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Children's Fiction Jewish

Mr. Tempkin Climbs a Tree

by (author) Cary Fagan

illustrated by Carles Arbat

Lerner Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Oct 2019
Jewish, Values & Virtues, Religion & Faith
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 8
  • Grade: p to 2
  • Reading age: 6 to 7


School's out, and Marky looks forward to summer, including helping his friend and neighbor, Mr. Tempkin, with his garden. But when Mr. Tempkin's plan to thwart the squirrels that have been raiding his birdfeeder goes awry, Marky learns how special a friendship can be.

About the authors

Cary Fagan is the author of eight previous novels and five books of short stories, including The Student, Great Adventures for the Faint of Heart, and A Bird's Eye. He has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Writers' Trust Fiction Award, the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, and has won the Toronto Book Award and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction. He is also an acclaimed writer of books for children, having won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, the IODE Jean Throop Book Award, a Mr. Christie Silver Medal, the Joan Betty Stuchner—Oy Vey!—Funniest Children's Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People. Fagan's work has been translated into French, Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Catalan, Turkish, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Korean and Persian. He still lives in his hometown of Toronto.

Cary Fagan's profile page

Carles Arbat's greatest treasure as a child was his box of colored pencils. One day, he even colored the walls of his parents' dining room, which got him into a bit of trouble. He is a graduate of Olot's Art School in Graphic Design and the author of nine children's books. He lives in Barcelona.

Carles Arbat's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A young boy and his elderly neighbor bond during the summer months. When school is out, Marky enjoys helping Mr. Tempkin with his garden. While watering the flowers and pulling weeds Marky listens to Mr. Tempkin impart his philosophy on aging well: Walk every day to synagogue, enjoy the flowers and birds in the garden, and, most of all, value friendship. When the elder falls and gets hurt because he decides to climb a tree to hang a bird feeder, Marky is there to get help. Once Mr. Tempkin is back from the hospital, in a wheelchair with a sprained ankle, Marky is even more willing to be there for his friend; it's a mitzvah, after all, to wheel Mr. Tempkin to synagogue and do the work in the garden. By summer's end Mr. Tempkin's ankle is healed and the affinity between the two neighbors has blossomed into a very special relationship. Detailed, realistic paintings in bright, sunny, summer colors portray a largely white suburban community (although a final school-bus scene reflects a diverse group of kids). The fluid narrative arc extends main themes of friendship and the Jewish value of mitzvah: doing good through genuine caring. A gentle story with minimal intrigue and plenty of compassion highlights the beauty of intergenerational relationships."—Kirkus Reviews


"It's summer and young Marky enjoys helping his neighbor, Mr. Tempkin, take care of his garden. One day, while trying to move his bird feeder away from some pesky squirrels, the elderly gentleman falls out of a tree, resulting in a call to 911 and a trip to the hospital. During his neighbor's recovery, Marky helps by pushing his wheelchair-using friend to and from synagogue for services, watering his roses, and refilling his bird feeder using a safe, bucket-and-broomstick device. Fagan's story of intergenerational friendship emphasizes the shared interests of this pair, and, although Dad mentions that spending time with Mr. Tempkin is a mitzvah (good deed), and Mom declares his deeds make him a mensch (good person), it's also clear that Mr. Tempkin and Marky are birds of a feather. Arbat's richly hued, realistic illustrations highlight the summer flora and fauna present in Marky's neighborhood. Several species of birds appear in every spread and seem to follow Mr. Tempkin wherever he goes. A satisfying, if somewhat introspective, addition to the friendship shelf." — Kay Weisman


This is a delight­ful pic­ture book that con­veys Jew­ish — and uni­ver­sal — themes of the impor­tance of inter­gen­er­a­tional friend­ship and help­ing one’s neigh­bors. The illus­tra­tions are bright­ly col­ored and con­tain many details for chil­dren to notice and focus on as they lis­ten to the sto­ry, or read it for them­selves. It is instruc­tive with­out being preachy and it has a hap­py ending.

Mr. Temp­kin is Marky’s next-door neigh­bor and, in the sum­mer, it is Marky’s job to water Mr. Tempkin’s beau­ti­ful flower gar­den. They enjoy each other’s com­pa­ny as Marky takes care of the flow­ers and Mr. Temp­kin tends to his bird feed­er, shar­ing his knowl­edge and appre­ci­a­tion of birds with his young friend. Marky is sur­prised that some­one so “old” can do so many things by him­self. One day Mr. Temp­kin over­es­ti­mates his abil­i­ty to climb a tree to prop­er­ly posi­tion his bird feed­er. He falls out of the tree and must be tak­en to the hos­pi­tal. Marky spends a long day anx­ious­ly wait­ing to see if his friend will be alright. Hap­pi­ly, Mr. Temp­kin returns home with just a ban­dage on his sprained ankle and Marky con­tin­ues to help him, with even more oppor­tu­ni­ties to assist such as push­ing the wheel­chair up the hill so Mr. Temp­kin can con­tin­ue to attend syn­a­gogue ser­vices every morn­ing. By the end of the sto­ry, Marky and Mr. Temp­kin have become good friends and Marky has learned much about inde­pen­dence, friend­ship, kind­ness, respon­si­bil­i­ty, and mitzvot.

This sto­ry is clear­ly writ­ten and easy to under­stand and the sophis­ti­cat­ed con­cepts are not over­ly sim­plis­tic. Read­er and lis­ten­er alike will iden­ti­fy with the char­ac­ters and appre­ci­ate the friend­ship between them despite their age difference.