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A Podcast About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly)

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Trailer: Through the Window with Lee Wind

The Association of Jewish Libraries has invited diversity book bloggers, websites, and podcasts to participate in Through the Window: A Diversity Exchange. This initiative is designed to fight antisemitism and other forms of bias through education and allyship. Participating Jewish and non-Jewish websites are paired to swap guest posts. Text, audio, and video content providers are all welcome to participate.

The Book of Life, representing the Association of Jewish Libraries, has partnered with I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?, the blog of author LGBT activist Lee Wind.  The episode drops on June 14, 2020. In the meantime, learn more about Through the Window at Jewishlibraries.org/throughthewindow.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells



Gail Carson Levine is the author of more than 20 book for young readers and adult writers, including the Newbery Honor book Ella Enchanted, which was made into a major motion picture. Her new middle grade book A Ceiling Made of Eggshells is a historical novel about a Jewish family during the Spanish Inquisition, based on Gail's own family history.

During our interview, I asked Gail about her house, which she describes on her website. You can learn more about her lovely home here.

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK (Affiliate link, support the podcast and independent booksellers)

CLICK HERE TO READ THE TRANSCRIPT

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST



CREDITS:

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




Sunday, May 10, 2020

Trailer: Gail Carson Levine

The Book of Life will return to our regular in-depth interviews with our next episode, which drops on Sunday May 17, 2020. You'll hear an interview with author Gail Carson Levine about her middle grade novel, A Ceiling Made of Eggshells. To celebrate, I made this trailer on Headliner. Enjoy, and feel free to share the video!


Monday, May 04, 2020

Guest Post: The Smallest Objective

"Books in the Time of Coronavirus" Series


The Book of Life (TBOL): Sharon, please introduce yourself.

Hello, I’m Sharon Kirsch from Toronto, author of The Smallest Objective. My publisher is New Star Books in Vancouver, Canada, but the story itself takes place mostly in Montreal, home to one of Canada’s largest Jewish communities, and where I was born and raised. After delays linked to the pandemic, the e-book of The Smallest Objective has just been made available, and the print edition has been confirmed for a May 28th release. The Toronto and Montreal launches, both originally planned for May, have had to be postponed indefinitely. 

TBOL: What is The Smallest Objective about?

The Smallest Objective is a book of narrative non-fiction for adults—a hybrid of memoir and biography. At the heart of the story is my mother’s loss of memory and inevitable departure from the family home, leading me, her only child, to recover and discover objects and people little or never known to me. The title The Smallest Objective refers to the smallest lens in my grandfather’s microscope—the lens that allows for the highest degree of magnification. It alludes to how the book is a close-up look at forgotten objects and lost family, and can also be understood in a second way—as the humblest goal or aspiration.

My book introduces several personalities representing three generations of the diaspora of Lithuanian Jews. By means of these personal histories, the reader becomes acquainted with Montreal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the great waves of migration from Eastern Europe; through the Roaring Twenties to the Depression Era, a time of burgeoning anti-Semitism; and then in the postwar era, after 1945, when the large numbers of Holocaust survivors moving to Montreal reinvigorated the use of Yiddish, making the city a world center for Yiddish cultural life. By 1951, the Jewish population of Montreal ranked as the largest in the British Commonwealth outside of London, England.

Very briefly, here are the three central personalities:

Simon Kirsch, my paternal grandfather, was born in Vilkomir, Lithuania, in the late 19th century, immigrating with his family to Montreal in 1890 as a child of six. He distinguished himself academically from an early age, becoming one of the first Jewish students to earn a PhD at McGill University and one of its first Jewish faculty members, then joining for a time the U.S. Forest Service in Wisconsin as a tree expert in the same era that the ecologist Aldo Leopold was employed there. Simon also played a key role in the start-up of numerous Jewish welfare services and organizations in Montreal and the Laurentian Mountains. He left behind something more and rather special, which is revealed in the final chapter of the book.

