“Pay attention. This is the important part.”

h1 November 23rd, 2010 by jules

“Dalia liked to learn things and make things, and she did just that at the community center. One Monday, her teacher, Mrs. Kahn, showed her and the other children a photograph of a little silver house that stood on four tiny feet. She showed them a photograph of a miniature silver castle. She put a little wooden barrel and a small tin box on the table. ‘These are tzedakah boxes,’ she said. ‘And if you make your own tzedakah box and fill it, you’ll be amazed by what we can do.'”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Jie-Jie brings out the glowing lanterns.”
(Click to enlarge.)

It’s another year. Another Thanksgiving. Harold and I are here again (it seems I’ve done this the past couple of years, so I may as well make it a 7-Imp tradition) to say: May you, dear readers, go forth and eat nine kinds of pie that you like best at whichever Thanksgiving feast you find yourself seated this year.

But, as you can see, I’m also sharing some illustrations today—from two separate titles, one illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen (top image) and the other both written and illustrated by Grace Lin (bottom image)—to take you to the end of the week. Well, till Sunday, that is. I’ll be back then to kick with folks. I’m trying to work up the energy to do a video version of my kicks, but I can’t make any promises right now. Anyway, I’m not gonna jibber-jabber here. I just want to show you more of these lovely spreads, but here’s a quick run-down on each book first so that you know what you’re seeing . . .

It’s been a while since Stacey Dressen-McQueen was at 7-Imp (she visited me in 2008 for breakfast), and I’m pleased she’s back. I’m sorry to say that her illustrated title I’m featuring today, How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box and Other Wonders of Tzedakah, written by Linda Heller, won’t be out until 2011. I swear, I have stacks and stacks of books and F&Gs all around me, threatening to consume me, and I never promise to be organized. This one caught my eye, I assumed (oops) it was from 2010, I asked for some spreads from it, and then I realized it’s not even out on bookstore or library shelves until quite possibly next Fall. In fact, I took this cover image myself with my own camera, as I couldn’t even find one online. All that’s to say that I don’t mean to tease, but I’m happy to showcase some art from it and give a sneak-peek.

This title, to be released by Tricycle Press, tells the story of a young, Jewish girl learning all about the tradition of tzedakah boxes—the concept of tzedakah meaning charity, fairness, and justice—at the community center she frequents and who then turns around to teach it to her younger brother, Yossi. Telling him she’ll fill the very small box with a big yellow comforter, a butterfly bush, and a banana cream pie, Yossi is baffled and figures the box is magic. It’s only when he assists her and her classmates in saving money to help an elderly neighbor that he understands it is generosity at work, its own kind of magic. (“Pay attention. This is the important part,” she tells her little brother, as you can see in the spread below, on their way to help a neighbor.) Also its own kind of magic are Stacey’s bold, stylized, and textured folk art illustrations. I always look forward to her work. Here are some more spreads. You can click on each to super-size and see in more detail.

Oh, and I guess I should add: I find this a fitting title to feature during the week of Thanksgiving, even though today many children make tzedakah boxes at Hanukah (as the book’s closing note on tzedakah boxes explains). But it also explains that “it is everyone’s happy duty to help others no matter how little we have ourselves” and that the tradition celebrates sharing with those in need, something which is often accentuated this time of year.

“Her little brother, Yossi, saw the box. ‘What’s in it?’ he asked. ‘A big yellow comforter,’ Dalia answered, with a look that said big sisters know so much more
than their little brothers do…”

“…’Now there’s a big yellow comforter, a butterfly bush, and a banana cream pie inside the box,’ she told Yossi. ‘And I know just what you’re going to ask. Tzedakah means we’re all one big family. It means I want your wishes to come true.
It means I care for you.”

“…At the bakery, Mrs. Kahn allowed him, a boy who was three years younger than the other children, to place the order. ‘One banana cream pie, please,’ he said.”

“The next day, Mrs. Kahn led the parade of children to a house where the yard looked sad and the old woman who sat on the porch looked even sadder. ‘Pay attention,’ Dalia whispered to Yossi. ‘This is the important part…'”

Grace Lin’s Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was released by Alfred A. Knopf Books in September. It tells the story of one family’s participation in a Fall celebration of thanksgiving for many Asians, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. “{W}e thank the moon,” Grace writes, “for bringing us together and send it our secret wishes.”

School Library Journal writes that the writing is “concise and accessible…The inviting nocturnal landscapes are vivid with interesting details, and readers will long to join in this peaceful celebration.” Grace impresses once again with her bold, bright artwork and inviting text, spare and simple for the youngest of readers or listeners.

Here are a couple more spreads. You can click to enlarge each.

“We all eat soft, sweet mooncakes.”

“…this night of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May it be peaceful and altogether non-dysfunctional.

* * * * * * *

HOW DALIA PUT A BIG YELLOW COMFORTER INSIDE A TINY BLUE BOX AND OTHER WONDERS OF TZEDAKAH. Copyright © 2011 Linda Heller. Illustrations © 2011 Stacey Dressen-McQueen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tricycle Press, Berkeley.

THANKING THE MOON: CELEBRATING THE MID-AUTUMN MOON FESTIVAL. Copyright © 2010 Grace Lin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

12 comments to ““Pay attention. This is the important part.””

  1. Love these books–even the one that is not available for a while! Thanks…and Happy Thanksgiving, Jules.

  2. You, too, Robin!

  3. Beautiful choices for this Thanksgiving week. Love how it is our “happy duty” to help others, no matter how little we have ourselves. A great way to explain that we all have the power to give.

    Have a great Thanksgiving. There will be chocolate cake for my girl (Susannah’s mom’s recipe!) and apple-cherry crisp for my boy.

    Sitting at the in-laws with the wood stove cranking out some warmth.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. You have a good Thanksgiving, too, Jessica. So glad to know you.

  5. Happy Thanksgiving, Imps!

  6. Thank you for these wonderful Thanksgiving books! (I’m not sure I’ll make it to nine on the kinds of pie I eat this weekend, but that’s a nice wish, too!)

  7. Mary Lee, it’s worth a shot.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  8. Little Willow, happy Thanksgiving to you, too. I made a surprise for you. More later. I can’t decide what to do with it.

  9. Jules,

    A belated happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I had to hit the ground running after my return from the NCTE Annual Convention in Orlando. I had so much to do to prepare for the holiday. It’s been a hectic fall for me. I hope I can get back into blog reading regularly now.

    BTW, I only ate one kind of pie–but I also had sour cream chocolate cake and pumpkin cheesecake with caramel. It’s so hard to resist desserts at holiday time.

  10. Elaine, you’re my hero. Happy Thanksgiving.

  11. Dear Jules,

    Thank you so mcuh for stirring up interest for How Dalia Put a Big a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box. I’m its author. I want to put Stacy’s images on my website and can’t seem to do it. Could you please be kind enough to email me one or two of the spreads you have on your site so I can put them on mine?

    All the best to you and keep up the good work of promoting children’s books.

    Best wishes,

  12. Linda, I’ll email you.

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