I had the opportunity to meet art director and author/illustrator Ann Koffsky when I attended Highlights Foundation “Jewish Symposium 2022: An In-Community Experience for Jewish Creatives” in October. She wrote the adorable picture book What’s In Tuli’s Box? When I read it, I knew just how I wanted to tie it in with a preschool class project.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our theme was Kindness. Our project? Tzedakah boxes! Prevalent in Jewish homes, Tzedakah boxes collect extra coins to be donated to those in need. What an important lesson, in addition to a hands-on, tactile activity, for preschoolers.
The children painted glue on containers, chose colors of tissue paper, and stuck the tissue paper to the gluey containers. They practiced dropping coins in the coin slots, listened it jingle, and discussed the kind acts that they–even as young as they are–can do.
Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for philanthropy and charity. It is a form of social justice in which donors benefit from giving as much or more than the recipients. So much more than a financial transaction, tzedakah builds trusting relationships and includes contributions of time, effort, and insight.Learning to Give
Review of What’s In Tuli’s Box
In this charming picture book for young children, Ann D. Koffsky presents the concept of tzedakah through the characters of a kitten and her mother. With kinetic images and bright colors, children learn that a simple box provides not only an opportunity to climb and play, but is also a means to contribute to charity. The book’s simple text mimics the way a child learns from her parents about an important mitzvah.
For parents and caregivers considering the most effective way to introduce the concept, Tuli the kitten provides one answer: concrete experiences and few abstractions. Tuli is as active as a toddler, and just as focused on exploring her world. Koffsky begins with Tuli becoming interested in a box labeled tzedakah. Neither this nor its slit for depositing a coin means anything to her. Through touching, pushing, and listening, she discovers the box’s physical qualities, while her mother offers more information. The box is not a toy, she comes to find, although the clinking sound of a coin dropping would seem to suggest that it is.
Koffsky combines feline and human characteristics with subtle humor. While the characters look like real cats, their facial expressions of curiosity and affection, coupled with the mother’s purple pocketbook, add a different visual element to the story. Gentle explanations from Tuli’s mother confirm what the kitten has learned, but also extend the possibilities. Tuli is finally ready to hear that the coins are meant to help those in need. As mother and child rest their heads against one another, young readers finish the book with a sense of satisfaction. Tuli’s energetic activity has become a path to empathy, and to the reward of her mother’s pride and love.Emily Schneider for The Jewish Book Council