"People of the Books" Blog

AJL Western Regional Conference

Sunday, April 18, 2010, the 7th annual Western Regional Conference on Jewish Literature took place in Los Angeles. This year, the conference, cosponsored by AJLSC, SInai Temple Blumenthal Library, and American Jewish University, piggy-backed on the Skirball Cultural Center's exhibit, "Monsters and Miracles-- a Journey through Jewish Picture Book Art."   With about 70 participants, the conference brought together Judaic and non-Judaic librarians, teachers, authors and illustrators as they all joined in their appreciation of the art of illustration in children's books. Panelists Richard Michelson (Sydney Taylor Award winning author and gallery owner Eugene Yelchin (illustrator and member of the Jewish Artists Initiative), and Joni Sussman (publisher of KarBen Books) shared their views on putting picture books together. Joni also read manuscripts of hopeful authors and gave advice on how to ready these manuscripts for publication. A silent auction  and book sale allowed conference attendees to bid and purchase some picture book art for themselves. The highlight of the program was a talk by exhibit curator, Tal Gozani, and visit to the exhibit at the Skirball. Everyone left asking when the next conference will be!

Interview with author, illustrator Steve Sheinkin

Today we have a special treat- an interview with comics artist and author Steve Sheinkin, author of three terrific graphic novels featuring his character Rabbi Harvey: 2006's The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, the 2008 follow-up Rabbi Harvey Rides Again and Rabbi Harvey vs. The Wisdom Kid, just out this month. All three are available in paperback from Jewish Lights Publishing.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and Rabbi Harvey. How did he come into your life?

That question really takes me way back to my Hebrew school days. I was bored to death by all the memorization, and my dad, seeing this, got me a book of Jewish folktales. I loved the stories, and started imagining how I would change them – mostly by adding jokes. Rabbi Harvey evolved years later, when I came up with the idea of setting Jewish folktales in the Wild West. I wanted a main character who was part rabbi, part sheriff, someone who could defeat villains without using a gun, and that led me to Harvey. His look has changed a bit since those first sketches, but he always had the unibrow.

2. Who or what influenced your particular style of art? What comics artists do you like to read?

I wasn’t a big superhero comics reader as a kid. It wasn’t till I was in my 20s that I realized you could do any kind of stores you want in comic format. Reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus was a big part of that realization. I started little drawing comics of crummy jobs I had, and it was a lot of fun. These days I love a wide variety of artists: Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Joann Sfar, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and many more. What I love about the format is that everyone has a unique visual style. It doesn’t matter that I’m not a great artist, as long as stick to my own style.

3. Why did you choose to do a book-length story after your previous two volumes of shorts?

Partly for the challenge – to see if I could string a few dozen Jewish folktales and bits of Talmudic wisdom into a cohesive plot. Also, I thought it would be fun to read. Comics are so close to movies, and I’m a huge fan of old Hollywood westerns. So it seemed natural to try to do a Harvey “movie” in comics form.

4. You draw heavily from the rich tradition of Jewish folktales for all of your Rabbi Harvey stories; one of the pleasures of reading about the rabbi's adventures is recognizing familiar tales retold and learning new ones. Which ones are particularly meaningful for you? What are some that you like that haven't made into the rabbi's stories so far?

I read hundreds of stories, maybe thousands, looking for just the right ones for these books. I always wanted to use the beautiful story of the two brothers – each gets the idea of helping the other by secretly bringing wheat to the other’s barn. I finally figured out a way to work that one into the new book. I’ve also been trying to think of a way to get some of the Wise Men of Chelm stories into a Harvey book. With this new book, I realized I needed to create a whole new town, Helms Falls, Colorado, where these stories could take place. I look forward to revisiting in future volumes…
5. Rabbi Harvey, a question for you. How do you feel about the way Steve Sheinkin portrays you? Does he portray you fairly? And- what's really going on between you and Abigail?

Yes, I would say that the books are a fairly accurate portrayal of life in Elk Spring. One minor point: Steve had taken to drawing me with pants that are a little too short, and I don’t feel that’s 100 percent accurate. Overall, what I enjoy is the ability to share wisdom from thousands of years of Jewish thought. The danger, of course, is that people think I’m the one who thought up all this stuff. They think I can answer any question they throw at me. Like Steve says in the books, it’s not always easy to be the rabbi.

