Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Bisl Yiddish: Bikher fur Kinder

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Yiddish is really popular right now. From the annual Yidstock festival each summer to the off-Broadway Yiddish production of Fiddler on the Roof, the mameloshn seems to be everywhere. That's even true in children's publishing. Today I have a joint interview with three authors who've created kidlit related to Yiddish language or culture. Sue Macy is the author of the picture book biography, The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come, about Aaron Lansky who founded the Yiddish Book Center. Debby Levy, who appeared on The Book of Life in November 2016 to talk about her RBG biography I Dissent, is back with her picture book Yiddish Saves the Day. And Valerie Estelle Frankel has written a humorous chapter book called Chelm for the Holidays. These three shayne meydelekh joined me to talk about the resurgence of Yiddish, after an introductory clip of "We're Gonna Learn Some Yiddish" written and performed by Rebecca Schoffer, and inspired by the picture book Goodnight Bubbala by Sheryl Haft.



Related books, crowdsourced on the Jewish Kidlit Mavens Facebook group:

The Sages of Chelm and the Moon by Shlomo Abas
Chanukah in Chelm by David Adler
Malke's Secret Recipe by David Adler
Shmutzy Girl, Noshy Boy, Shluffy Girl, Kvetchy Boy and Klutzy Boy by Anne-Marie Asner 
The Brothers Schlemiel by Mark Binder
A Hanukkah Present by Mark Binder
The Tale of Meshka the Kvetch by Carol Chapman 
Just Stay Put by Gary Clement
The Yiddish Fish by Santiago Cohen
Kishke for Koppel by Aubrey Davis
A Hat for Mrs Goldman by Michelle J Edwards
Oy Feh So by Cary Fagan
Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls by Linda Glaser
Way Too Many Latkes by Linda Glaser
The Silly World of Chelm by Zalman Goldstein
Oy Vey! Life in a Shoe by Bonnie Meltzer Grubman
Goodnight Bubbala by Sheryl Haft
Five Little Gefiltes by Dave Horowitz
Once Upon a Shabbos by Jacqueline Jules
The Jar of Fools by Eric Kimmel
Right Side Up: Adventures in Chelm by Eric Kimmel
The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman
Estie the Mensch by Jane Kohuth
A Confused Hanukkah by Jon Koons
Shlomo Travels to Warsaw by David Kudler
The Tushy Book by Fran Manushkin
Good Night Wind by Linda Marshall
Too Young for Yiddish by Richard Michelson
A Kiss on the Keppie by Lesléa Newman
Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger
Beautiful Yetta: the Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater
Beautiful Yetta's Hanukkah Kitten by Daniel Pinkwater
The Angel's Mistake by Francine Prose
The Demons' Mistake by Francine Prose
The Schmutzy Family by Madelyn Rosenberg
The Wise Folk of Chelm by Seymour Rossel
Strudel Strudel Strudel by Steve Sanfield
The Wise Men of Helm and Their Merry Tales by Solomon Simon
The Fools of Chelm and Their History by Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Parakeet Named Dreidel by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Zlateh the Goat by Isaac Bashevis Singer
My Yiddish Vacation by Ione Skye
Nosh Schlep Schluff: BabYiddish by Laurel Snyder
Shlemazel and the Remarkable Spoon of Pohost by Ann Stampler
In the Land of Happy Tears: Yiddish Tales for Modern Times edited by David Stromberg
Can Hens Give Milk? by Joan Betty Stuchner
The Kugel Valley Klezmer Band by Joan Betty Stuchner
My First Yiddish Word Book by Joni Sussman
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback
Kibitzers and Fools by Simms Taback
Raisins and Almonds by Susan Tarcov
Rachel Captures the Moon by Richard Ungar
Rachel's Gift by Richard Ungar
Rachel's Library by Richard Ungar

NOTE: The Book of Life is an IndieBound Affiliate. Many of these links lead to IndieBound, where you can purchase the books from independent bookstores.


