Title: What’s in Tuli’s Box?
By Ann Koffsky
Apples and Honey Press/Berman
Tuli has found a box and doesn’t know what to do with it. Tuli is a cat and would probably like to squeeze into it, but that does not work either – the box, although quite big, has only a small opening. What’s this box for? Good thing that Tuli’s mom is here to help and explain.
This is the beginning of Ann Koffsky’s new children’s book “What’s in Tuli’s Box?,” published recently by Apples and Honey Press, and the box, as it turns out, is a tzedaka box. Giving to the needy is at the center of this picture book for 2-5-year-olds. By choosing to write a book on tzedaka for very young children, Koffsky invites children, parents and educators to learn or teach about this central mitzvah in Judaism from early on.
Ann Koffsky turns a simple charity box, transparent and with a purple lid, into the mysterious object that Tuli is exploring. This way, she connects her story to an old custom on Erev Shabbat – putting some money in a pushka before candle lighting. Once it is full, it will be handed over to charitable organizations. Doing this every Erev Shabbat as parents is something that children can observe, mirror and eventually adopt. Nowadays, however, donating to charitable causes increasingly takes place online. Giving tzedaka – a weekly, ritualized mitzvah – has become something children might not even notice.
Ann Koffsky makes the concrete object of a tzedaka box and its potential tangible to young children. As both the author and illustrator of the book, she creates an engaging narrative and presents us with endearing drawings. “What’s in Tuli’s Box?” is a very dynamic book – something 2- to 5-year-olds will definitely like. In her book, she traces the movements of the cat characters as they are exploring the box. These movements are expressed in the design of the pages, too – their format switches between portrait and landscape modes. With few words and expressive drawings, Koffsky conveys in simple terms a powerful message.
“What’s in Tuli’s Box?” mirrors questions children themselves would ask – about this box-like object that gets fed coins from time to time, is empty, full and then empty again – and about the purpose of those coins inside. The mother cat encourages Tuli to put a coin into the tzedaka box as well – because the money in there is there to “share with people who need them most.” The hardcover book comes with an explanatory final page about the concept of tzedaka tailored to young children and on her website, a coloring sheet with Tuli and his box can be downloaded.
Both parents and early childhood educators, and young children, will enjoy this book. Not just because of the cute cats but also because Ann Koffsky offers parents and teachers the opportunity to teach children something about the value and meaning of money. Monetary education is often neglected, but the idea that money can help others (and not just give me access to things I can enjoy) is crucial to convey – and this book is a good start for doing so. The narrative also encourages children to practice tzedaka themselves and ask how they can help people in other ways, too. This is also the only addition I would have liked to have seen in this book – impulse questions like “How else can I help others?” to broaden children’s horizons on what it means to give. In any case, the answer to “What’s in Tuli’s Box?” should not be left unread.