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A monthly podcast about Jewish books, music, film and web.
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1. The Safest Lie


Reviewing too many Holocaust books has brought on "Holocaust fatigue" for me, so I don't cover them very often on The Book of Life. However, The Safest Lie intrigued me with its back story of author Angela Cerrito's meeting with Irena Sendler. Angela lives in Germany, but I Skyped with her while she was visiting the United States. The Safest Lie was named a 2016 Notable Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries' Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.


AUDIO:


Or click Mp3 File (28:13)


CREDITS:

Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
 
Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
 
Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or leave a voicemail at 561-206-2473


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2. Viva, Rose!

Susan Krawitz with her Manuscript Award
Susan Krawitz won the 2015 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award for her story Viva Rose, which will be published by Holiday House in the spring of 2017. The Manuscript Award is presented annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries to an unpublished work for ages 8-13 that has broad appeal to readers and presents Jewish life in a positive light.

As the press release explains,  "Set in El Paso, Texas in 1915, Viva, Rose tells the story of Rose Solomon’s older brother Abraham who runs off to join Pancho Villa's revolutionary group. When Rose tries to find Abraham and convince him to come home, she is kidnapped and taken to Villa's hideout. There she meets a cast of characters based on real people who traveled with Villa and the fictional, spoiled Dorotea, Villa's young charge. The feisty Rose learns to ride a horse, to stand up for herself and, along the way, discovers her brother's secret."

AUDIO:


Or click Mp3 File (18:51)


CREDITS:

Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
 
Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
 
Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.


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3. The Cybils: Jewish Titles

The CYBILS are the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. Nominations are open to the public and judges are generally members of the kidlit blogging community. They have a friendly and playful mission statement on their website:
The Cybils Awards aim to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.
This spring, I saw an announcement on the Kidlitosphere listserv inviting bloggers to contribute to the "List Fun" series on the Cybils blog, grouping Cybils-recognized titles by theme. I was happy to provide a list of ten Cybils Books of Jewish Interest, and was even happier to find that there were more then ten titles that had a Jewish connection.

Here are all the Cybils finalists and winners I could find that seemed to have a Jewish connection - please leave me a comment if I've missed any. And please follow this link for my annotated guest post on the Cybils Blog, my top ten Cybils Books of Jewish Interest! In that post, I also give credit where it's due if the titles won any additional awards besides the Cybils, as many of them have done.

JEWISH BOOKS ON THE CYBILS LIST

From my post on the Cybils Blog:
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (2012 Winner · Young Adult Fiction)
  • Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo (2014 Finalist · Elementary/Middle-Grade Graphic Novels)
  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch (2011 Finalist · Elementary/Middle-Grade Graphic Novels)
  • Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite (2013 Winner · Elementary/Middle-Grade Graphic Novels)
  • Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart (2014 Middle Grade Fiction finalist)
  • The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (2013 Finalist · Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction)
  • Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson (2015 Finalist · Young Adult Nonfiction)
  • Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers: The Life of Marc Chagall in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen (2011 Finalist · Poetry)
  • The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List by Leon Leyson (2013 Finalist · Young Adult Nonfiction, memoir)
  • Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania by Haya Leah Molnar (2010 Finalist · Non-Fiction - middle/teen [2006-2012])
  • Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott (2015 Finalist · Poetry)

Additional Cybils Titles of Jewish Interest:
  • Faith by Maya Ajmera, Magde Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon (2009 Finalist · Non-Fiction Picture Book)
  • An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin (2010 Finalist · Non-Fiction - middle/teen [2006-2012])
  • Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman (2014 Finalist · Elementary Middle Grade Non-Fiction)
  • Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013 Finalist · Middle Grade Fiction)
  • Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko (2011 Winner · Poetry)
  • Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell (2014 Finalist · Young Adult Non-Fiction)
  • The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty (2011 Finalist · Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction)
  • Feynman by Jim Ottaviani (2011 Finalist · Young Adult Graphic Novels)
  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015 Winner · Young Adult Non-Fiction)
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012 Finalist · Young Adult Fiction)


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    4. The Jewish Book Carnival: April 2016


    The Jewish Book Carnival is a monthly roundup of Jewish literary links from across the blogosphere. Each month, a different blog hosts the Carnival, and any blogger is welcome to participate by submitting links from their own blog to that month's host.