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Monday, January 06, 2020

How to read for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee...a Self Care poem?

A guest post by Sylvie Shaffer

Just before Chanukah, I wrote this poem as response to the Nessah Synagogue desecration. At the time, I was finishing my second year of reading for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, which I have been so incredibly honored to do. The award has been given annually since 1968 by the Association of Jewish Libraries to the best books featuring Jewish content published for children and young adults.

While I have enjoyed reading and critically considering some wonderful books with joyful expressions of Jewish life, most of my committee reading has centered the Holocaust, and to be completely honest, it's been brutal reading these stories of Jewish victimhood. Especially since over the course of the last 24 or so months of reading every eligible book published, antisemitism and violence against Jews has risen dramatically.

Setting aside the hard numbers - for example, "at least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared on Twitter over a 12-month period" in 2018 - consider that during the same period in which I read a stack of Holocaust books taller than I am (granted, I am only five feet tall, but still) the following things happened:
  • Months of bomb threats to Jewish schools, Jewish Community Centers, and Synagogues
  • Deadly Synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway
  • Swastikas spray-painted in big cities and small towns and on college campuses including my dear alma matter Smith College
  • A Kosher supermarket shooting
And just in the last week alone, each day of Chanukah saw horrible acts of violence against Jews. Never again is now. This has to stop. Please, whether you're Jewish or not, a Kidlit pal or not, please raise your voice, raise awareness, acknowledge that this - acts of violence against Jews - is happening...again.

~ Sylvie Shaffer, December 30, 2019

How to read for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee...a Self Care poem?

As books arrive, sort them into Picturebooks, MG, and YA. Diligently update your spreadsheets noting “books received”...try to stagger your reading so you read non-Holocaust books in between the Holocaust books. At some point, late in the year, accept that you will run out of non-Holocaust books to read as spacers. Es faran nisht genug bikher. There are not enough books. And yet there are too many.

When all you’ve got left is a stack of Nazi-lit, it’s time to beef up the self care. Make deals with yourself about pages read before you can take the dog for her walk. Drink hot chocolate while you read. Bake something, so the house smells warm and sweet.

Take the covers off the books so you don’t have to see the swastikas, barbed wire, yellow stars that adorn the dust jackets. Read in the bathtub with soft music playing.

Take a break, take a walk. Put on your coat. Think about how it doesn’t have coins or jewels sewn into the lining. Wonder if it should. Say hi to your neighbors when you pass them. Would they take you in, if it came to that? Kiss the mezuzah on the way back into the house.

Check Twitter. Look at photos of the Nessah Synogogue vandalism with disbelief. Feel gratitude your Zeydie who was forced into the Bialystok ghetto, a firsthand witness to the desecration of the famous Great Synagogue in 1941, who survived multiple concentration camps, is not alive to see this. The images of broken glass and vandalized Torahs are dizzying, nauseating.

Read on the sofa with one hand scritching your dog’s soft head. She understands you’re reading horrifying stories you already know, were born knowing. Remember your Oma screaming in German in her sleep, every Shabbat sleepover of your youth. Remember, when you read descriptions of concentration camp bunks, how your Bubbie commented at your sister’s school production of Oliver- “that’s how we slept in the camps.” Remember. Never forget. As if you could.

Update your committee spreadsheets.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Top Posts of 2019

I was on vacation as 2019 came to a close, so I'm a little late with this year-in-review post, but I hope you will still find it interesting. If you missed any of these posts, you might want to go back and check them out. Your fellow fans would recommend them!

