"People of the Books" Blog

Bibliography and Reference Awards Announced

I am pleased to announce the Judaica Reference and Bibliography Awards for 2010, given yearly by the Research Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections Division of AJL.

 In the reference category, we award the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, published by Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Led by Dr. Geoffrey Megargee from the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the complete 7-volume encyclopedia will give readers access, in English, to unpublished archival materials and information published in many other languages around the world. Volume one, published in two parts (1,659 pages, 192 photographs and 23 maps), gives details on over 1,000 early camps, youth camps, and concentration camps and sub-camps set up by the Nazis, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen. The six additional volumes planned in this international project will be published by 2018. More information on this outstanding resource for holocaust research may be found athttp://www.ushmm.org/research/center/encyclopedia/.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Megargee, the Advisory Committee and all contributors of this fine scholarly work, as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Indiana University Press, for winning the prestigious 2010 Judaica Reference Award!

In the bibliography category, we give a Body-of-Work Award to Yossi Galron, Head of the Hebraica and Jewish Studies Library at The Ohio State University Libraries, in recognition of his life-long contributions to the field of Hebrew bibliography. Mr. Galron has been active in this field since the 1980s, with published print bibliographies for the writings of prominent figures in the history of Modern Hebrew literature, including Yisrael Yeshayahu (1984), Dov Sadan (1986), Yeshayahu Avrekh (1988), Nurit Govrin (2005), Dan Miron (2007), and Natan Rotenshtraikh (2010). In 2004, he established the Modern Hebrew Literature - a Bio-Bibliographical Lexicon, an online database of 2,000 entries succeeding Getzel Kressel’s magnum opus, Cyclopedia of Modern Hebrew Literature (1965-1967). Unlike Kressel’s vital but dated two volumes, this Hebrew database is updated daily with new entries and citations of secondary sources, many of them linked to reviews in Israeli dailies. This invaluable one-person project, freely available on the Internet, is heavily used by librarians, researches and the general public.

Please join me in congratulating Yossi, a cherished AJL member, for winning the prestigious 2010 Judaica Bibliography Award!

I would like to thank the committee members for their hard work: James Rosenbloom, Daniel Rettberg, Michlean Amir, Rachel Simon, Rachel Ariel, and Philip Miller.

Rachel Leket-Mor

Chair of Judaica Reference and Bibliography Awards Committee

The Research Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections Division

Children's Books About Passover from the Jewish ValuesFinder

Titles reviewed in AJL's Jewish ValuesFinder, selected by editor Linda Silver.

RECENT TITLES

Balsley, Tilda. LET MY PEOPLE GO! Illus. by Ilene Richard. Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2008. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8225-7241-1. Preschool, PrimaryColorful, cartoon-like pictures and a humorous rhyming text tell the story of Passover and the Ten Plagues through the use of five roles: the Narrator, Moses, Pharaoh, the Egyptians and the Chorus. Each role is printed in a different color, so the story could be acted out as Readers Theater at Seders, and could also be used in classroom or library presentations. 

Cohen, Deborah Bodin. NACHSHON, WHO WAS AFRAID TO SWIM: A PASSOVER STORY. Illus. by Jago. Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2009. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8225-8764-4. Preschool, PrimaryYoung Nachshon is known among his fellow Hebrew slaves as brave about everything except water. When Moses confronts Pharaoh and then leads the Jews out of Egypt, Nachshon overcomes his fear of water and is the first to walk into the Red Sea. This story about courage is illustrated handsomely in rich, glowing colors and with angular shapes that evoke a desert setting.

Fireside, Bryna J. PRIVATE JOEL AND THE SEWELL MOUNTAIN SEDER. Illus. by Shawn Costello. Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2008. 48 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8225-7240-4. Primary, ElementaryBryna Fireside has transformed a true account of a Seder held by Union soldiers during the Civil War into an easy-reading and appealing story in which three former slaves who are also soldiers in the Ohio 23rd join the twenty-one Jewish soldiers and their commander, William S. Rosecrans, in preparing for and then celebrating their Seder. As the preparations ensue and the Seder begins, Passover's blessings, symbols, and meaning are extended to include the experiences of the African-American soldiers and their hope for freedom. Attractive, heavily-textured, full-color paintings adorn the story, written in a light, lively style and divided into short chapters.