    This month, I am pleased to host the Jewish Book Carnival here at The Book of Life. In May, the Carnival will be hosted by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod on her blog, Adventures in MamaLand. We've got a great line-up of blogs for the upcoming months, but are still seeking hosts for September through November, 2016. See the Jewish Book Carnival HQ to learn how the whole thing works, and let us know if you want to participate!

    And now, this month's links...

    Batya Medad at A Jewish Grandmother says "Wonderful book!! Total inspiration!!" about Miriam's Song: The Story of Miriam Peretz by Smadar Shir.

    In March, Jill at Rhapsody in Books reviewed Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit, which she rated as superlative. It is a stunning story set during the Holocaust, but without explicitness; rather, metaphor and allusion convey much of the story.

    Deborah Kalb interviews a wide variety of authors on her blog, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb. She recently interviewed Rochelle Wisoff-Fields about her historical novels Please Say Kaddish for Me and From Silt and Ashes, which focus on members of a Jewish family who escape the pogroms of Eastern Europe and make their way to Kansas City.

    Have you been wondering what author Maggie Anton has been up to? The Fig Tree Books blog has that covered.

    From My Machberet: Having recently re-read Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge, Erika Dreifus pauses over one critic's especially insightful take on the book, and on literature written by grandchildren of Holocaust survivors more broadly.

    In God and Politics in Esther: A political parable for our time, Yoram Hazony draws political lesson from the Book of Esther, some of which are harrowingly relevant to the increasingly polarized American political landscape, and to other nations facing the politics of pessimism.

    Lorri M. Writings reviews The Coffee Trader by David Liss.

    Over on the Jewish Book Review, Rivka Levy gets to grip with a new book on the history and holiness of Hebrew, called Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, and Hebrew.

    The 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee is accepting submissions of Jewish kidlit published during 2016. Read about it on the Association of Jewish Libraries blog, People of the Books.

    And in our Passover section, author April Halprin Wayland is getting a lot of attention!

    April Halprin Wayland at Teaching Authors shares behind the scenes stories of the creation of her new picture book, More Than Enough: A Passover Story.

    At YA & Kids Books Central, Jill Ratzan highlights (chai lights) recent Passover picture books (including More Than Enough by April Halprin Wayland).

    Jama Rattigan interviews April about More Than Enough at her blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup: An Eclectic Feast of Food, Fiction, Folderol and Chewy Culinary Verse.

    Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah | The Writer's Resource for Jewish Story interviews April Halprin Wayland about her newest picture book, More Than Enough, a Passover Story.

    On the Multicultural Kid Blogs site, I (Heidi Estrin) posted a roundup of Passover Books for Kids. The site is "For families and educators raising world citizens, through arts, activities, crafts, food, language, and love." The roundup happens to include More Than Enough.

    And finally, on this blog, The Book of Life, I recorded a podcast interview with April about More Than Enough and about mindfulness and gratitude. April played Dayenu on the fiddle and I sang along!


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    5. More Than Enough


    April Halprin Wayland's new picture book is More Than Enough: A Passover Story. April won the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award for New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story. Here is my 2009 interview with her about New Year at the Pier.

    Our wide-ranging conversation touched upon so many interesting resources that I've compiled a list of links for you here. You'll understand after you listen to the podcast!



    AUDIO:


    Or click Mp3 File (40:12)


    VIDEO:

    The Yiddish Swing Sextet peform Dayenu, just because it amuses me.


    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.




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    6. Passover Books for Kids


    I wrote an article for Multicultural Kid Blogs about Passover books for kids, and you can read it here.

    I recommended books about different aspects of Passover: the Exodus, the seder, matzah, music, history, and nonfiction. I hope by sharing this info on a multicultural page, it will reach non-Jewish readers as well as those already familiar with the holiday.

