Early one winter morning, a small Jewish boy named Daniel is startled out of bed to the sound of someone walking in fresh snow. He peers out of his room’s window to see his father carrying a mysterious box away from his home.
What happens next in “Out and About: A Tale of Giving” the new children’s book written by Milwaukee’s Liza Wiemer, is a story about what was in the box, Daniel’s parents’ trips to help a neighbor and ultimately the meaning of giving.
Daniel “realizes that his parents are helping this neighbor in need. And, in turn, he decides that he too, wants to help,” Wiemer said. “It’s such a beautiful way of recognizing that there are times all of us are going to need help. That’s very much the essence of the story.”
The story was inspired by the acts of kindness that Wiemer remembers from her grandfather and grandmother as well as her aunts and uncles and other relatives.
“It’s a constant reminder, to aspire to be people like that. I’m grateful to have such phenomenal role models and phenomenal mentors,” she said. “It’s the root of who I am and the core of who I am and Judaism. What my grandparents did, and my aunts and uncles did is that they put it into practice. It wasn’t just words. They showed me through their action.”
Charity is an important tenant of Judaism in that tzedakah and acts of kindness are equivalent to all the mitzvah in the Torah, she said.
“This is everyone’s legacy. It’s not just a Jewish thing, it is a humankind thing. It is something for humanity,” she said. “This is a universal message shared throughout the book through Jewish representation.”
Wiemer will present the book at the Friendship Café and Bakery, 8649 N. Port Washington Road, on Sunday Aug. 20 at 2 p.m. During the event, participants will be able to make their own works of kindness.
Wiemer has spent her entire life in Milwaukee, where she has taught at several schools, including the Bader Hillel High School. She is also the author of “The Assignment,” which has won 12 awards and has been optioned for film. In addition, she is a columnist for the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, focusing on Jewish literature for children.
The genesis of the book began in 1990, when an editor from a small publishing house expressed interest in the book. But, Wiemer said, the editor wanted the illustrations to be black and white.
“I thought that would ruin the story…it needed to be color,” she said. “I turned down that offer. I always thought that someday I would come back to the story, and that it would get published eventually,”
Fast forward to a couple of years ago when, on the advice of her agent, she modernized the story and the book was soon published.
“The message of grandfather’s story absolutely is there,” she said, noting that many of book’s characters are named after her relatives. “I wanted to honor that family legacy.”
Although it is a children’s picture book, the intent is for people of all ages to pick it up, read it and be inspired, Wiemer said.
“The ideal use of this book would be generations to come together and to talk about their experiences,” she said. “An act of kindness can be as simple as holding the door open for another person. Doing acts of kindness doesn’t have to be about giving financially. It can be so simple, we’re all capable of it.”
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What: Liza Wiemer, author of “Out and About: A Tale of Giving”
Where: Friendship Café and Bakery, 8649 N. Port Washington Road
When: Sunday, Aug. 20, 2 p.m.