Review: Out and About: A Tale of Giving

Out and About: A Tale of Giving

by Liza Wiemer, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas

Kalaniot Books, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick

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Daniel is bursting with curiosity when he sees his parents walking out of the house in the early morning hours, carrying boxes. When he asks his mother and older siblings where the parents have been, the only answer he gets is “out and about.” His imagination runs wild as he guesses what toys or treats the boxes might contain. Finally, Daniel figures out that his parents are secretly bringing boxes of needed items to the Cohens, neighbors who are going through hard financial times. Daniel joins in the tzedakah activities by bringing a box of gently used toys and clothing to the Cohen children’s door.

This inspiring story elegantly illustrates the mitzvah of tzedakah. It also demonstrates the value of giving anonymously: namely, that it spares the Cohens from feeling embarrassed about needing assistance. The warm and colorfully detailed illustrations of Daniel’s family, school and neighborhood draw the reader (or listener!) into the community of caring. The end note, which explains the concept of tzedakah and includes Maimonides’ eight levels of tzedakah, deepens the reader’s understanding. Highly recommended for home, school, synagogue and library.

Out and About is fully Jewish in the best ways. First, the story arc is about one of the highest Jewish priorities: that of giving generously to those in need. In addition, each page is authentically infused with other aspects of Jewish culture, especially through the art. From matzo ball soup to kippot to menorahs, daily Jewish life is thoughtfully and tenderly portrayed. Kudos for showing racial diversity in Daniel’s Jewish community.

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Reviewer Shirley Reva Vernick is a middle-grade and young-adult novelist. Shirley’s debut novel, The Blood Lie, is a Sydney Taylor honor book and the winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Once Upon A World Book Award. Her latest Jewish-themed MG novel, RIPPED AWAY, was released by Regal House Publishing in 2022.