“HOW DALIA PUT A BIG YELLOW COMFORTER INSIDE A TINY BLUE BOX,” by Linda Heller, illustrated by Stacey Dressen McQueen, Tricycle Press, August 23, 2011, $16.99 (ages 4 and up)
Dalia loves the community center. She loves making things. She loves learning about things. So, when her teacher tells the class about tzedakah boxes, Dalia is more than excited to try making one herself. With her little brother Yossi watching, Dalia creates her own box and sets to filling it with coins by working hard around the house. At first, she answers Yossi’s questions about the tzedakah box with mysterious answers that don’t quite describe what the box is for, but eventually she explains to both Yossi and the reader what a tzedakah box really is. At this point, Yossi joins in the excitement at the community center — with all the other children — as they bring the coins they’ve saved together and create a big yellow comforter for a lonely old woman in need of some love.
Illustrating how the small contributions of many, joined together, can bring about great things, “How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box” provides a great opportunity for discussing service and community awareness with children. I did find the first half of the book to be slightly confusing as I was not familiar with what a tzedakah box was, and the book did not explain this right away. I found I couldn’t quite get into Dalia’s quest until I finally learned what the box was for, and what Dalia was trying to accomplish with it. I wish this explanation had come sooner. I did enjoy the introduction to a different culture and one of the ways they provide assistance to those in their community. I also found the loving relationship between Dalia and her little brother heartwarming and a happy change from many picture-books jokes about annoying siblings. Dalia is a kind and loving character to get to know, and her brother is just as friendly and enjoyable.
Though it is definitely a book to be enjoyed together — where questions can be answered and new ideas explained — Linda Heller’s story of Tzedakah boxes brings a happy feeling into the home, and a realization that even the smallest hands can do great good in the world around them.