Friday, March 17, 2017

BOOK REPORT: The Carp In the BathTub

We've been subscribing to PJ Library for the last seven years. It's a great service that sends free Jewish books to families every month.  Every month, like a clock, we receive a Jewish book (and once a year a Jewish CD) in the mail.  It's free to sign up. Families with kids ages 6 months through 8 years old with Judaism as part of their lives, are welcome to sign up. PJ Library welcomes all Jewish families, whatever your background, knowledge, or family make-up, or observance may be.

Kids enjoying Jewish books.  Photo via PJ Library Facebook
 A program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and local Jewish councils, it's a way to get Jewish content in front of kids, and to help kids build a Jewish identity.  For some kids its reinforcement of Judaism.  For other kids it might be the only Jewish thing in their life.  For the vast majority (and us) there's an in between.  This is not the only Jewish content he gets, but he gets less than is probably ideal.  Any way you slice it, I'm always glad to see that book in the mail.

I would say that my son likes about a third of the books that come our way, and I like about half. I read all of the books that come our way, and since he started reading on his own, he probably reads half.  If it were up to him, he'd probably read 1/4.  Part of the problem is that the books they select mostly are picture books, or at least heavy on illustration, and he prefers chapter books and larger books. Basically, since he became a realreader, he doesn't like to read books with pictures.

[GOOD NEWS:  In doing research for this article, I discovered that PJ Library is starting a pre-teen component for kids 9-11, where kids select their own books!]

The books they send that I don't like are usually screaming too loudly "I'm a Jewish book.  I'm educational.  Read me, and be filled with Judaism!"  The books I like stand on their own and happen to be about Jewish topics, or present Judaism as a natural part of everyday life, not as something Special with a capital S.

One book that we both agree was great recently came in.  The book is called The Carp In The BathTub by Barb Cohen.
Originally published in 1972, it's a story of a two children living in a tenement apartment building in NY who befriend the fish their mom has purchased to make Gefilte fish for Passover.  The carp needs cleaning, before eating, so the mom is letting it rest in the bathtub for a few days before it meets its grisly doom.  The kids, try to rescue the fish, but it doesn't work out so well for them.

This is the 45th anniversary of this book, and the story has aged pretty well. I'm warning you now, this book has a sad ending for the fish.  But it has a warm and pretty lovely story about community, about family food traditions, about what it was like to live in a tenement, and yes, about Passover.

Our love of this book was made stronger by the song There's "A Carp In The Tub" by Robbie Schaefer. We've been listening to this song for some time, (it's a staple on Kid's Place Live) and seeing where it fit into our tradition/religion was pretty cool. I had actually assumed that the Carp in the Tub was a Chinese tradition that Schaeffer had appropriated,  (I'd read a story about it) so I'm really glad to know that it's part of my tradition as well.

If you like this song, consider buying it on Amazon.  The artist gets his royalty, we get a small cut of the proceeds, and you get a song you like!  Win! Win! Win!

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