    The post is part of a Passover "Blog Hop" so check out the other participating blogs too. You can also add your own Passover posts using the Add Your Link button at the bottom of the article.


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    7. The Yiddish Fish

    The Yiddish Fish is a quirky picture book by author/illustrator Santiago Cohen, based on a true story from the New York Times, "Miracle? Dream? Prank? Fish Talks, Town Buzzes."

    AUDIO:


    Or click Mp3 File (10:09)


    VIDEO:


    The entire story, read by the author.

     
    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.




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    8. #STBAblogtour16 DAY FIVE


     The "grand finale" of the 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour is a virtual panel discussion amongst the various winning authors and illustrators. As always, this roundup is hosted by Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah.


    The participants made comments about the experience like "Always inspiring to be included in a group of such accomplished, thoughtful authors and illustrators!" (Leslie Kimmelman), "It's wonderful to read all the blogs!" (Kathy Kacer), and "It has been an honor and a privilege getting to know all of you. See you in Charleston!" (Heidi Smith Hyde). We hope to see you as well, dear reader, in Charleston at the 51st Annual Association of Jewish Libraries conference where the Sydney Taylor winners will receive their awards!

    The entire blog tour may be found here.


     

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    9. #STBAblogtour16 DAY FOUR

    A little catch-up today with the Shanghai Sukkah interviews, and two new Blog Tour stops: Everybody Says Shalom and Stones on a Grave.

    Be sure to check out yesterday's interview on The Hired Girl, and get the rest of the blog tour schedule here.

    Catching up from WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016
     
    Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
    At Kristi's Book Nook
    Author & Illustrator Interviews  


    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016
     
     
    Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Talitha Shipman
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
    At Book Q&A's with Deborah Kalb
    Author Interview

       
    Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
    At Randomly Reading
    Author Interview and Book review


     

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    10. #STBAblogtour16 DAY THREE

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016




    The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
    Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
    At The Prosen People
    Author interview

    We're not sure what happened to the the interview on Shanghai Sukkah that was supposed to appear at Kristi's Book Nook today - we hope Kristi is okay and we'll bring you the interview ASAP. In the meantime, here is the Jewish Book Council's interview on The Hired Girl!

    Be sure to check out yesterday's interviews on Adam and Thomas and Hereville, and get the rest of the blog tour schedule here.


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    11. #STBAblogtour16 DAY TWO

    Two more stops on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour today, another gold medalist and another silver. Be sure to check out yesterday's interviews on Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed and Serendipity's Footsteps, and get the rest of the blog tour schedule here.  

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2016  


    Adam & Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey M. Green, illustrated by Philippe Dumas
    Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
    At Jewish Books for Kids with Barbara Bietz
    Translator Interview
       
    Hereville by Barry Deutsch
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
    At Jewish Comics
    Author-illustrator interview
     

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    12. #STBAblogtour16 DAY ONE

    Today kicks off the 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, a virtual book tour for authors and illustrators of this year's gold and silver medalists. Check back each day for new interviews, or wait until the end and read all the interviews at once! Find the entire blog tour schedule here.

    MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2016



    Ketzel the Cat Who Composed by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates
    Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
    At Ann Koffsky's Blog

    Author Interview
    Illustrator Interview



    Serendipity's Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
    At Bildungsroman
    Author Interview


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    13. Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel #ReadYourWorld


    Today, January 27, 2016, is Multicultural Children's Book Day, a celebration of diversity in kidlit. Check out multiculturalchildrensbookday.com to find diversity booklists for kids and a Linky where you can suggest resources yourself (perhaps Jewish resources). And be sure to Google #ReadYourWorld to find links to multicultural children's book reviews and reading suggestions.

    In the spirit of the Day's hashtag, #ReadYourWorld, I'm posting my interview with Laura Gehl about the picture book Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel, a story that showcases the diversity of Israel's geography and people (including anthropomorphic animals among humans), and imagines a world in which friendliness prevails.

