A Podcast About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly)

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Your Jewish Jokes Needed

Howdy, Book of Life Listeners!

We are planning ahead for our Purim episode, and we need your help. In the spirit of Purim, the episode will focus on humor. WE WANT YOUR JEWISH JOKES!

Some of the jokes submitted will appear on the show, and the very best jokester will receive a copy of Jewtopia, The Chosen Book for the Chosen People by Bryan Fogel & Sam Wolfson (yes, the same guys who created the hit play by the same name).

Sumbit your joke (clean jokes only, please!) by email to heidi@cbiboca.org. Even better, if your computer has a microphone you can tell us your joke out loud using MyChingo - just click on the MyChingo button on The Book of Life web page at www.jewishbooks.blogspot.com. It only allows 2 minute recordings, so be quick... or call back and tell your joke in segments if you need to.

Can't wait to hear your jokes! Happy New Year!
Heidi Estrin
Host, The Book of Life podcast

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Book of Life Celebrates One Year Anniversary

December, 2006
For immediate release



The Book of Life, a monthly podcast about Jewish books and music, celebrates a year of successful podcasting this December. The first episode of the audio program was posted in December, 2005.

This “Internet radio show” features interviews with authors and illustrators of Judaic books, and musicians who have produced Judaic recordings. “As a librarian, my purpose is to promote books and CD’s that people can borrow from libraries,” says podcast producer and host Heidi Estrin, who directs the Feldman Library at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, Florida. “I am especially excited about the wonderful Jewish books being published these days for children and teens, and that is a major focus of the show. I hope that hearing the ‘backstory’ will get readers involved!”

The Book of Life has received notice from other literary web pages, including PlanetEsme and Cynsations, two blogs by noted children’s authors and reading advocates Esme Raji Codell and Cynthia Leitich Smith, respectively. Jbooks.com, the Online Jewish Book Community, has even set up a permanent link to the podcast on their front page, under the heading “Books Amplified.” The podcast has many subscribers among librarians, publishers, and authors, and also draws educators, booksellers, and families of readers. Each episode of the program is downloaded an average of 742 times per month. Listeners come from around the globe, from places as far-flung as Australia, Finland, and even Singapore.

“Podcasting” was declared the 2005 Word of the Year by the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary, highlighting the cutting edge nature of the technology. A Pew Internet study shows that the number of people listening to podcasts has been increasing over the past year, as has the number and variety of podcasts available. “The Book of Life offers a bissele Yiddishkeit through your computer, your iPod, or even your phone,” says Estrin. “What a fun way to connect with Jewish culture!”

The Book of Life is available at http://www.jewishbooks.blogspot.com/, and can also be heard by phone at 916-313-3820.

# # #


Some of the Personalities Heard on The Book of Life:

> Simms Taback, Caldecott winning author/illustrator of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and Kibbitzers & Fools
> Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust and model for the Librarian Action Figure
> Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief
> Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie’s daughter and initiator of the Klezmatics’ CD Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah
> Eric A. Kimmel, award-winning author of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and many other folktale retellings
> Alice Hoffman, bestselling author of many adult and teen books including the new YA novel Incantation
> Steve Brodsky of the group Mah Tovu, creators of the hit single Pharoah Pharoah
> Abigail Pogrebin, daughter of Letty Cottin Pogrebin and author of Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish
> Mordicai Gerstein, Caldecott-award winning author, and illustrator of Sholom’s Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    A Joyous Hanukkah with The Book of Life


    Congratulations to Jason Gaines, winner of The Book of Life holiday book drawing! An autographed copy of Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes and Dreidels is on the way! Listen to an interview with the author in this month's podcast.


    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates the holiday of Hanukkah. We'll hear from:

    > Stephen Krensky and Greg Harlin, author and illustrator of Hanukkah at Valley Forge, a historical picture book about George Washington's encounter with a Jewish soldier

    > Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie's daughter and director of the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, about the new Klezmatics CD Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah.

    > Deborah Heiligman, author of the new nonfiction picture book Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes and Dreidels

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    A Book of Life "Addendum"


    This brief "addendum" to The Book of Life offers timely information about a new book list of Hanukkah stories for children. The Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries has created the list Great Hanukkah Books for Kids, a recommended reading-and-shopping list for families, teachers, and librarians. The list has space at the bottom of the front page for libraries or booksellers to add local information, turning the list into a promotional tool for you!

