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It's a Mitzvah, Grover!


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About the Author

Tilda Balsley has written many books for Kar-Ben, bringing her stories to life with rhyme, rhythm, and humor. Tilda lives with her husband and their rescue Shih Tzu in Reidsville, North Carolina. Ellen Fischer was born in St. Louis. Following graduation from Washington University, she taught children with special needs and then ESL at a Jewish Day School. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband. They have three children. Tom Leigh is a children's book author and longtime illustrator of Sesame Street and Muppet books. He lives on Little Deer Isle off the coast of Maine.


Can a book do its job too well?

The story is basic enough: Grover and his Israeli friends want to clean up a playground. Moishe Oofnik refuses to help them, because he's a grouch. (He lives in a trash can like Oscar, his American cousin on Sesame Street.) But Moishe is more than willing to accept the discarded trash from the play area. He even weeds out the items that aren't garbage. 'Recycling is a mitzvah!' Grover says, to Moishe's chagrin. 'Moishe, you are doing a mitzvah.' Oddly, though, the simple plot is interrupted, halfway through the book, for a lesson in color theory. As the Muppets paint the swing and slide, they talk about the colors they've chosen. Mahboub has picked yellow, 'like sunflowers, loquats, lemons, and grapefruit.' Mahboub goes on to explain that yellow and blue make green. The characters even teach some Hebrew words. Doing a mitzvah is helpfully--if not quite correctly--translated as doing 'something nice for others.' It's hard to fault a book for teaching too many valuable lessons. But after four straight pages, the lecture on colors turns into a distraction. Still, talking about colors is perfectly in character for Muppets. (Grover's friends come from Shalom Sesame, set in Israel.) And when readers take a look at the seesaw, painted in rainbow colors, they may forgive everything.

Mitzvahs galore for Muppet lovers. --Kirkus Reviews

-- "Journal"

In the first title, Big Bird joins Grover in Israel for Passover. As the two friends make their way across town to join Brosh's Seder, the details of the holiday are neatly worked into the action with Big Bird freeing Grover from a sticker bush (as the Jews were freed from slavery) and the pair hurrying to dinner (as the Hebrews hurried from Egypt without time for their bread to rise). It's Moishe Oofnik to the rescue when he gives them a ride to Brosh's house after a promise of plenty of bitter herbs to eat. 'I love this stuff, ' he exclaims with watering eyes. In the second title, Grover learns about the concept of tikkun olam by helping Avigail, Brosh, and Mahboub with the mitzvah of cleaning up a playground after a storm. Even Moishe Oofnik participates in the good deeds by separating recyclables from the trash his friends bring him. Both books are brightly illustrated and explain Jewish concepts clearly, simply, and without condescension. Solid purchases for Jewish preschool programs and other preschools wishing to introduce Jewish holidays and practice. --School Library Journal

-- "Journal"

With broom in hand, Grover joins his Rechov Sumsum friends Brosh, Avigail, and Mahboub in doing a mitzvah by cleaning up storm debris cluttering their playground. Working together, the amiable group picks up all the trash. Before applying a fresh coat of paint to the swings, slide, and teeter-totter, each Muppet takes turns reciting items they like which are red, yellow, blue, purple, green, or orange. In no time, the clean-up crew makes the playground a better place. When they take the trash to Moishe for disposal, even the grouchy oofnik performs a mitzvah by saving the rotten food and by putting the aluminum cans and glass bottles in the recycling bin. This book is the perfect teaching tool for introducing a young audience to the concepts of tikkun olam, doing a mitzvah, learning colors, and recycling. Leigh, a long-time illustrator of Sesame Street and Muppet books, brings these familiar characters to life. Tilda Balsley is the author of Maccabee!: The Story of Hanukkah (2010), The Queen Who Saved Her People (2011), and Oh No, Jonah! (2012). This is part of a new series of Shalom Sesame books published by Kar-Ben that includes Count's Hanukkah Countdown and Grover and Big Bird's Passover Celebration.--AJL Newsletter

-- "Magazine"

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