    I met Laura at the 2015 Association of Jewish Libraries conference in Silver Spring, MD.


    AUDIO:


    Or click Mp3 File (15:46)


     
    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.


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    14. The 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

    The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be celebrating and showcasing its 2016 gold and silver medalists with a Blog Tour, February 8-12, 2016! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a wide variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. For those of you who have not yet experienced a Blog Tour, it’s basically a virtual book tour. Instead of going to a library or bookstore to see an author or illustrator speak, you go to a website on or after the advertised date to read an author’s or illustrator’s interview.

    Below is the schedule for the 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!

    MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2016

    Ketzel the Cat by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates
    Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
    At Ann Koffsky's Blog

    Serendipity's Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
    At Bildungsroman

    TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2016

    Adam & Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey M. Green, illustrated by Philippe Dumas
    Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
    At Jewish Books for Kids with Barbara Bietz

    Hereville by Barry Deutsch
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
    At Jewish Comics

    WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2016

    The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
    Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
    At The Prosen People

    Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
    At Kristi's Book Nook

    THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016

    Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Talitha Shipman
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
    At Book Q&A's with Deborah Kalb

    Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer
    Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
    At Randomly Reading

    FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016

    Blog Tour Wrap-Up with all authors and illustrators
    At The Whole Megillah

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    15. The 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Are Announced!


    Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates, author and illustrator of Ketzel, the Cat who Composed, Aharon Appelfeld, Philippe Dumas and Jeffrey M. Green, author, illustrator and translator of Adam and Thomas, and Laura Amy Schlitz, author of The Hired Girl, are the 2016 winners of the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

    The Sydney Taylor Book Award honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.  The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series.  The winners will receive their awards at the Association of Jewish Libraries Conference in Charleston, South Carolina this June.

    Newman and Bates will receive the 2016 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Reader category for Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed, published by Candlewick Press.  This delightful picture book tells the true story of musician Morris Moshe Cotel, whose cat helped him compose a one-minute composition that received an honorable mention in the Paris New Music Review competition.  The illustrations are heartwarming and add much charm to the story.  Appelfeld, Dumas and Green will receive the 2016 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Older Readers category for Adam and Thomas, published by Seven Stories Press.  This sweet story tells of two nine-year-old Jewish boys who survive the last winter of World War II, helping each other so that one grows physically stronger and braver and the other grows spiritually.  Laura Amy Schlitz will receive the 2016 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen category for The Hired Girl, published by Candlewick Press. This sensitive story tells how fourteen-year-old Catholic Joan Skraggs becomes a hired girl to a Jewish family where she learns and grows in unexpected ways.

    Five Sydney Taylor Honor Books were named for 2016.  For Younger Readers, the Honor Books are Everybody Says Shalom written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Talitha Shipman, published by Random House, and Shanghai Sukkah written by Heidi Smith Hyde and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong, published by Kar-Ben Publishing.  Hereville:  How Mirka Caught a Fish by Barry Deutsch, published by Amulet Books, is the Honor book in the Older Reader category.  For Teen Readers, the Honor books are Serendipity’s Footsteps by Suzanne Nelson, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, and Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer, published by Orca Book Publishers.

    Winners and Honor recipients will be participating in a blog tour from February 7-12, 2016. For more information about the blog please visit www.jewishlibraries.org/blog.
    In addition to the medal winners, the Award Committee designated twelve Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2016.  More information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award can be found at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org.

    Click here for the full list of 2016 winners, honor books, and notable books.
     
    For more information, contact:
    Diane Rauchwerger, Chair
    Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee
    Association of Jewish Libraries
    (408) 245-7641
    chair@sydneytaylorbookaward.org

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    16. My Grandfather's Coat

    Barbara McClintock & Jim Aylesworth

    My Grandfather's Coat won the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Award gold medal in the Younger Readers' Category, and I was thrilled to meet author Jim Aylesworth and illustrator Barbara McClintock, along with their editor, my old friend Dianne Hess, at the Association of Jewish Libraries conference in Silver Spring, MD.