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    The Book of Life Celebrates Jewish Book Month


    Use this form to enter our drawing! and you may win an autographed copy of the nonfiction picture book, Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes, and Dreidels by Deborah Heiligman, new from National Geographic! Illustrated with beautiful multicultural photographs, the book makes a great gift or a keepsake for yourself. Tune in to The Book of Life in December to hear an interview with the author.

    You'll be asked to answer a few simple questions, including the name of your favorite Hanukkah book. Deadline for entry is Sunday, November 26, 2006 -- the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates Jewish Book Month. We'll hear from:

    > Howard Schwartz, author of Before You Were Born, winner of the 2006 Koret International Book Award

    > Carolyn Starman Hessel, Director of the Jewish Book Council, on the history of Jewish Book Month

    > Esme Raji Codell, author of the middle-grade novel Vive La Paris. Check out her website, Planet Esme, and her Book-a-Day Blog.

    > David Levithan, YA author of Wide Awake. Check out David's MySpace page.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    JBooks.com to Feature Monthly The Book of Life Podcasts

    JBooks.com, The Online Jewish Book Community, has teamed up with The Book of Life, a popular podcast about “Jewish People and the Books We Read.” This monthly audio program features interviews with Jewish authors and musicians. The podcasts are moderated by Heidi Estrin, the Library Director at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, Florida, and President of the South Florida Chapter of the Association of Jewish Libraries.

    Much of the material featured on the podcasts is for kids and teens, but adult materials are sometimes included in the mix. The program showcases Jewish books, music and occasionally a web site or a movie. Each episode lasts for approximately 15-20 minutes.

    Estrin is the past chair of the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and serves on the Book Selection Committee for the PJ Library, a project of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. She created The Book of Life in December of 2005.

    "I've been a JBooks.com reader for years, so I was thrilled that they wanted to feature The Book of Life on the site,” she says. “My goal with the podcast is to promote some of the really exciting new Jewish books and music that's out there -- especially materials for kids and teens. The field of Judaic children's literature is blossoming, and I'd love everyone to realize just how great these books really are!”

    Says JBooks.com editor Ken Gordon: “Heidi Estrin knows children’s books better than just about anyone else. We’re thrilled that she planted her terrific podcast on JBooks.com.”

    JBooks.com is the premier online destination for information about books containing Jewish interests and proudly co-sponsors the Koret International Jewish Book Awards. The Book of Life is sponsored by Congregation B’nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida and the Association of Jewish Libraries.

    To hear the podcasts, go to http://www.jewishbooks.blogspot.com/, or http://www.jbooks.com/. The audio feed is accessible at http://heidiestrin.audioblog.com/rss/the_book_of_life.xml. For more information contact Ken Gordon at kgordon@jflmedia.com or 617-581-6824.


    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    The Book of Life: Past, Present & Future


    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, explores Jewish continuity. We'll hear from:

    ~ Alice Hoffman, best-selling author, about her new teen historical novel, Incantation
    ~ Abigail Pogrebin about her new book Stars of David, in which she interviews famous American Jews on their feelings about being Jewish
    ~ Steve Singer, founder of the contemporary Jewish a capella group LISTEN UP!
    ~ Leah Larson, the 15-year-old creator of the Jewish girls' magazine Yaldah

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    The Book of Life Starts a New Chapter



    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates new beginnings.
    We'll hear from:

    Rahel Musleah, author of Apples and Pomegranates, a Family Seder for Rosh Hashanah and creator of the CD Hodu.
    * Ken Gordon, editor of
    Jbooks.com, where The Book of Life will soon be broadcast.
    Brenda Ferber, first time author and winner of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award for Julia's Kitchen.

    We also celebrate our new sponsorship from the
    Association of Jewish Libraries, which promotes Jewish reading by supporting Judaic libraries and librarians.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    The Book of Life Tells Stories, August 2006



    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates the power of storytelling.

