With Valentine’s Day approaching I thought it would be fitting to give a “book talk” on one of my most favorite stories in which the theme of love and respect resonates throughout. Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco is available in our very own CRLBC! This book targets the interests of keiki ages 4 to 8.
Larnel, a young African-American boy, and Mrs. Katz are neighbors. They don’t know each other well. Larnel’s mother knows her though. One day, Mrs. Katz confides to Larnel’s mother that she is worried about being alone for the Jewish holidays since her husband passed away. Larnel overhears the conversation and has an idea. A neighborhood cat has had kittens, and Larnel brings one for Mrs. Katz. She agrees to take the kitty only if Larnel helps her to take care of it. He agrees. The cat’s name is Tush.
This is the basic beginning to the story by Patricia Polacco of the relationship that develops between a Jewish senior citizen who came from Poland many years ago, and a young black boy.
The two of them, different as they are, develop a wonderful and loving relationship. Larnel listens to Mrs. Katz’s stories. He learns to dance the dances from her homeland. When she goes to visit her husband’s grave in the cemetary, Larnel accompanies her. When Tush gets out, Larnel looks for her. He worries that Mrs. Katz will be worried if he can’t help her find Tush.
Slowly, Larnel’s family and Mrs. Katz become family to each other. Eventually, Mrs. Katz becomes Larnel’s bubee, his grandmother.
This book provides wonderful examples to incorporate into your keiki’s writing:
Visual details – The pictures in this book are big, bright and colorful. The detailing is well done. When we are in Mrs. Katz’s house, we see items reflective of her life: an old-fashioned sewing machine, tables covered with small cloths or doilies, candlesticks and items representative of her Judaism such as kiddush cups. Outside the house, there are pictures of the neighborhood with its brownstones, stoops, wood benches and chainlink fences that have seen better days. There is also a picture of Mrs. Katz and Larnel at the Jewish cemetery. The little details help us to understand the place from which both of these people come.
Language usage: There are lots of words to a page, and up to one fourth of every two pages is filled with text. Most of the words are familiar. Of those words that might present some difficulty, many are culturally related to Mrs. Katz’s Jewish heritage. Those words, however, are presented in a way that make them accessible. Mrs. Katz talks about baking kugel. One might not know precisely what kugel is, but the reader can determine it’s something to eat. Here your child will infer meaning, which is an essential reading strategy.
Big Ideas and themes – We aren’t born knowing how to hate. It is important we teach our children to love in all the different ways possible. This book gives a good jumping off place to discuss all the ways we can love people and all the people we can love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!