the importance of trees.

Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green. By Eileen Spinelli. Illustrated by Anne Kennedy. © 2009, Albert Whitman & Company. Ages 5 – 9 years. When Miss Fox rides her bike to school one morning, she inspires her class to think of ways to “Go Green.” As each student thinks of individual ways to change their behavior, they soon inspire the entire student body and their community to become more green.


Milo and the Magical Stones. Written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister. © 1997, North-South Books. Ages 5 – 9 years. 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.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. © 2008, Harcourt, Inc.. Ages 5-10 years. A young girl grows up in Kenya surrounded by forests. She studies very hard and wins a scholarship to go to school in America. When she returns to Kenya, she discovers that all the forests have been cut down. She decides to bring the trees back one at a time, starting with her own back yard.  Based on the life of Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, it is a real story about the power of one person to make a difference.

The Lorax. Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss. © 1971, Random House Books for Young Readers. Ages 5 – 10 years.  This will be the 40th anniversary year for the Lorax. It is still one of my all time favorite books about taking care of the earth, and 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.

As you read these stories together, think of ideas to change your own family’s “environmental behavior.” Jewish organizations like Hazon and COEJL (The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) have many wonderful ideas, but your local celebrations of Tu B’Shevat will not only have environmental demonstrations, you will have a lot of fun meeting new families in the process.

Whatever you do during this month, find ways to appreciate this beautiful world and everything in it, there really is no place else like it.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public 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 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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