The Nursery School of Life

An illustrated book seeks to introduce young children to the meaning of a budget, a consumer boycott and social justice.

Before the social protest broke out last year, Tamar Factor knew nothing about economics. A few days after the protest erupted, she began to read the financial papers, hoping to understand the terms that had suddenly become commonplace in all the news broadcasts.

"This a field I had fled from before then, but it was important to me to understand the terms," Factor explains. "Every morning I'd read the three financial dailies, but I didn't understand a thing. I am addicted to newspapers. I listen to the news every hour on the hour, and every second I was running to Wikipedia to look up the terms I didn't understand."

"Gradually," Factor recalls, "I accumulated a certain understanding of the field, and I said to myself, I can't believe I didn't know these concepts before. In addition to that, I didn't understand how they taught them in schools. And then I thought, What would have happened had I known all those things as a child? What would have happened had I been aware of all the injustices and of the whole chain of exploitation, had I understood for example what indirect taxes are and what their effect is on my pocket? One morning I said to myself, Why shouldn't I do something about this? And then I had the idea of publishing a book."

Factor, 28, of Ramat Hasharon, wasn't content with merely asking, "What if?" A graduate student in the visual communications department at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, she set out to answer that very question through her final project, supervised by Yael Bogen, and presented at the department's graduate exhibition, which closed last week.

Her 160-page illustrated introduction to economics covers basic concepts in the field and aims to provide tools for critical and sober observation in the consumer economy. The goal of the book is help readers understand the importance of individual responsibility and the implications of everyone's economic choices for the social fabric, the state and the world. Even though it is intended for young readers aged 9 to 13, adults for whom the economic discourse is not clear are also likely to find it interesting.

The book is divided into five chapters: "Toolbar," "Me and My Family," "The Society We Live In," "The State We Live In" and "The World We Live In." With the help of clear illustrations and examples from everyday life, each chapter explains basic concepts such as the economy, budgets, bank accounts, consumer boycotts, the cost of living, social justice, inflation, regulation, developing countries, globalization, consumer culture and more.

For example, the book features passages such as: "Money is not just something Mom takes out of her wallet to buy us a toy or a sweet"; and: "What is for free? It is important to understand the difference between the two kinds of free. When we get something for free we must know how to ask, Is this for charm or for money?"

To write the book, Factor turned to professionals involved in the field, and they in turn referred her to relevant literature and Internet sources. "The process I went through was convoluted, because it took me time to understand what is important," she relates. "I started with 150 concepts and wound up with 50. I was helped in the writing by a lot of friends I trust; it was a collaborative project."

Deciding how to illustrate the book was also "a long process," Factor explains. "I started with sketches, some done by hand and some done on the computer, which I showed my supervisor, Yael Bogen," she says. "I work quite rapidly and so every week I was able to show her more possibilities. Ultimately the visual language ranged between infographics and illustration; part of it is graphic and part of it is more narrative. Beyond that, in the book there are two characters who represent all the concepts: a girl and a pig. The girl represents human beings and the pig represents their attitude toward money."

Why a pig?

"The origin was a classic piggy bank, but this of course is given to interpretation. I am not ashamed of my economic worldview in favor of societal socialism."

And against swinish capitalism (a term coined by President Shimon Peres when he was an MK, referring to then-Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ).

"Exactly. During this past year we have understood what this means and how this affects our lives, and this is only because we opened our eyes and saw what is happening - not because it didn't exist before. The project came from the desire to do something for the society I live in. It was important to me to do something social and useful before I go out into the real world and the labor market."

Is there a chance the book will be published?

"I hope so. I am working on that now."