When Jake spontaneously decides to give some handpicked mulberries to the old woman next door, he begins a chain of “pay-it-forward” events in his neighborhood.
First, readers view a double-page spread of Lancaster Street, seen from the vantage point of a mulberry-tree branch, with neat lawns and well-kept pets but no humans. “Even on sunny days, Lancaster Street seemed dark and gloomy. Neighbors did not smile at each other…or talk to each other…or help each other.” Bright flowers and nesting birds belie the supposed gloom, but the streets are certainly empty of people. The next page shows Jake in the tree. His mulberry mitzvah—declared so and defined as a good deed at book’s end—inspires Mrs. Thompson to bake a pie for Mr. Riley, and Mr. Riley to retrieve two boys’ roof-bound ball, and so on. The simple art is colorful but not memorable. Attempted multiculturalism feels strained: the one child of color wears basketball garb, and the probably–Asian-American Mr. Lee is a computer expert. This is a good read-aloud for young children, as the art is benign and the text includes a pleasing repetition of reactions from neighbors, who are always “surprised” and “delighted” by the kindness bestowed upon them. Another positive touch: the succinct back story about the derivation of the word “mitzvah.”
A sweet plug for random acts of kindness. (Picture book. 3-5)