As for Abigail, well, I lobbied Steve to give her a larger role in this new book, and my motives were not wholly unselfish. I’m hoping her part in these stories continues to grow. But I suppose it’s not entirely up to me…

Steve, thank you so much for a great interview and I'll be watching for the Rabbi's latest adventures! 

You can also visit Sheinkin's webpage or Rabbi Harvey's Facebook page.

AJL on "I Love Libraries"

I Love Libraries is ALA's website for the public, designed to keep America informed about what's happening in today's libraries in school, academic, corporate, institutional and other settings. After AJL's recent affiliation with ALA, we were invited to submit an article for the "Library Showcase" section of the I Love Libraries website. You can see it below, or in its original location at http://www.ilovelibraries.org/articles/libraryshowcase/ajl.

The Association of Jewish Libraries

By Heidi Estrin, PR Chair, Association of Jewish Libraries

Stained Glass at the National Library in IsraelALA’s newest affiliate is the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL), a professional organization for librarians who work with Judaic collections. AJL was formed in 1966 with the merging of the Jewish Librarians Association and the Jewish Library Association. Reflecting this two-party origin, the current organization has two divisions, one that serves academe (the Research Libraries, Archives, and Special Collections Division) and one that serves the general public (the Synagogue, School, and Center Division). The mission of AJL is to promote Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources, and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. AJL fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

AJL’s thousand-plus members serve libraries across North America and around the globe, including Temple Beth Sholom in Anchorage, Alaska (nicknamed “The Frozen Chosen”) and the Jewish Center in Hong Kong. The diverse membership includes everything from tiny synagogue libraries run by volunteers to national libraries with hundreds of staff members. Between these extremes we find university Judaica collections, Holocaust museum libraries, and Jewish day school media centers.

Some libraries are obvious candidates for membership in AJL such as the RAMBAM Center Library at Temple Beth Am in Miami, Florida. Established in 1965, this synagogue library has grown from a handful of books in the corner of a classroom to a 17,000-item facility with separate (soundproofed) reading rooms for children and adults, a computer lab, a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, and free WiFi. The library serves students, staff, and parents of the day school and religious school, temple members, senior citizens, and the general public. Two programmatic jewels in the crown are the Mother-Daughter Book Clubs for kids and parents, and the Senior Lounge Days offering Yiddish movies and schmoozing time for older members.

Rabbi Salkin’s presenting at the RAMBAM Center Library, Temple Beth Am in Miami FloridaThe National Library of Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is a Judaic library at the other end of the scale. Preserving the history and culture of the land of Israel and the Jewish people, this library of over 5 million volumes includes print, multimedia, and digital collections. Notable is NLI’s digitization project in which rare and out-of-print monographs in the public domain are made freely available to the public via the Internet. So far, over 800 books have been digitized, including works on the Bible, Kabbala, Jewish history, and music.

Other libraries become members because segments of their mission align with AJL. For instance, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. has AJL members in its Hebraic Section, its African and Middle East Section, its Israel/Judaica Section, and even in the Cataloging Division. LOC librarians provide yearly Hebraica cataloging sessions at AJL conferences.

Differences between AJL’s member libraries melt away at the annual convention, where a mix of scholars, kidlit fans, authors, and Judaica librarians from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds mingle harmoniously. Professional development sessions on technology, storytelling, library history, and so on complete with hallway networking for the favorite activity. A highlight is the awards banquet, when authors and illustrators receive recognition for the best Jewish books for children and teens, the best unpublished manuscript, and the best academic bibliographies and reference works.

Year-round resources offered by AJL include the AJL Podcast, which offers recordings of convention sessions, the AJL blog “People of the Books,” and the AJL listserv “Hasafran” (Hebrew for “the librarian”). The quarterly AJL Newsletter is a comprehensive source of Jewish-interest book reviews. The Sydney Taylor Book and Manuscript Awards encourage Jewish publishing and provide guidance for those seeking quality Jewish books for youth, while the Bibliography and Reference Awards promote Jewish academic materials. These resources, as well as a Bibliography Bank and other publications, may be found online at www.jewishlibraries.org.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is thrilled to join ALA’s affiliate program. AJL President Susan Dubin says “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.”