    The conversation was like a meeting of the Mutual Appreciation Society, because these are three of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. I'm sure you will enjoy hearing their stories on the creation of this book, which is a new version of the folktale represented by Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Sydney Taylor silver medal, 1999) and Something From Nothing (Sydney Taylor gold medal, 1992).

    Bonus Track: You'll also hear Jim Aylesworth's delightful conference session, in which he "walked the walk" by getting librarians to stand in for students in an interactive presentation.

    The 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Awards will be announced this month - watch this space for details!

    AUDIO:


    Or click Mp3 File (41:21)

    Barbara, Dianne, and Jim

    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com

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    17. 10 Years of The Book of Life Podcast




    Ten years ago on December 21, 2005, I posted the very first episode of The Book of Life. Fourteen and a quarter minutes long, the episode is a mix of home-grown Hanukkah celebrations at Congregation B'nai Israel, the Boca Raton synagogue where I am librarian, and interviews with authors. I had summoned up the courage to approach Eric Kimmel (aka "Mr. Hanukkah"), who I'd met at the 2005 Association of Jewish Libraries conference when he won the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award, and I interviewed him over the phone (with an in-ear recorder!) about his classic Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. I also called Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi, who had been my colleague when I worked for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and had since authored Four Sides, Eight Nights: A New Spin on Hanukkah. Because it's been ten years and the downloads have had so long to accumulate, that episode has been downloaded 11,306 times and counting. You can still hear that very first episode here.

    My original idea for the podcast was that it would showcase library materials to my own community and encourage folks to come in and borrow things they'd heard about on the show. I tried to interview CBI members and staff to create a sense of community. However, I soon found that most people clam up when you put a microphone in front of them! They get shy, they don't know what to say, and they find the whole experience scary. Authors, on the other hand, are thrilled to talk about their books! It's what they love, plus it's free publicity! So the podcast soon evolved to its current Fresh Air format where I interview authors, illustrators, filmmakers, musicians, and webmasters about their Jewish creations. Hey, if my friends don't wanna talk to me, that's fine, I'll go chat with the famous people!

    The Book of Life has produced 152 podcast episodes out of the 272 Jewish news posts on the blog. A particularly memorable episode for me is my 2006 interview with Simms Taback, in which he sang in Yiddish for me. Simms was kind of rambly and he knew it, so when I edited him down to brevity he said "You saved my tuchus!" I answered, "Great! Will you draw me a picture?" And that's how I got this wonderful piece of original artwork! (Note that Simms didn't have an iPod himself, so he didn't realize the wires diverge at midpoint.)


    Every now and then I try a new format, like the time I copied A Prairie Home Companion and read greetings from listeners (inviting people to "say chai" for the 18th episode), or when I did a live call-in show to discuss what makes a book Jewish. Another time I recorded a talk by Markus Zusak (The Book Thief) at Books & Books indie bookstore in Miami and he gave me permission to podcast the recording. A recent episode that created a lot of buzz was a virtual panel discussion (accomplished by conference call), discussing the theme  "Enough with the Holocaust Books for Children."

    These days, it's easy to find interviewees: many creators email me to introduce their work in hopes of an interview. That's how I found forthcoming podcast subjects: The Last Shepherd (a crowdsourced Israeli sci-fi film) and The Yiddish Fish (a very weird picture book based on a true story). And of course the podcasts about Sydney Taylor Book Award winners just fall into my lap, because I meet those authors and illustrators each year at the Association of Jewish Libraries conference.

    If you've been enjoying The Book of Life, please do let me know. It can be lonely, podcasting, because I'm doing all the talking and listeners don't often get in touch. Drop me a line at bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment here on the blog or on Facebook or Twitter to tell me your favorite episodes, make suggestions, or share my delight at reaching the ten year mark! Happy reading and happy podcast listening!