The most popular Book of Life posts of 2019 were (in increasing order of popularity):

  1. Sister Religion/Sister Kidlit, August 
  2. Blog Tour 10th Anniversary, February
  3. A Field Guide to Jewish Kidlit, December
  4. Diversity Needs Jewish Books, October
  5. Takeaways from "Beyond the Holocaust & Holidays," March
  6. The 2019 Sydney Taylor Book & Manuscript Award Winners, January
  7. Beyond the Holocaust & Holidays: A Writing Symposium, January

The Book of Life has a huge back catalog - after all, I've been podcasting since 2005! Please enjoy these 2019 highlights (the other posts from 2019 were pretty good too!). Happy reading and happy listening!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Statement from the Association of Jewish Libraries Regarding Recent Antisemitic Acts

Reprinted from the Association of Jewish Libraries website, posted 12/31/19:

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) is horrified by the recent spate of antisemitic attacks, especially those that took place during the holiday of Hanukkah. The shooting at a kosher market in New Jersey and the stabbing at a Hanukkah party in New York made national news; at the same time, there has been a tidal wave of verbal abuse, physical violence, and widespread vandalism of Jewish spaces. We mourn the tragic loss of life, offer prayers of recovery for victims, and urge all to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in the face of intimidation.

As an international organization of librarians, archivists, researchers, writers, teachers, and lovers of literature, AJL seeks to educate the public and provide resources to fight this scourge of ignorance and hate. After the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, AJL published the Love Your Neighbor series of youth booklists. These recommended titles demystify the Jewish experience for readers, with the aim of helping them grow in understanding and empathy. We will continue to update and add to this series in the new year. We call upon educators and librarians of all backgrounds to share this resource with their communities, and to reach out to AJL for more ways to learn about and support Jewish neighbors. Please contact to see how you can help.

We will not allow our communities to accept antisemitic terrorism or any other form of hate crime as "the new normal." We will spread knowledge to fight hate. Please join us.

The Association of Jewish Libraries - The Leading Authority on Judaic Librarianship

Monday, December 30, 2019

Thank the Helpers

Shamash Night is the brainchild of author Erica Perl, whose book The Ninth Night of Hanukkah will be published in 2020. Her synagogue, Temple Micah in Washington DC, is holding the first ever Shamash Night celebration, and they explain it this way: "It is a community celebration of helpers and helping. It takes place on the “ninth night” of Hanukkah because the shamash candle spends the entire holiday helping its neighbors in the menorah. We’ll gather to give thanks to the shamash candle, and to all the helpers in our lives."

What a beautiful idea this is! Personally, it's exactly what I needed to hear as we come to the close of the most violent Hanukkah of my lifetime, after multiple attacks on Jews in the New York and New Jersey area, and after a friend emailed me this morning with a photo of her children's elementary school outside Chicago with a swastika freshly spray painted on its bricks.

Hanukkah commemorates the Rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was reclaimed from the forces of King Antiochus in the 2nd century BCE. Let's rededicate ourselves to speaking out against anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms. And let's take the opportunity in this first Shamash Night to thank those who are in the fight with us.

I'd like to thank the Association of Jewish Libraries for its leadership in the field of Jewish libraries. I'd like to thank the American Library Association for adding the Sydney Taylor Book Awards to their prestigious Youth Media Awards event. I'd like to thank the Missing Voice Picture Book Discussion Group on Facebook and the Kidlit These Days podcast for including Jewish representation in their diversity discussions. I'd like to thank the Highlights Foundation for including Jewish writing workshops in their lineup. I'd like to thank We Need Diverse Books for starting to include Jewish representation in their diversity efforts and I invite them to step up these efforts. I hope that soon I will have a much longer thank you list. If you can think of others who need thanking, please let me know in the comments.

And thank every one of you, for being a Book of Life listener! Happy Rededication.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

World Premiere: Hanukkah with Noshy Boy & Friends

ANNOUNCING: The World Premiere of the audiobook version of Hanukkah with Noshy Boy & Friends by Anne-Marie Asner, voiced by Anne-Marie Asner and Ed Asner (yes, that Ed Asner!), on The Book of Life Podcast! Plus, we've got an interview with Anne-Marie about the story's creation!

Noshy Boy, Schmutzy Girl, Kvetchy Boy, and their other friends are characters in a series from Matzah Ball Books, which shares Yiddish vocabulary and culture with young children through humor.