For more information, please contact Heidi Estrin - heidi@cbiboca.org.


Read about more Library Showcase Libraries.

RECENT BOOKS about the HOLOCAUST from the JEWISH VALUESFINDER

Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah

Nisan 27, 5770 | April 11, 2010

NON-FICTION

Bogacki, Tomek. THE CHAMPION OF CHILDREN: THE STORY OF JANUSZ KORCZAK. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. 33 pages. ISBN: 978-0-374-34136-7. Elementary. Expressive acrylic illustrations by the author immediately set the tone of this Holocaust biography. Their tone fluctuates to match the mood of the text, which portrays Korczak's life from youth to death, last showing him marching with the orphans he taught to the train that would take them all to their deaths.

De Saix, Deborah Durland; Ruelle, Karen Gray. THE GRAND MOSQUE OF PARIS: A STORY OF HOW MUSLIMS RESCUED JEWS DURING THE HOLOCAUST. Holiday House, 2009. 40 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8234-2159. Primary, Elementary. This handsomely illustrated book, with paintings in shades of blue, gray, maize and gold, gives an account of how Jewish families, escaping Allied airmen, and various others (some in the Resistance) found respite and shelter in a North African Kabyle mosque in the heart of Paris.

Kacer, Kathy; McKay, Sharon E. WHISPERS FROM THE CAMPS. Penguin Canada, 2009. 151 pages. ISBN: 978-0-14-331252-9 . Middle-School, High-School. As in Whispers from the Ghettos, Kacer and McKay have documented individual true stories from the lives of teenage survivors of the Holocaust. In some cases, the lives of the teens are saved because of their special skills, e.g. knowledge of the German language or the ability to read aircraft blueprints. Many of the stories deal with the arrival at Auschwitz - selection, stripping, hair shearing, cold showers, thin clothing, repeated lineups for counting, etc. - but each is remarkable for being personal and detailed. Also included is a 5-minute play, "The Liberation of Dachau" and a glossary.

Kacer, Kathy; McKay, Sharon E. WHISPERS FROM THE GHETTOS. Penguin Canada, 2009. 162 pages. ISBN: 978-0-14-331251-2. Middle-School, High-School. Original testimonies from survivors of the ghettos record the hardship, terror, and bravery that they experienced as young people during the Holocaust. Twelve accounts of ghetto life are included, showing the role adolescents played in securing food and necessities for their families. Very moving!

Koestler-Grack, Rachel. ELIE WIESEL: WITNESS FOR HUMANITY. Gareth Stevens, 2009. 112 pages. ISBN: 978-14339-0054-9. Middle-School. This biography covers the period from Wiesel's childhood, through his horrific experiences in concentration camps, to his life and career after the Holocaust. Following the narrative there is a conversation with the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about the meaning and message for youngsters of Wiesel's life, plus reference aides.

Metselaar, Menno; van der Rol, Ruud. ANNE FRANK: HER LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES. Roaring Brook Press, 2009. 215 pages. ISBN: 978-1-59643-546-9. Elementary, Middle-School, High-School. First published in the Netherlands by the Anne Frank House, this draws on materials from the archives to give a history of the Frank family and their protectors, plus an account of the preserved Annex where the Frank family and others hid. The text is drawn from several sources including some adult books and Anne's diary. The testimony of Rosa de Winter, who was with the three Frank women in Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen, is also given. Many photographs of the Frank family accompany the text of a handsome keepsake.

FICTION

Clark, Kathy . GUARDIAN ANGEL HOUSE. Second Story Press, 2009. 225 pages. ISBN: 978-1-897187-58-6 . Elementary, Middle-School. Guardian Angel House is the nickname given to a convent run by the Sisters of Charity in Budapest that sheltered over 120 Jewish children during World War Two. Told from the point of view of twelve-year-old Susan, this is a story of survival, of growing up without family during childhood and adolescence, of Jewish children living in a protective and loving Catholic environment which is foreign to them, of mutual respect between people of different religions, of a young woman forced to learn courage at an early age. Based on the true story of the author's mother and aunt, it is historical fiction at its best.