Kimmelman, Leslie . THE LITTLE RED HEN AND THE PASSOVER MATZAH. Illus. by Paul Meisel. Holiday House, 2010. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8234-1952-4. Preschool, PrimaryThis Yiddish-inflected Passover version of the Little Red Hen nursery tale couldn't be more fun! Those no-goodniks sheep, horse, and dog don't have a moment to spare for their friend, Little Red Hen, as she goes about first growing the wheat, then grinding it, and then baking it into matzah for her Seder. When all three have the chutzpah to show up for the Seder, she remembers the words in the Haggadah: "Let all who are hungry come and eat," and invites them in. And when it's time for clean-up afterwards, guess who says, "Not I" this time. The combination of a rollicking story, bouncy illustrations, and the take-off on a tale most children have likely heard before make this a winner! Instructions for preparing and baking matzah are given.

Portnoy, Mindy Avra. TALE OF TWO SEDERS, A. Illus. by Valeria Cis. Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2010. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8225-9917-3. Preschool, PrimaryA little girl describes the two Seders she goes to each year after her parents have divorced. While expressing both wistfulness and her wish for her parents to get back together, the story's positive perspective is strong. At each Seder, she comments on the charoset and at the conclusion, her mother compares families to charoset - some sweeter than others, some stickier, but each tasty in its own way. Four charoset recipes follow the story, which is colorfully illustrated.

Weber, Elka. THE YANKEE AT THE SEDER. Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. 
Tricycle Press, 2009. 40 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58246-256-1. Primary, ElementaryThe Civil War has just ended and Corporal Levy of the Union Army finds a Jewish family in Richmond, Virginia who invite him to their Seder. Having a Yankee at the Seder is shocking to the family's young son but the traditional injunction "Let all who are hungry come and eat" trumps political differences. Written with touches of humor and warmly illustrated, the story is rich in Jewish values such as peoplehood and hospitality. Like Krensky's Hanukkah at Valley Forge, it is based on "hearsay" history which may or may not have actually happened.

Ziefert, Harriet. PASSOVER: CELEBRATING NOW, REMEMBERING THEN. Illus. by Karla Gudeon. Blue Apple, 2010. 36 pages. ISBN: 978-1-60905-020-7. Preschool, PrimarySuperlative in conception, design, and content, this Passover book captures both the meaning and the observance of the holiday in the present (now) and at the time of its origins (then). The text is direct and sparse, the folk-art illustrations are expansive and captivating, many spread across fold-out pages that very creatively link Passover's contemporary and historical aspects. As a modern family prepares for Passover and then celebrates it at their Seder, each element of the Seder is connected to the Passover narrative at a level of written and visual clarity that is perfect for children of many ages, especially younger ones. 

AND DON'T FORGET...

Cohen, Barbara. THE CARP IN THE BATHTUB. Illus. by Joan Halpern. Kar-Ben Copies, 1987. 48 pages. ISBN: 0930494679. Primary, ElementaryConsider this a classic for Jewish children. It is timeless in its appeal and still popular with both children and adults. The plot, the writing style, and the evocation of an earlier time when gefilte fish were made and not bought are all heartwarming. So, too, are the illustrations which capture not just the two children's well-meant attempts to keep a carp that they name Joe, after a deceased neighbor, from the cooking pot but also the characters' love and respect for one another. Set shortly before Passover during the Depression, this highlights one food custom but does not explain the holiday.

Cohen, Barbara. MAKE A WISH, MOLLY. Illus. by Jones, Jan N. Jones. Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1995. ISBN: 0440410584. PrimaryA sequel to Molly's Pilgrim, this shows Molly learning to reconcile Jewish and American traditions when a classmate's birthday party occurs during Passover. Once again, Molly's resourceful mother comes to the rescue. As in the earlier book, this is a sensitive portrayal of children's relationships with classmates.

Goetz, Bracha . WHAT DO YOU SEE ON PESACH? Judaica Press, 2007. 16 pages. ISBN: 978-1-932443-64-6. PreschoolPhotos of toddlers are matched with a concept related to Passover and with some additional photos of the objects associated with the concept. For example, the first double-page spread says: "Pesach is here. What do you see? A house so clean! How can that be?" The child is dressed in denim work clothes and objects used to clean the house are shown opposite her: a vacuum cleaner, sponge, broom, paper towels, pail, and mop. The book's other concepts are food, the Seder table, drinks, clothes, the Haggadah, and the hidden afikomen. The children adorning each one are too adorable for words alone to do justice. Virtually all of the very simple text is in English except for the words kosos (cups), kos shel Eliyahu (Elijah's cup), Seder, Hagaddah, and afikomen. However, because there is no glossary to explain these terms, this board book may have limited use. The photographs, in color, are bright, clear, and labeled. 

