7 Books About Making the World A Better Place

When you're a good friend and community member, you help repair the world -- Tikkun Olam.

Many PJ Library books (and blog posts) mention ways that children can help repair the world, or practice the Jewish value of tikkun olam. But where does that phrase come from – and what does it really mean? Can one good deed really change the world?

Jewish scholars, thinkers, and leaders have been talking about the idea of tikkun olam for a long time – hundreds and hundreds of years. Some of the wisest teachers in Judaism, taught that tikkun olam means that anything that we do is for the sake of the community, and may even right social wrongs. Tikkun Olam also has special meaning through the lens of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. The Jewish mystics of the middle ages likened the world to a broken vessel of light. Each good deed we do seals one shard back into place, ultimately recreating the whole.

As demonstrated in the picture books below, children can better their community and the world around them with every day actions, big and small.


Bagels From Benny

Bagels From Benny by Aubrey Davis

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

While working in his grandfather’s bakery, Benny learns the joys of giving and receiving, caring and gratitude.

The Cholent Brigade

The Cholent Brigade by Michael Herman

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

Monty Nudelman is a neighborhood mensch -- every time it snows, he's out there shoveling the walks for all his neighbors. But one day, his back gives out! What do you think his neighbors do?

Even Higher

Even Higher by Richard Ungar

Recommended for ages 7 and up

Each year, just before Rosh Hashanah, the rabbi of Nemirov disappears. Where does he go? Reuven’s friends decide to find out by appointing Reuven to follow the beloved older man.

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller

Recommended for ages 5 to 6

As Dalia explores tzedakah with her friends, she creates a tzedakah box where she can keep the money she’s saving to help those in need. In the process Dalia, her friends and her little brother Yossi learn about the power and joy of giving to others.

Maddie the Mitzvah Clown

Maddie the Mitzvah Clown by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

Maddie wants to do a mitzvah (good deed), but she's very shy. Dressing up as a clown makes her feel a lot more confident, though, and clowns can do a special mitzvah -- cheering people up at her grandma's senior center!

Mitzvah Pizza

Mitzvah Pizza by Sarah Lynn Scheerger

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

Most Saturdays, Daddy brings the money and Missy brings the fun. But this time Missy is bringing the money, too -- and she’s trying to decide what to do with it! When they go to a pizzeria that helps feed everyone, including people who can’t pay, Missy makes a new friend -- and has an idea.

Pavel and the Tree Army

Pavel and the Tree Army by Heidi Smith Hyde

Recommended for ages 7 to 8

Pavel is a new American, and he’s excited to take part in making his adopted country beautiful -- so he joins an army corps that’s dedicated to planting trees! Some of the people he works with are less welcoming than others, but Pavel learns that becoming a true American is a little like planting your roots in a new land.


Sometimes we think tikkun olam refers to large topics, like world peace, but little things make a difference, too. What small things do you do to make the world a better place?