Engle, Margarita. TROPICAL SECRETS: HOLOCAUST REFUGEES IN CUBA. Henry Holt, 2009. 208 pages. ISBN: 978-0805089363. Middle-School. A coming-of-age story and an unusual piece of Holocaust history, told in free verse. 13-year old Daniel, a German refugee meets and then befriends a 12 year old Cuban girl after his ship is allowed to dock in Havana. Their story is effectively told in alternating narratives. Winner of the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teens.

Gleitzman, Morris. ONCE. Henry Holt, 2010. 176 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9026-0. Elementary, Middle-School. The narrator is an imaginative and innocent Jewish child being sheltered in a convent. The son of Jewish booksellers, he believes that all of his parents' troubles are because the Nazis don't like Jewish books and want to rid the world of them. When he runs away from the convent in order to find his parents, he finds instead only devastation. Reality slowly dawns as the true horrors of the Holocaust are revealed.

Heuvel, Eric. A FAMILY SECRET. Anne Frank House, 2009. 62 pages. ISBN: 978-0-374-464554. Elementary, Middle-School.

Heuvel, Eric. THE SEARCH. Anne Frank House, 2009. 62 pages. ISBN: 978-0-374-464554. Elementary, Middle-School. Originally published in Dutch in 2007, A Family Secret and its sequel, The Search, tell overlapping stories of ordinary people during World War II. A Family Secret tells the story of Jeroen, a teenage boy, who is looking through his grandmother's attic for items to sell at a yard sale. After he comes across scrapbooks and other artifacts, his grandmother Helena tells him for the first time about her experiences as a young girl in Amsterdam during the German occupation. Her best friend was Esther, a Jewish girl whose family fled from Germany to the Netherlands hoping for safety from the Nazis. When Esther's family is sent to a concentration camp, Helena fears the worst, and assumes that Esther has died along with her parents. Years later, a chance meeting between Jeroen and Esther during a Memorial Day ceremony allows the boy to present his grandmother with her long-lost friend. Dutch artist Eric Heuvel uses pastel colors and a clear line style that has been compared to Tintin comics. The text is simplified for a younger audience. War is not glamorized in any way; neither the Nazis nor the victims are personalized. Because of the lack of violence, these two books would provide a good introduction to the topic for children as young as fifth grade.

Thor, Annika. A FARAWAY ISLAND. Delacorte Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0385-90590-9. Elementary, Middle-School. The story of two Viennese-Jewish sisters who are sent to safety during the Holocaust to an island off the coast of Sweden. The girls' treatments by their two foster families vary but both try to convert them to Christianity. Hoping to be reunited with their parents soon, the girls' stay lasts indefinitely, and the story explores the emotions of children who endure uncertainty far from home. Translated from the Swedish, this is the first in a series of books about the sisters' life on the island.

Walfish, Miriam. THE STARS WILL GUIDE YOU. Judaica Press, 2009. 320 pages. ISBN: 978-1-60763-016-6. Middle-School, High-School. Rica Levi, 15, and her brother Lelio, 8, are instructed by their widowed father to flee their home in the Rome ghetto in 1943. In the ensuing months and years, they don't know what has happened to him and fear the worst. In four sections, the book describes the children's hiding by Catholics in Narola, Italy; the liberation of Rome by the Allies and their return to find their ransacked and defaced apartment; the search for family after the war; and, finally, their reunion with their father.

Whitney, Kim Ablon. THE OTHER HALF OF LIFE. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 256 pages. ISBN: 978-0-375-85219-0. Elementary, Middle-School. Based upon the true story of the MS St. Louis, the story takes place after Kristallnacht and follows closely the fateful voyage of over 900 passengers who are bound for Cuba. The main character is fifteen-year-old, Thomas, whose father has been sent to Dachau, and whose non-Jewish mother places him on the ship for safety. The ship is eventually turned away at several countries' ports, and forced to return to European cities that will soon fall under Nazi domination. Winner of a 2009 National Jewish Book Award.

AND DON’T FORGET…

Finkelstein, Norman H. REMEMBER NOT TO FORGET: A MEMORY OF THE HOLOCAUST. Illus. by Lars Hokanson and Lois Hokanson. Jewish Publication Society, 2004. 29 pages. ISBN: 0827607709. Primary, Elementary. A straight-forward presentation of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and its aftermath, illustrated with stark black and white pictures. Intended as an introduction for children in grades three through five, it contains background information that is essential for any teaching or understanding of the Holocaust.