Hanft, Josh . THE MIRACLES OF PASSOVER. Illus. by Seymour Chwast. Blue Apple/Chronicle, 2007. 28 pages. ISBN: 10: 1-59354-600-9; 13: 978-1-59354-600-7. PrimaryA cogent text, lively illustrations, and flaps to lift are the three notable features of this third book on which Hanft and Chwast have collaborated. It tells the story of the Exodus, contrasting the dignified figure of Moses with the rather effete one of Pharaoh, and concludes with scenes of two Seders, one from times past and one of today, complete with a Seder plate whose foods are discovered by lifting flaps. Chwast's illustrations are deceptively simple because they convey so much meaning so economically. The colors are muted but the palette is varied so that there is much to look at on every page. As in The Miracles of Hanukkah, the text follows the Bible without fictional details being added. 

Heiligman, Deborah. CELEBRATE PASSOVER WITH MATZAH, MAROR, AND MEMORIES. National Geographic, 2007. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4263-0018-9. Primary, ElementaryAnother excellent book in the Holidays Around the World series, this is by the same author as Celebrate Hanukkah with Lights, Latkes, and Dreidels and follows the same format. Engaging color photos of Jews observing Passover in different parts of the world accompany a concise text that conveys the meaning and history of the holiday, its customs, and the observance of the Seder. Appended is more information about Passover, a recipe, and some recommended books and websites. Rabbi Shira Stern's discussion of Passover concludes the book.

Kimmel, Eric A. WONDERS AND MIRACLES: A PASSOVER COMPANION. Scholastic, 2004. 136 pages. ISBN: 0439071755. Primary, Elementary, Middle-School, High-School, AdultThe traditional order of the Seder is the organizing principle of this superbly written and illustrated anthology. The lucid narrative blends history, tradition, modern practices, and Passover's timeless meaning. It is extended by a fascinating selection of poetry, stories, and song lyrics, including a K'tonton tale and another about a protest rally on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The illustrations and book design are outstanding and draw from centuries of Haggadot, manuscripts, ritual objects, sculpture and paintings. A distinguished book for a wide range of interests and ages. Winner of a National Jewish Book Award.

Lehman-Wilzig, Tami . PASSOVER AROUND THE WORLD. Illus. by Elizabeth Wolf. Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2007. 48 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58013-213-8. Primary, ElementaryPassover customs of Jews from different parts of the world are introduced to children in this brightly illustrated, well-designed book. Gibraltar, Turkey, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Iran, Morocco, and the United States are the countries whose customs are used to show each step of the Seder unfolding. A map and brief historical information about each place is also provided, along with recipes. Whereas Heiligman's book Celebrate Passover with Maror, Matzah, and Memories focused on the meaning and rituals of Passover, this book focuses on national customs. There are few books for children about Jewish customs and practices in places other than Anglophone countries so this is welcome.

Olswanger, Anna. SHLEMIEL CROOKS. Illus. by Paula Goodman Koz. JuneBug/New South Books, 2005. 32 pages. ISBN: 158838165X. Primary, Elementary This off-beat and funny story, set in St. Louis in the early 1900's, is based on the author's grandfather. It involves the attempted robbery of Reb Olschwanger's saloon by two shlemiel crooks who are instigated by the ghost of Pharaoh and foiled by a talking horse and a neighborhood "shtuss." Flavored heavily with a Yiddish inflected narration and illustrated with earthy, heavily outlined linocuts, this gem of a story requires considerable practice before reading aloud. And it’s worth the effort.

Rouss, Sylvia . SAMMY SPIDER'S FIRST HAGGADAH. Illus. by Katherine Janus Kahn. Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2007. 32 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58013-230-5. Preschool, PrimaryBeginning with a brief overview of Passover, the remainder of the book follows the traditional Passover Haggadah in abbreviated form. It is written in style that young children will understand and enhanced by clever songs that are adapted from familiar ones like "Old Macdonald Had a Farm." The illustrations are slightly less abstract than in the other Sammy Spider books and Sammy himself appears only peripherally.

Rush, Barbara and Cherie Karo Schwartz. The KIDS' CATALOG OF PASSOVER: A WORLDWIDE CELEBRATION OF STORIES, SONGS, CUSTOMS, CRAFTS, FOOD, AND FUN. Jewish Publication Society, 2000. 244 pages. ISBN: 0827606877. Primary, Elementary, Middle-SchoolOrganized in relation to the Seder, this is filled with information, stories, crafts, games, recipes and songs. A drab, black and white format is offset by lively, informal writing, photographs of Jewish children, and a haimish attitude on the authors' part.

