Mrs. Katz and Tush
Author and Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Dell Dragonfly Books, New York
Book can be purchased here:
This story is about an elderly Jewish widow, Mrs. Katz, who is lonely after her husband passes away, and is befriended by her neighbor, a young African American boy by the name of Larnel. He brings her an abandoned kitten which she names Tush (since she has no tail and you can see her bottom), which needs a home and someone to love her. A friendship starts to develop as Larnel visits and spends more time with his elderly neighbor. He enjoys listening to stories about her life and experiences from long ago, and while doing so, learns about the different rituals and customs associated with the Jewish culture and religion. He starts to see the similarities between the struggles she experienced as a Jew, and the struggles that African Americans also endured throughout history. Larnel says, “You mean Jews couldn’t stay anywhere they wanted to? My grandma told me about places she couldn’t stay either”. When Mrs. Katz is explaining the holiday of Passover, she says, “Like your people, my people were slaves too. They lived in a country where they didn’t want to be”. As the years pass and Larnel grows up, Mrs. Katz, Tush, and her kittens continue to be a part of Larnel’s life, as he himself gets older, marries and has children of his own. The friendship which developed between two very different individuals is a beautiful story of kindness, respect, understanding and love for someone who on the surface appears to be very different, but underneath is more similar than you think.
Element Two – Respect for Others
This story about the friendship between Mrs. Katz and Larnel exemplifies this element beautifully. Element Two deals with the respect an individual has for another’s diversity and culture. By listening to the experiences of his neighbor with kindness and empathy, Larnel treats Mrs. Katz with kindness, respect and love, and in doing so, receives the same in return. This is a wonderful story about the acceptance of others, and that friendships can bridge cultural differences.
As a classroom activity, I would recommend that after the book is read aloud to the class, they engage in a discussion about the Jewish culture and religion. Since Larnel experiences the Passover Seder with Mrs. Katz, a sample Seder with some of the traditional foods, such as matzah, and the story of the exodus from Egypt can be told. This can then be compared to the experiences of other cultures which were mistreated throughout history.
Additional lesson plans can be found at: http://www.lessonplanet.com/