In contrast, my great-uncle Jockey was considered the black sheep of his family. He went by the assumed name Jockey Fleming but in 1898 was born Moses Rutenberg to immigrant parents from The Pale of Settlement. Jockey was frequently described as a Runyonesque character—akin to the Broadway conmen, minor thieves, and marginal eccentrics brought to renown by the New York writer Damon Runyon. My great-uncle’s so-called “office” was the corner of Peel and St. Catherine streets in Downtown Montreal; his business was as a stand-up comic, a ticket tout for sports events, a holder of bets, and a purveyor of information in sealed envelopes. A fixture of mid-century Montreal, he counted among his admirers the hockey legend Henri Richard and the vaudeville performer Eddie Cantor.

Finally, I invite you to meet Carol Rutenberg, a young person of great promise, the child of first-generation Canadian parents. Carol, my maternal aunt, was born in 1938 and came of age in the 1950s, a period of increasing good fortune for the Jewish community in Montreal. A horsewoman and water-skier, she graduated at the top of her class in physiotherapy at McGill University, where at the time Jews were required to have better grades than others to gain admission. Daring and ambitious, Carol took full advantage of the expanding possibilities for women in the lead-up to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Tragically, she was not able to fulfill her promise, and her story serves as a reminder of the fragility of life at a moment when this is top of mind for all of us. 

TBOL: What inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired to write this book as my mother was losing her memory, and the creative process became a way of coping with and trying to assimilate that loss. The physical circumstances that directly led to The Smallest Objective were the emptying of my family home to prepare it for sale and, specifically, the search for a rumored buried treasure. After some excavations with a team of archeologists— and that’s where the comedy comes in—I went on to discover by myself all kinds of objects in the house, including my grandfather’s Jug Handle microscope and lantern slides, and the last harvest of my father’s runner bean seeds. Ultimately, then, the impetus for the book was twofold: a sequence of loss and recovery.

The writing of the book also was nourished by my rediscovery of the city where I was born and raised but which I hadn’t inhabited for several decades. In researching and writing The Smallest Objective, I felt I became once again a full-time resident of Montreal, albeit in my imagination. 

TBOL: Tell us about what would have happened at your promotional events if they had not been cancelled?

For my two book launches, I was planning a photo display of the main personalities in The Smallest Objective: my parents, my mother’s sister, Carol, my paternal grandfather, Simon, and my maternal great-uncle Jockey. For the moment, a few of these faces can be seen on my website, and I plan to share more. Of course I was looking forward, also, to offering friends and family a glass of wine as we joined together in celebration. 

TBOL: Where can readers find you?

You can find me online at my website, sharonkirsch.com. I also have a page on The Writers Union of Canada website: https://www.writersunion.ca/member/sharon-kirsch

The print book can be purchased at The Book of Life's affiliate link HERE. The e-book is available from the publisher HERE.

TBOL: Would you like to share a Tikkun Olam suggestion for healing the world?

I’d like to offer the following suggestion for a Tikkun Olam action. For those readers who are fortunate enough during the pandemic to have both health and stability, please consider taking just a few minutes to think about other species, whether the familiar cats and dogs in animal shelters, the vulnerable wild animals born into this pandemic spring, the migratory birds so susceptible to injury. I myself have volunteered for decades with a feral cat group. If you have the time and ability to volunteer safely or the capacity to donate to organizations supporting animals during the pandemic, please consider doing so. This a sector where there are never enough funds or pairs of hands to go around even in the best of times.

In closing, I’d like to wish every single one of you well in navigating this pandemic and beyond. Stay safe, and find strength and inspiration in good books. Many thanks, Heidi, for bringing us all together. 


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Coronavirus Series Changes Format

 

Our special series, Books in the Time of Coronavirus, has proven to be quite popular. Between March 26-April 29, 2020 we posted ten episodes in the series. Authors whose spring promotional events were cancelled shared their books, their inspiration, and their tikkun olam suggestions with us. We heard from authors of books for children and adults, fiction and nonfiction, poetry, short story, and memoir. 

As of May 2020, we are returning to our regularly scheduled programming of in-depth audio interviews with creators of Jewish kidlit. Any subsequent entries in the series will be published in written format on The Book of Life blog at www.bookoflifepodcast.com. If you are an author of a spring 2020 Jewish book and you would like to participate, please fill out this interview form.

