Patricia Polacco wrote and illustrated a little gem of a story, Mrs. Katz and Tush, one of those picture books that is clearly over 500 words, and all the better for it. Kudos to her.
It's the story of a relationship between a lonely senior Jewish widow, and a neighbor African American boy. The sensitive boy feels her solitude and gives her a cat, to keep her company, but ends up being drawn to the stories of her childhood, growing up in Poland, escaping the Holocaust, and becomes her daily companion himself. Through her stories, they find shared common ground in their difficult cultural history.
My six-year-old daughter is of African origin, and also being raised Jewish, so there were countless moments of pausing during the storytelling, to clarify and discuss some thoughts she is just starting to understand. Slavery, racial and cultural prejudice, moving from your native land, having Jewish grandparents that fled Poland, what is a headstone and why we put rocks on the, what is a "runt".
Of course I couldn't contain my tears.
Lucy: Why are you crying mom?
Me: Because this books makes me a little sad.
Lucy: If it's sad, maybe we should read a different one...
Me: No Lucy, it's ok. Some books are happy. Some books are sad. That is how life is. Happy moments and sad moments too. It's ok for us to read things that make us feel sad sometimes.
She seemed to understand. That, and many things.
Thank you to the PJ Library, for striving to keep Jewish culture alive in our busy modern day families, by delivering free children's books on such themes.