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    18. The Mitten String

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    This post is a double dip! It’s my contribution to the Multicultural Kid Blogs Hanukkah series (see the whole series here) AND it’s my entry in #Readukkah, the 2015 Jewish Reading Challenge, which encourages everyone to spread the word about great Jewish titles in order to increase readership and support Jewish publishing.

    Last year I wrote a review of The Mitten String for School Library Journal, which you can see below. I continue to adore this book, and when I thought about what I could use for my #Readukkah selection, this title jumped to mind as an ongoing favorite. 


    I love the sense of community that shines forth from the very first line: “It was said that Ruthie Tober’s family warmed the hands of the entire village, because everyone who lived there, big and small, wore mittens knitted from Tober wool.”

    I love the spare writing that makes relationships clear so simply: the ease between Mother and Ruthie shows in the wink Mother gives when she reminds Ruthie about her lost mittens.

    I love the respectful description of deafness, the fact that Bayla has knowledge to offer as well as a need for help, and the sign language diagrams at the back along with the notation that “Users of sign language actually prefer gloves to mittens, as they employ their fingers to spell words and to sign.” That seems obvious once you read it, but a hearing person may not think about this in a mitten-focused story.

    I love, as always, the illustrations by Kristina Swarner. Although Kristina is not Jewish, I consider her a landsman. Her gorgeous work has graced incredible Jewish picture books, from the Sydney Taylor Book Award winner The Bedtime Shema by Sarah Gershman to the heartbreaking Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin, a Sydney Taylor Silver.  Gathering Sparks by Howard Schwartz won a Sydney Taylor Silver and his Before You Were Born was named a Notable Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries, because Schwartz and Swarner are such a winning combination. Her work is universal and sweeping, while feeling tender and personal at the same time.

    If you haven’t read The Mitten String, do yourself a favor and seek it out. Here’s my original review from SLJ. Happy #Readukkah!

    From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, August 2014
    K-Gr 3—The Tobers raise sheep, and young Ruthie loves to knit mittens from their wool for the villagers. When her family befriends a deaf woman whose wagon has broken down and her baby, the child observes how the mother, Bayla, sleeps with a string tied between her own wrist and Aaron's, to alert her if her son wakes up in the night. Inspired, Ruthie knits the pair a set of baby- and mother-sized mittens connected by a string and goes on to make more for the local children to keep them from losing their mittens. "You are both clever and kind," her mother praises. "You make our world a bit better with every stitch." The character of Bayla is based on the author's great-great-aunt; Rosner also has two deaf daughters. It is not surprising, therefore, that her portrayal of deafness is extremely respectful and sensitive. When Bayla uses sign language with Aaron, "To Ruthie, it looked as if Bayla were standing before an invisible spinning wheel, her words flowing from her fingers like delicate strands of yarn." Swarner's rounded and gentle watercolor prints add to the safe, warm feeling of this story of resourcefulness and mutual admiration. The "old country" Jewish setting is subtle, giving the story flavor without dominating it. Knitting and sign-language glossaries round out this attractive title. This beautiful story of kindness, acceptance, and resourcefulness will have wide appeal.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

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    19. #Diversiverse Challenge


    I am participating in the #Diversiverse Challenge, in which you have to:
    • Read and review one book
    • Written by a person of color
    • During the first two weeks of October (October 4th-17th, 2015)


    I wanted to include a Jewishly diverse angle, so I selected My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (Amulet/Abrams, 2013). The author and the protagonist have a mixture of European Jewish and East Indian heritage. The novel is aimed at 10-14 year olds.

    I found this to be a delightful book. Twelve-year-old Tara Feinstein forges her identity as a Jew with strong pride in both the Jewish and Indian sides of her family. She struggles and grows as her relationships with best friends and boys change and develop, she expresses her individuality while respecting her family relationships, and she takes her Bat Mitzvah lessons seriously. Despite all the important learning going on, the tone remains light and upbeat, a fun read. Characters are well-developed and likable. Comparisons with Are You There, God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume (1970) are inevitable, as a mixed-heritage girl contemplates her religious identity, but Tara seems to have a pleasing confidence that Margaret lacks. As a bonus, the paperback edition (2015) has recipes included at the back for Jewish traditional dishes with an Indian twist

    For those who enjoyed the Indian/Jewish mix of Mira in the Present Tense, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, or the cultural tensions of the film Bend It Like Beckham, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah will be very welcome. For an interesting comparison of Basmati and Mira, check out Matzo Masala in The New York Times, Nov. 2013.