You can listen to the 10 audio episodes in the Coronavirus series here:

1. No Entry by Gila Green (YA fiction)
2. Worse and Worse on Noah's Ark by Leslie Kimmelman (picture book)

3. Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail by Lesléa Newman (picture book)
4. You Are Not What We Expected by Sidura Ludwig (short stories)
5. Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes: A Tribal Language in a Global World by Jeremy Benstein (nonfiction)
6. Birthright by Erika Dreifus (poetry)
7. All the Horrors of War: A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen by Bernice Lerner (memoir)
8. Beyond the Ghetto Gates by Michelle Cameron (adult historical fiction)
9. Gluskin Family History: Strategies and Methods of Jewish Genealogy by David B. Levy (nonfiction)
10. Parenting on a Prayer: Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children by Amy Grossblatt Pessah (nonfiction)

If you'd like your own copy of any of these books, please visit The Book of Life's affiliate page at Bookshop.org to support the podcast and independent bookstores. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim Books: A Conversation

I am so pleased that my August 2019 interview with Sadaf Siddique, Sister Religion/Sister Kidlit has grown up to be an article in March/April issue of The Horn Book Magazine! It's called We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim Books: A Conversation because Sadaf and I interviewed each other, continuing the discussion we began on the podcast and recommending Jewish and Muslim titles for all readers. The Horn Book is a distinguished children's literature review journal established in 1924, so I am more than honored to have my name within its pages.


Our conversation was followed by a recommended reading list of Jewish/Muslim interfaith kidlit. I've included that list below, with Book of Life affiliate links to Indiebound or Bookshop.org if available. Any purchases you make will benefit the podcast.

Recommended Interfaith Books 
 
The following titles present interfaith Muslim-Jewish friendships. For the additional booklists discussed in this article, visit kitaabworld.wordpress.com/recommendations/ and jewishlibraries.org/love_your_neighbor

Picture Books
  • Shalom, Salaam, Peace (Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1999) by Howard I. Bogot; illus. by Norman Gorbaty 
  • Snow in Jerusalem (Whitman, 2001) by Deborah da Costa; illus. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu 
  • Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam (Kar-Ben, 2017) adapted by Fawzia Gilani-Williams; illus. by Chiara Fedele 
  • Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain (Wisdom Tales, 2014) by Jacqueline Jules; illus. by Durga Yael Bernhard 
  • Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses, and Crescents (Doubleday, 2005) by Mark Podwal 
  • A Moon for Moe and Mo (Charlesbridge, 2018) by Jane Breskin Zalben; illus. by Mehrdokht Amini
Middle Grade 
  • If You Could Be My Friend: Letters of Mervet Akram Sha’ban and Galit Fink (Orchard, 1998) edited by Litsa Boudalika; trans. by Ariane Elbaz and Beatrice Khadige 
  • Samir and Yonatan (Levine/Scholastic, 2000) by Daniella Carmi; trans. by Yael Lotan 
  • A Place at the Table (Clarion, 2020) by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan 
  • Running on Eggs (Front Street/Cricket, 1999) by Anna Levine 
  • A Ceiling Made of Eggshells (Harper/HarperCollins, 2020) by Gail Carson Levine 
  • Watch Out for Flying Kids!: How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community (Peachtree, 2015) by Cynthia Levinson 
  • Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp (Lee & Low, 2010) by Trish Marx; photos by Cindy Karp 
  • The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust (Holiday, 2009) by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix
Young Adult

Parenting on a Prayer (Books in the Time of Coronavirus)

In response to the pandemic, The Book of Life is hosting a special series, Books in the Time of Coronavirus. Authors or illustrators of new Jewish books, whose promotional events have been cancelled due to quarantine, are invited to promote their books on the podcast.

Author Amy Grossblatt Pessah discusses her guide Parenting on a Prayer: Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children.  

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE BOOK (Affiliate link, support the podcast and independent booksellers)

CLICK HERE TO READ THE TRANSCRIPT

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST


CREDITS:

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


Monday, April 27, 2020

Gluskin Family History: Strategies and Methods of Jewish Genealogy (Books in the TIme of Coronavirus)

In response to the pandemic, The Book of Life is hosting a special series, Books in the Time of Coronavirus. Authors or illustrators of new Jewish books, whose promotional events have been cancelled due to quarantine, are invited to promote their books on the podcast.

David B. Levy shares his family genealogical work Gluskin Family History, published through Lulu. This is volume 7 in his series of ten books on librarianship and Jewish  topics.  

CLICK HERE TO READ THE TRANSCRIPT

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST



CREDITS:

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