    We'll hear from:

    * Simms Taback, author/illustrator of the beloved classic Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and the new sensation Kibitzers and Fools 
    * Karen Golden, storyteller, about her CD's Tales & Scales and Pass It On 
    * Sharon Elswit, librarian at Rodeph Sholom and author of the award-winning Jewish Story Finder
     * Gali Cooks, director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation's literacy project, The PJ Library

    Wednesday, July 05, 2006

    The Book of Life in America, July 2006


    Thanks to everyone who participated in The Book of Life survey, and mazel tov to Miriam Intrator, winner of the drawing for a gift certificate to Powell's City of Books. Although the prize has been won, YOU can still do a mitzvah by providing us with feedback! Fill out the survey now!

    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates Jewish life in America.
    In this episode, we hear from:
    * Linda Glaser and Phil Myzel, author and subject of the historical novel Bridge to America.
    * CBI Music Director Susan Shane-Linder, reviewing the CD American Jewish Summer: Songs of the Jewish Youth Camping Movement.
    * Susan Goldman Rubin, author of L'Chaim! To Jewish Life in America!
    * "Super-Librarian" Nancy Pearl, whose book recommendations are featured in her Book Lust series, on her website, her podcast, and her TV show, and who is the only librarian to have her own action figure!

    The Book of Life in the News: Shalom Today

    Cover Story: Wired for Words: Shul librarian creates Jewish book podcast
    Shalom Today, a marketing publication of the Sun-Sentinel, June 1, 2006

    The Book of Life
    Podcast Brings Jewish literature, culture to youngsters

    by Michael W. Sasser, special to Shalom Today

    Congregation B'nai Israel librarian Heidi Estrin was exploring means to expand the library's audio-visual components, and ways to market the offerings, when she began to consider a technology that was in its fledgling days.

    "I knew about podcasts, and it occurred to me that might be a terrific way to reach people with audio content," Estrin said. "The initial idea was to promote new library products, but it grew. Still, it grew out of the library itself."

    Thus was launched "The Book of Life," a show about "Jewish people and the books we read." The podcast first appeared in late 2005, and there have been new monthly editions available since.

    A podcast is an Internet-based audio program that interested parties can either download to listen to on a home computer or any MP3 player; or patrons can subscribe and have new episodes automatically downloaded.

    "It's a radio show, but one that is Internet-based," Estrin said. "Anyone can have a show if they know how, and have the equipment. There are a lot of podcasts out there, because there are opportunities for niche interests. A radio station might not want a show on Jewish books, but on the Internet, people who are interested can find it. The technology is only about a year old, so it's getting more popular."

    Estrin said she had much experience to bring to the table, both as a librarian and on the Boca Raton shul's book committee. [Correction: on the Association of Jewish Libraries' Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.]

    "I got to know a lot of people in publishing and authors, and I knew there were a lot of people on could interview," she said. "The show has become about music, but still mostly focused on books, with authors and publishers appearing on it. It's like National Public Radio, but it's aboutJewish material for kids."

    Estrin said librarians are on the front lines of public information. She recalls that 10 years ago, libraries were on the fron line of utilizing Web pages.

    "This is the next line in technology," Estrin said.

    Estrin said there was a minimal amount of new machinery that she needed in order to begin recording, editing, and making "The Book of Life" available to audiences.

    "Everything else I needed was less that $200," she said. "One could spend a ot more on higher tech, but I did not really need to."

    Armed with an idea, a small investment in a digital voice recorder for interviews and software and the support of the shul, Estrin launched "The Book of Life" in time for Hanukkah last year.

    That first episode celebrated the holiday with authors Eric Kimmel ("Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins") and Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi ("Four Sides, Eight Nights: A New Spin on Hanukkah"), as well as a musical CD review and rabbinic thoughts on the importance of reading in the Jewish tradition.

    Subsequent editions have contained similar format material and other timely material around holidays. A summer edition expected to be available soon focuses on travel, for example.

    "It's a magazine format, witha new episode each month, revolving around a different theme," Estrin said. "We talk to different authors, discuss different books and music. There are several segments in each show, and each show is about 20 minutes long."

    Estrin said the podcast has been received well.

    "People here at the congregation have been supportive, and people all over the place have found it," Estrin said. "Other librarians know about it, as well. I have seen where people have downloaded it... and they are all over the United States and Canada, as well as Israel and overseas."

    In addition to finding the Web site, Estrin said listeners are also finding the program through links from authors' Web sites.

    "It's interesting to see how other people got to it," Estrin said.

    Fort Lauderdale's Susan Milton was introduced to "The Book of Life" by a friend who heard about it, and subsequently downloaded it to share with friends. Now Milton is awaiting a new edition.