    Check out other entries in the #Diversiverse Challenge here!

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    20. AJL Reads! A Virtual Jewish Book Discussion





    Please join the Association of Jewish Libraries for a book discussion about the adventurous Jewish historical novel THE WAYWARD MOON by Janice Weizman on Sunday, October 18, 2015at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific Time via call-in show. We'll discuss the book by phone, and record the discussion for those who miss it.

    Call (724) 444-7444 and enter the Call ID 139461to participate! The discussion will last approximately one hour.

    This is Association of Jewish Libraries' first experiment with a virtual book discussion event. Please spread the word and please join us on Sunday to make it a success! Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book yet – the discussion will be a good introduction that will make you eager to read it afterwards.

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    21. #Readukkah: A Challenge & A Giveaway



    The Association of Jewish Libraries kicks off its first reading challenge with #Readukkah during Hanukkah, December 6-14, 2015. 

    It's easy! Anyone can participate, including kids. All you have to do is: 
    • Read one Jewish book 
    • Review it online (include hashtag #Readukkah) 
    • During Hanukkah, December 6-14, 2015 
    You pick the book - any reading level, fiction or nonfiction, Jewish in any way you choose to define it. 

    Review your book anywhere online: on a blog, GoodReads, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, or even on AJL's listserv, Hasafran. Use the hashtag #Readukkah somewhere in your review to help readers find you! 

    By sharing your #Readukkah reviews of Jewish books, you will help spread the word about worthwhile titles, bringing them to the attention of more readers, increasing the market and supporting the publishing of Jewish books! 

    GIVEAWAY

    Sign up to participate in #Readukkah! All participants will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of FIREBRAND by Aaron Barnhart (Quindaro Press, 2015), YA historical fiction about August Bondi, a Jewish freedom fighter in the Civil War.



    After John Brown, the most interesting man in Bleeding Kansas had to be August Bondi, the subject of Aaron Barnhart's exciting new novelized biography, Firebrand. At age 14, young August is an ordinary kid growing up in Vienna's Jewish quarter when the revolutions of 1848 break out. His friends are killed, and August goes to the front lines to fight. At age 15, his parents move to America, and August sees slavery for the first time. His anger leads him to Kansas and the fight for freedom. Adapted from the 1958 book by beloved author Lloyd Alexander, Firebrand reimagines Bondi's story as a coming-of-age tale. How did it feel to be caught up in a freedom struggle so young? And when given a chance to live the good life in America, why did August return to the fight? “Involving from start to finish,” says Midwest Book Review. “Likable” and “historically rigorous,” adds Kirkus Reviews

    For each 12 sign-ups up to 36 (double chai), another giveaway copy will be added for a total of three chances to win! Winners will be selected during Thanksgiving weekend, to give you time to read and review Firebrand as your #Readukkah title if you wish.

    SIGN UP

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    22. Last of the Red Hot Mamas: The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

    Sue & Lloyd Ecker with a picture of Sophie Tucker

    Sue and Lloyd Ecker are fascinated with entertainer Sophie Tucker, "the last of the red hot mamas." This larger-than-life Jewish woman was a major figure in 20th century Vaudeville and Hollywood. The Eckers have created a documentary film and begun a series of "fictional memoirs" about Sophie. I interviewed them when the film The Outrageous Sophie Tucker premiered in South Florida.

    See SophieTucker.com to buy the film, the book, and to find supplemental video and audio by and about Sophie.

    AUDIO:


    Or click Mp3 File (23:08)


    MOVIE TRAILER:


    Or rent or purchase the full movie on YouTube



    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.