For all you Yiddish-lovers out there, this is just the beginning of a mechaye for you: in January we will have an episode called A Bisl Yiddish, in which we'll hear from authors Sue Macy (The Book Rescuer), Debbie Levy (Yiddish Saves the Day ) and Valerie Estelle Frankel (Chelm for the Holidays) about their Yiddish-related stories. Watch this space!




Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473. 

Monday, December 02, 2019

A Field Guide to Jewish Kidlit

On The Book of Life, we talk a lot about Jewish kidlit. But where do you go to find Jewish children's books? In this episode, Marjorie Ingall joins me to talk about how to discover and how to access the best Jewish kidlit. Marjorie is a columnist at Tablet Magazine and is well-known for her year-end "best of Jewish kidlit" lists, and she's the author of Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children, which was featured on The Book of Life in April 2017.
Marjorie Ingall
Among other things, Marjorie and I discussed our favorite Hanukkah books, and I am pleased to announce that The Book of Life is co-sponsoring the 2019 #Readukkah Jewish Reading Challenge!

The Association of Jewish Libraries & The Book of Life / Jewish Kidlit Mavens & the Jewish Book Council present the fourth annual reading challenge for readers of all ages, #Readukkah! To participate, just post about any book of Jewish interest on the Facebook event discussion board between December 15-22, 2019—or share a link to your review anywhere online—and use the hashtag #Readukkah to connect with other readers! By sharing your #Readukkah posts, your participation in this reading challenge helps spread the word about worthwhile titles, bringing them to the attention of more readers and supporting the publication of Jewish books!



Resources mentioned in this episode, in order of appearance: 

Podcast: Kidlit These Days, Diversity-Focused Publishing episode
Blog: Jewish Books for Children (Barbara Bietz)
Blog: The Whole Megillah (Barbara Krasner)
Podcast: The Kiddush Book Club
Website: Kveller
Award: Sydney Taylor Book Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)
Award: The National Jewish Book Awards, children's book category (Jewish Book Council)
Award: Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, children's book category
Best Of Lists: Marjorie Ingall's Best Jewish Children's Books of the Year at Tablet Magazine
Reviews: Association of Jewish Libraries newsletter archive
Organization: Association of Jewish Libraries membership (get current newsletters)
Reviews: Tablet Magazine
Reviews: Jewish Book Council
Free book programs: PJ Library and PJ Our Way
Jewish publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Jewish publisher: Apples & Honey Press
Jewish publisher: Green Bean Books
Jewish publisher: Kalaniot Books
Other Jewish publishers not mentioned in the podcast, just FYI: Hachai Publishing, Menucha Publishers, Jewish Lights, Feldheim, Judaica Press, Yotzeret Publishing
Online bookseller: IndieBound
Online bookseller: "The True Cost of Amazon Revealed"
Tikkun Olam: Give blood
Non-Jewish publishers who habitually publish Jewish books: Orca, Albert Whitman, Scholastic, Holiday House, Second Story Press, Abrams, Eerdmans

Books mentioned in this episode, in order of appearance: 

It's a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories edited by Katherine Locke
All Three Stooges by Erica Perl
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins
Regina Persisted: An Untold Story by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Feivel's Flying Horses by Heidi Smith Hyde
Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov
A Concert in the Sand by Tami Shem-Tov & Rachella Sandbank
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
Signs in the Well by Shoham Smith
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
Zishe the Strong Man by Robert Rubinstein
Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything by Aly Raisman
Bobbie Rosenfeld: The Olympian Who Could Do Everything by Anne Dublin
Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King by Richard Michelson
Flying High by Julian Edelman
The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story by Lemony Snicket
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard and Tanya Simon
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel


Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473. 

Hanukkah for Kids | Multicultural Kid Blogs 

Welcome to our fifth annual Hanukkah for Kids blog hop! Be sure to visit all the participating blogs for create ways to share this special time of year with kids. Plus you can find all these and more on our Hanukkah Pinterest board! (And don't miss last year’s blog hop, 2017, 2016, and 2015!)

Participating Blogs