    "I think it's terrific, because there isn't anything else like it on telebision or on radio," Milton said. "I have two children, and we are all readers, but it's sometimes hard to find age-appropriate material for the kids that has strong Jewish content. I know there are books out there, but getting to them is sometimes difficult."

    Milton said "The Book of Life" helps her identify reading material for her children, but that the program itself is valuable to youngsters too.

    "Anything one can do to inspire, in children, an appreciation and enthusiasm for reading is a mitzvah," Milton said. "If adults are excited about children's Jewish literature, then children will be too. That, as much as the material in the program, is a real positive for our family."

    Lauren Wohl, a publicist with Roaring Brook Press, which has published several Jewish-themed books in the past year, said that marketing children's books is different than marketing adult books, and the programs like "The Book of Life" can help.

    "Children, up to a certain point, are protected by well-meaning, caring adults, like parents, teachers, librarians, and even booksellers," Wohl said. "They arm the gates. It's important to reach these people, the caregivers, with information; whereas with adults, you can reach them directly."

    A podcast like "The Book of Life" helps because it reaches members of library associations, who make decisions about where books appear, as well as conceivably reaching parents, teachers, rabbis and others.

    "There are not a lot of publications or programs that review children's literature," Wohl said.

    Already aired eiditons of "The Book of Life" are available on the Web site, where interested parties can also subscribe.

    To access "The Book of Life," visit www.jewishbooks.blogspot.com or call 561-241-8118 ext. 206 for more information.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    The Book of Life on Summer Reading, June 2006


    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates summer reading with an armchair trip around the world.

    ***Be sure to take the Book of Life Survey! Help us out with feedback, and be entered into a drawing for an electronic gift certificate for Powells City of Books!***

    (Must complete survey by June 30, 2006 to be entered into the drawing.)

    In this episode, we hear from:
    * Holly-Jane Rahlens in Germany, author of Prince William, Maximilian Minsky and Me
    * Abigail Yasgur, Director of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles' Summer Reading Club
    * Jacob Edgar, ethnomusicologist for Putumayo and founder of Cumbancha, about Jewish recording artists and the CD, A Jewish Odyssey
    * Pnina Moed Kass of Israel, author of Real Time
    * Sheryl Stahl, librarian at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, and host for the Association of Jewish Libraries 2006 Convention Blog

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    The Book of Life Gets Caught Reading, May 2006



    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, celebrates Get Caught Reading Month, a campaign of the Association of American Publishers. Here's who we'll catch reading:

    * Author Markus Zusak on his amazing new novel, The Book Thief
    * Dianne Hess, executive editor at Scholastic, about Jewish books she has published
    * Aley Sheer, musician and educator, on his new CD Sheer, based on Torah texts
    * Mitchell Kaplan, owner of the independent bookstore Books & Books, a founder of Miami Book Fair International, and President of the American Booksellers Association which co-sponsors the upcoming convention Book Expo America along with the Association of American Publishers
    * This month we debut our literary guessing game Jews' Clues! See if you can guess the answer!

    The Book of Life In the News

    Podcasting Connects Synagogue with CommunityBy Bryan Blessy, Journal Staff Writer
    Jewish Journal, Palm Beach South edition, April 18, 2006
    Congregation B’nai Isarel has entered the cutting edge of the digital age.
    Since December, Heidi Estrin, the librarian at Feldman Children’s Library at the congregation, has been using a new technology known as podcasting to inform people about the materials offered at the library and to showcase authors, musicians and others who promote Jewish books and music. The podcast Estrin hosts is a monthly Internet radio show called “The Book of Life,” which she describes as “mostly interviews with authors, musicians and performers.”

    The show, which generally runs 20 minutes, also features reviews of books and music with Jewish themes.

    Estrin says the show began as a way to help showcase and market library materials so that listeners would be able to borrow items from the library.

    “It was actually part of a lager project,” she says. “I wanted to build up our audio-visual, so I’ve been buying CD’s and videos … So, I decided to go with the podcast because I had just been learning about it. I thought this would be a really fun way to showcase some of the materials we have in the library.”

    Estrin records the material for the show by using a digital voice recorder to conduct the interviews. She then transfers the recording into her computer and edits it before uploading it onto the Web site. Anyone who has access to the Internet can listen to the podcast using speakers, an iPod or a CD on which to burn it.