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    23. Pick a Card, Any Card

    Rabbi Goldie Milgrim with Mitzvah Cards


    #Readukkah is coming, and this podcast begins with an invitation to join this fun Jewish reading challenge, before we hear a fascinating interview.

    Rabbi Goldie Milgrim founded and directs the 501C3 Reclaiming Judaism and Reclaiming Judaism Press and is Dean of the Maggid-Educator Ordination Program and Bar/Bat Mitzvah [R]evolution at Bmitzvah.org.

    I met her at the 2015 Association of Jewish Libraries conference, where she told me about Mitzvah Cards and other great books and projects of Reclaiming Judaism.


    AUDIO:
     

    Or click Mp3 File (14:05)
     
    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.


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    24. Enough with the Holocaust Books for Children!


    It all started with Marjorie Ingall’s Tablet article, Enough with the Holocaust Books for Children. As she says in the article, "if you dropped an alien into the children’s section of a library, it would think Jews disappeared after World War II.” Then Arthur A. Levine shared Marjorie’s article on Facebook, commenting that “this smart article says many things that I’ve been saying for a while.” Twenty comments later, Elissa Gershowitz and Yael Levy had thoroughly discussed the difficulties and triumphs of getting NON-Holocaust books for kids published, and Barbara Bietz and I (blogger and podcaster, respectively) had started wondering aloud how we could bring more attention to these issues. Thus, this podcast episode was born.

    AUDIO:


    Or click Mp3 File (63:19)



    BOOK LIST of mostly non-Holocaust great Jewish kidlit
    (titles mentioned during the podcast or submitted later by panelists)


    I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin
    An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin
    My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth
    Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
    Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Francis Brambles
    Samir and Yonaton by Daniella Carmi
    Hush by Eishes Chayil
    Deadly by Julie Chibarro
    Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier and Greg Salsedo
    Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, How Mirka Met a Meteorite, How Mirka Caught a Fish by Barry Deutsch
    The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
    Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle
    The Importance of Wings by Robin Friedman 
    Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser
    The Path of Names by Ari Goelman
    The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz
    The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
    The Rabbi and the 29 Witches by Marilyn Hirsh
    Feivel’s Flying Horses by Heidi Smith Hyde
    Never Say a Mean Word Again by Jacqueline Jules
    Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric A. Kimmel
    Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too) by Leslie Kimmelman
    About the B’nai Bagels by E.L. Konigsburg
    Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull
    all books by Anna Levine
    The Very Beary Tooth Fairy by Arthur A. Levine
    Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy
    Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman
    Proxy by Alex London
    Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel
    Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
    The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough
    The Doll Shop Upstairs by Yona Zeldis McDonough
    Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons by Alice B. McGinty
    As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson
    Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson
    Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
    Wonder by RJ Palacio
    When Life Gives You OJ by Erica Perl
    Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov
    Beautiful Yetta, the Yiddish Chicken by Daniel Pinkwater
    Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins
    Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff
    Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin
    Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen
    Looking for Me by Betsy Rosenthal
    The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner
    Gathering Sparks by Howard Schwartz
    Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
    Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin
    Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
    Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick
    Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind and Haveli by Suzanne Fisher Staples
    Kindred by Tammar Stein (series)
    All of a Kind Family (series) by Sydney Taylor
    New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland
    I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz
    Company’s Coming by Arthur Yorinks
    A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti
     


    CREDITS:

    Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
    Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
    Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
    Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
    Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
     
    Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
     
    Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.


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    25. Hanukkah Books: A Diverse Dozen



    I was very pleased when Multicultural Kid Blogs invited me to write a guest post about Hanukkah. MKB is a collective of blogs from around the world "for families and educators raising world citizens, through arts, activities, crafts, food, language, and love." 

    Because the post was for a general audience, I started with a roundup of facts about Hanukkah. Because of the diversity emphasis of MKB, I focused my reading list on books that show the diversity of the Jewish experience by posting about Hanukkah books with Sephardic characters, Jews of color, Jews with disabilities, and interfaith families. 


    Enjoy!

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