Photo Credit: Rivkah Fishman

Title: Sara the Bucket Filler
Author: Rivkah Fishman
Illustrated by Miriam Sin-Shalom
Published by Mosaica Press

 

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In Sara the Bucket Filler, author Rivkah Fishman and illustrator Miriam Sin-Shalom have found a beautiful, unique way to talk about kindness.

When Sara, the main character, is teased by her classmate, Sara’s teacher explains the key theme of the story to her. “Each of us has a bucket,” says the wise educator. “When our bucket is full of good feelings, we feel happy. When our bucket is empty, we feel sad or angry.” She then challenges Sara to fill other people’s buckets by showing them kindness.

From that point forward in the book, the illustrations show Sara doing kind acts (like giving her Bubbie a hug) alongside images of buckets filling up. It’s a lovely metaphor, and the visual imagery will help children think tangibly about how kindnesses impact both the giver and the recipient.

The authenticity of the book is also worth noting. I particularly appreciated that when Sara reaches out with kindness to the classmate who teased her, the classmate is largely unreceptive. This rings true. A scenario where everyone makes up in the end would have felt false, and by extension, would likely have lost the reader. Sara’s own growth and her ability to ignore the teasing also feels genuine and authentic, and can serve as a helpful lesson to readers who might also be dealing with teasing at school. The illustrations also contain many accurate details, like the minivan carpool and mother’s long skirt, which help the reader understand that the story takes place within the frum community.

Some missed opportunities: Instead of the teacher lecturing Sara about the bucket metaphor, I would have loved to see Sara discover or invent the idea on her own. Having child characters be the ones to find their own lessons instead of hearing them from an authority figure often connects well with young readers. I also would have liked the illustrator to have chosen more vivid colors for the buckets of sand, rather than staying true to the reality of sandy tones. Colored sand might have made the visual lesson even more impactful.

But overall, the book is beautiful in its messages, storytelling and illustrations. It’s a lovely book to share with your children or grandchildren and can easily serve as a thoughtful conversation starter.

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Ann D. Koffsky is the author of the new children’s book “Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor.” See more about her work at www.annkoffsky.com.