    Estrin first approached the congregation’s head Rabbi Richard Agler with the idea of doing the podcast. Agler was happy that someone at Congregation B’nai Israel wanted to “test the waters” with the idea.

    Estrin says that the podcasts have also received an enthusiastic response from many members of the congregation as well as people in other countries, including Canada and Israel. Subjects presented on the show have given listeners a chance to learn about a variety of content that Estrin herself has enjoyed and learned from while podcasting.

    “[In] these interviews, people have such interesting things to say,” she says. “It’s been such a treat for me to have an excuse to go out and interview all these people because they’re so interesting. It’s also allowed me to find out a lot more about Jewish music. Being a librarian, my strong suit is books. I’m just starting to build a music collection [at the library] and I’m not as familiar with that. So, it’s given me a reason to find out a lot and it has been wonderful. I try to make sure, if people hear about something that they are interested in, they can go ahead and find out more about it through the Web site and through the links.”

    Estrin says each month’s show has a different theme. “I spoke with a couple of authors,” Estrin says of April’s theme. “One had a story that took place during Passover; the other was an author of a series of Bible stories. Also, in this episode there is a book report by a third-grade student [at the Barry Ira Graff School for Living Judaism] because the third-graders needed to do book reports on Jewish books. One of their options to get credit was to come to me and let me record it for the podcast.”

    Rabbi Richard Agler says the podcast has been a positive addition to Congregation B’nai Israel, helping members make connections with the community.

    “It’s a way to reach a wider group, both within the congregation and in the wider community with our message,” he says. “People can simply click on and get a message from the synagogue or the library, educationally or spiritually. It’s a great tool for us.”

    Congregation B’nai Israel is located at 2200 Yamato Road in Boca Raton. For information, call 561-241-8118. For information about the podcast call 561-241-1484 or visit www.jewishbooks.blogspot.com.

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    The Book of Life by E-mail

    Do you enjoy listening to The Book of Life podcast? I certainly hope you do!

    To make listening to this monthly show even more convenient, you can sign up to receive the actual posts as e-mail messages! Just enter your e-mail address in the box on the sidebar and click the "Subscribe" button.

    You will be directed to the webpage of MailChimp, where you will instructed to confirm your address. That's it! You will start receiving our monthly posts in your Inbox. What could be easier?

    Thanks for listening to the show!
    Heidi Estrin
    Host, The Book of Life

    The Book of Life on Passover, April 2006



    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, features many books and CD's that would make great Afikomen gifts! I'm including age recommendations to help you select the right gifts for the kids at your seder.

    In this episode, we hear from:
    * Jean Marzollo, author of Miriam and Her Brother Moses and other Bible stories [Preschool - Grade 2]
    * Shira Kline, musician, on her new CD Shirlala Pesach! (If you live in NY, you might want to go to the CD Release Party on April 2 at the Manhattan JCC - check Shira's website) [Preschool - Grade 3]
    * Anna Olswanger, author of Shlemiel Crooks [Grades 3-5]
    * Steve Brodsky of Mah Tovu, on the hit single Pharoah Pharoah, a parody of Louie Louie [ALL ages, including teens]* CBI Student Brittany Paris reviews The Yarmulke, Kippah, Coppel Book by Rifka Freidman, with a little help from Rabbi Robert Silvers [Preschool]
    * Bonus Track: Pesaschtick, a collection of family Passover songs and parodies by CBI's Cantor Stephanie Shore, Music Director Susan Shane-Linder and congregant Deborah Silver [All ages]

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    The Book of Life on Purim, March 2006


    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, features:

    * Reb Moshe Waldoks of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA, co-author of The Big Book of Jewish Humor and expert on Jewish funny business.
    * Latifah Berry Kropf, author of It's Purim Time and other Jewish holiday picture books for young children.
    * Cantor Stephanie Shore of Congregation B'nai Israel on Jewish music and Purim shpiels.

    Sunday, February 26, 2006

    The Book of Life on Heroes, February 2006



    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, features:

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

    The Book of Life on Book Awards, January 2006


    This episode of The Book of Life, a show about Jewish people and the books we read, features:

    The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented each year by the Association of Jewish Libraries to the best in Jewish children's literature.