Shulman, Lisa. THE MATZO BALL BOY. Illus. by Rosanne Litzinger. Dutton, 2005. 32 pages. ISBN: 0525471693. PrimaryIn another take-off on the Gingerbread Boy, the matzo ball boy careens through the village, evading the bubbe who created him, the yenta, the rabbi, and a sly fox with a "voice as smooth as schmaltz," but not a poor man and his wife who invite him to their Seder, where he winds up in the soup! The illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger, who also illustrated the Sydney Taylor Award winning picture book, Chicken Soup By Heart, are rich and delicious - but, they don't quite match the text in their depiction of the matzo ball boy. The use of Yiddish is a little contrived, as well. On the other hand, a group of K - Gr. 2 children to whom the story was read found it hilarious!

Shulman, Lisa. THE MATZO BALL BOY. Illus. by Rosanne Litzinger. Dutton, 2005. 32 pages. ISBN: 0525471693. PrimaryIn another take-off on the Gingerbread Boy, the matzo ball boy careens through the village, evading the bubbe who created him, the yenta, the rabbi, and a sly fox with a "voice as smooth as schmaltz," but not a poor man and his wife who invite him to their Seder, where he winds up in the soup! The illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger, who also illustrated the Sydney Taylor Award winning picture book, Chicken Soup By Heart, are rich and delicious - but, they don't quite match the text in their depiction of the matzo ball boy. The use of Yiddish is a little contrived, as well. On the other hand, a group of K - Gr. 2 children to whom the story was read found it hilarious!

For more Passover titles, visit the Valuesfinder at www.ajljewishvalues.org.

AJL Affiliates with ALA

For immediate release
For more info contact Heidi Estrin
pr@jewishlibraries.org


ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES ANNOUNCES AFFILIATION WITH AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION

The Association of Jewish Libraries has become an affiliate of the American Library Association as of January, 2010. Among ALA's twenty-eight affiliate organizations, there are a number that, like AJL, represent religious or ethnic library services, including the American Indian Library Association, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, the Catholic Library Association, the Black Caucus of ALA, and the Chinese American Librarians Association.

AJL was welcomed into the fold with a warm “Congratulations!” by ALA’s Alicia Bastl, liaison for affiliates. "AJL's mission is to support Judaic libraries and promote Jewish literacy. ALA wants to do the same for American libraries. Our goals overlap and reinforce each other. We hope that this new affiliation will help AJL grow and strengthen even as it helps ALA diversify,” said Susan Dubin, AJL President. “This is a great opportunity for us to educate the library world about AJL and its many activities."

Affiliates enjoy representation at ALA conferences and in ALA print and online publications. Benefits of membership began immediately for AJL, when the winners of its 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award were announced on the ALA website alongside their other children's literary prizes such as the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

The Association of Jewish Libraries, established in 1966, has over 1,000 members worldwide. AJL promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. Visit the AJL website at www.jewishlibraries.org, and visithttp://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/affiliates/affiliates/AJL.cfm to see AJL’s presence on ALA’s website.

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Blog Tour, Day 5

On our final day of the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, we wrap up with two great interviews.

A Faraway Island is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers category. Read an interview with author Annika Thor at The Little Book Room with blogger Nancy Silverrod (NOT at Nancy's Teen Reads blog, which was originally listed on the schedule - apologies for the error!).

Here's a teaser:

Nancy: Of the many stories you could have written about the Swedish rescue of Jews during the war, what inspired you to write this particular story?

Annika: Quite a few of the Jews who were rescued from the concentration camps have written down their own memories, in the form of autobiographies or fictional stories. I feel that these stories should be told by the people who experienced them, because they are beyond the imagination of us who did not. In contrast, very little had been written by or about the children who came with the Kindertransport before the war until I started to work on this theme (a doctoral theses on the subject was published in the same year as my first book, 1996), and I felt that the experiences that they went through are in a sense more universal and more suitable to interpret for someone with a different background.

Read more...


The JPS Illustrated Bible for Children is a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for All Ages. Read an interview with author Ellen Frankel at Deo Writer with blogger Jone MacCulloch.

Here's a teaser:

Jone: How did you select which stories to include? (I’m glad you included one of my favorites, “Jonah and the Whale”!) Is there a story you didn’t include and now wish it was in the book?