Fleischman, Sid. THE ENTERTAINER AND THE DYBBUK. HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2007. 180 pages. ISBN: 978-0-06-13445-9. Elementary, Middle-School. In post-World War II Europe, a struggling American ventriloquist called The Great Freddie gets an offer of help with his act from a dybbuk, the ghost of a boy who was killed in the Holocaust. The dybbuk speaks for Freddy so that his ineptitude as a ventriloquist isn't visible and in gaining a voice, the dybbuk is able to speak out against the murder of himself and millions of others by the Nazis. Winner of a Sydney Taylor Book Award.

Krinitz, Esther Nisenthal; Steinhardt, Bernice . MEMORIES OF SURVIVAL. Hyperion, 2005. 64 pages. ISBN: 0786851260. Elementary, Middle-School, High-School, Adult. Esther Krinitz survived the Holocaust and lived to raise a family in the United States. Years after the war, she shared her memories with her children by sewing embroidered fabric collages depicting scenes from her early life. Her daughter, Bernice Steinhardt, has taken some of these amazing embroideries, added to the comments written by her mother, and created a book that is outstanding in its immediacy and beauty.

Patz, Nancy . WHO WAS THE WOMAN WHO WORE THE HAT? Dutton, 2003. 40 pages. ISBN: 0525469990. Elementary, Middle-School, High-School, Adult. Inspired by the author-illustrator's reaction to a woman's hat she saw in a glass case in Amsterdam's Jewish Historical Museum, this is a prose poem meditating on the identity of the woman and on her probable fate during the Holocaust. The fate of other Dutch Jews and, indeed, of every human being, is implicated in the text and in the striking illustrations, which consist of somber-toned watercolors, pencil drawings, and old photographs. Winner of a Sydney Taylor Book Award.

Rogasky, Barbara. SMOKE AND ASHES, REVISED AND EXPANDED. Holiday House, 2002. 256 pages. ISBN: 0823416771. Middle-School, High-School. The first edition of this unflinching look at the Holocaust was written in 1988 and represented a significant contribution to books about the Holocaust for young people. Here, much new information has been added: the role of "ordinary" Germans in the Final Solution, the German's attempts to hide their crimes, the Allies' decision not to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz and more. A chapter called "The Uniqueness of the Holocaust" lists recent atrocities and hate crimes. One of the very best treatments of the Holocaust for young people.

Schmidt, Gary. MARA'S STORIES: GLIMMERS IN THE DARK. Henry Holt, 2001. 152 pages. ISBN: 0805067949. Middle-School, High-School. In the night and fog of a concentration camp, women and children gather at night to listen to stories told by a prisoner named Mara, the daughter of a rabbi. The haunting stories are adapted from Jewish lore and modern Jewish literature.

Weisbarth, Bracha. TO LIVE AND FIGHT ANOTHER DAY: THE STORY OF A JEWISH PARTISAN BOY. Mazo, 2004. 158 pages. ISBN: 9659046235. Middle-School. An exciting novel based on the experiences of the author's family during the Holocaust. The main character is her brother, Benny, who led the family out of the ghetto before a Nazi "Final Aktion" and then into the forests, where they eventually joined partisans fighting the Nazis.

Zusak, Markus. THE BOOK THIEF. Random House, 2006. 553 pages. ISBN: 0-375-83100-2. High-School, Adult. Death is the omnipresent commentator in this compelling novel set in Germany during World War II. Genial as he muses on human existence, Death is sometimes frightened at the extent of human cruelty. Germany under Hitler was the epicenter of cruelty, as shown through several years in the life of a German child, the "book thief," her foster family, friends, and the town near Munich where she lives. These "good German" characters are earthy, flawed, and unforgettable. And while Death (always) has the final word, it is to say "I am haunted by humans." For high school and up and not to be missed! Winner of a Sydney Taylor Book Award.

For more titles about the Holocaust and World War II, visit the Jewish Valuesfinder at www.ajljewishvalues.org.

Linda R. Silver
April 2010

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