Ellen: It was hard to limit which stories to include in the volume, but I knew that this couldn’t be a fat book. Children’s hands had to be able to carry it and balance it on their laps. I also understood that there is much in the Hebrew Bible that is not narrative: poetry, prophecy, songs, psalms, genealogies, legal material, ritual and priestly material, wisdom literature, and folklore. I left all that out. And I did leave out some stories as being too violent, sexually explicit, complicated, or not especially dramatic. Although I think that the decision to leave out “The Rape of Dinah,” “Judah and Tamar,” and “Jephthah’s Daughter” was the right one, I wonder whether we underestimate our children’s ability to deal with such brutal realities. After all, they see and read about rapes, sexual intrigues, and domestic violence every day on television, the internet, and the news.

Read more...


Thanks so much to all the bloggers, authors, and illustrators who participated in the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour! Keep an eye on the AJL blog People of the Books, the AJL Facebook page, or the AJL Twitter feed for announcements about more Jewish literary awards. And keep an eye on the Jewish Books for Children blog hosted by Sydney Taylor Book Award committee chair Barbara Bietz, where other Sydney Taylor related authors may be interviewed in the future.

Blog Tour, Day 4

Benjamin and the Silver Goblet is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers category. Read an interview with author Jacqueline Jules at ASHarmony with blogger Elizabeth Lipp.

Here's a teaser:

Elizabeth: What challenges do you face as a writer? Meaning: what are those things that stand in your way when you have a particular idea you want to get across?

Jacqueline: It can often take a very long time to get a story or an idea right. I often think of my first drafts as caterpillars, crawling creatures hungrily nibbling on leaves. Sometimes those first drafts need to spend months or years in the cocoon stage until they emerge as wet butterflies, ready to learn how to fly. Every time I re-write a story or a poem, I am more pleased with it. I enjoy the process of rearranging words to tell the same story in a better way. However, it can also be discouraging to re-write something for years and years, hoping that this time it will connect with an editor and have the opportunity to find readers.

Read more...


The illustrator for Benjamin and the Silver Goblet is Natascia Ugliano. You can read a profile of this artist, and an interview about Natascia's work with Joanna Sussman of Kar-Ben Publishing on The Book of Life with blogger Heidi Estrin.

Here's a teaser:

Heidi: Can you reveal any behind-the-scenes secrets about Natascia's art?

Joanna: We’re just completing work on the most recent title in this Bible series Miriam in the Desert,(coming Fall 2010) the story of Miriam’s leading the people through the wilderness and the introduction of the boy Bezalel, who becomes the artist who crafts the Holy Ark. The tricky part in working with the art for this story was deciding how the Ark should look because, of course, nobody knows what the original Ark of the Covenant looked like – was it plain or elaborate? Did it look like the one in the Indiana Jones movie? How big was it in proportion to the people? Both we and Natascia did a fair amount of research and we went back and forth on several designs before deciding on one that we thought would work.

Read more...


Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers category. Read an interview with author Deborah Bodin Cohen at Ima on (and off) the Bima: Real-Life Jewish Parenting with blogger Phyllis Sommer. This blog is also sponsoring a giveaway! Win a copy of the book by leaving a comment before February 7!

Here's a teaser:

Phyllis: What inspired you to write Nachshon's story?

Deborah: The Midrash of Nachshon – the first Israelite to have faith to walk into the Red Sea – has always spoken to me. Because of the Nachshon’s courage, God splits the Red Sea and the Israelites walk to freedom. The Torah mentions Nachshon ben Aminadav only a couple of times. Rabbinic creativity filled in the gaps in the Biblical text and the wonderful, classic Midrash of Nachshon was born. I love the lessons of Nachshon’s story: the power of one person to make a difference, having faith in face of adversity and taking risks for the benefit of the community.

Read more...


The illustrator for Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim is Jago. You can read an interview with him at Jewish Books for Children with blogger (and Sydney Taylor Book Award committee chair) Barbara Bietz.

Here's a teaser:

Barbara: What was the most interesting thing you learned in the process of working on Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim ?

Jago: That I quite like illustrating horses! I've always avoided them before as they're complicated to get right, but with the Pharaoh's army riding chariots there was no getting away from them. Once I'd figured them out I quite enjoyed drawing them and now I don't avoid them any more!

Read more...


Tune in tomorrow for the final day of the Blog Tour! You'll see an interview with Annika Thor (author, A Faraway Island) at Teen Reads, and an interview with Ellen Frankel (author, The JPS Illustrated Bible for Children) at Deo Writer.