This Page

has moved to a new address:

Sorry for the inconvenience…

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Blogger Template Style Name: Minima Designer: Douglas Bowman URL: Date: 26 Feb 2004 ----------------------------------------------- */ body { background:#fff; margin:0; padding:40px 20px; font:x-small Georgia,Serif; text-align:center; color:#333; font-size/* */:/**/small; font-size: /**/small; } a:link { color:#58a; text-decoration:none; } a:visited { color:#969; text-decoration:none; } a:hover { color:#c60; text-decoration:underline; } a img { border-width:0; } /* Header ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #header { width:660px; margin:0 auto 10px; border:1px solid #ccc; } } @media handheld { #header { width:90%; } } #blog-title { margin:5px 5px 0; padding:20px 20px .25em; border:1px solid #eee; border-width:1px 1px 0; font-size:200%; line-height:1.2em; font-weight:normal; color:#666; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; } #blog-title a { color:#666; text-decoration:none; } #blog-title a:hover { color:#c60; } #description { margin:0 5px 5px; padding:0 20px 20px; border:1px solid #eee; border-width:0 1px 1px; max-width:700px; font:78%/1.4em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; color:#999; } /* Content ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { #content { width:660px; margin:0 auto; padding:0; text-align:left; } #main { width:410px; float:left; } #sidebar { width:220px; float:right; } } @media handheld { #content { width:90%; } #main { width:100%; float:none; } #sidebar { width:100%; float:none; } } /* Headings ----------------------------------------------- */ h2 { margin:1.5em 0 .75em; font:78%/1.4em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; color:#999; } /* Posts ----------------------------------------------- */ @media all { .date-header { margin:1.5em 0 .5em; } .post { margin:.5em 0 1.5em; border-bottom:1px dotted #ccc; padding-bottom:1.5em; } } @media handheld { .date-header { padding:0 1.5em 0 1.5em; } .post { padding:0 1.5em 0 1.5em; } } .post-title { margin:.25em 0 0; padding:0 0 4px; font-size:140%; font-weight:normal; line-height:1.4em; color:#c60; } .post-title a, .post-title a:visited, .post-title strong { display:block; text-decoration:none; color:#c60; font-weight:normal; } .post-title strong, .post-title a:hover { color:#333; } .post div { margin:0 0 .75em; line-height:1.6em; } { margin:-.25em 0 0; color:#ccc; } .post-footer em, .comment-link { font:78%/1.4em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; } .post-footer em { font-style:normal; color:#999; margin-right:.6em; } .comment-link { margin-left:.6em; } .post img { padding:4px; border:1px solid #ddd; } .post blockquote { margin:1em 20px; } .post blockquote p { margin:.75em 0; } /* Comments ----------------------------------------------- */ #comments h4 { margin:1em 0; font:bold 78%/1.6em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.2em; color:#999; } #comments h4 strong { font-size:130%; } #comments-block { margin:1em 0 1.5em; line-height:1.6em; } #comments-block dt { margin:.5em 0; } #comments-block dd { margin:.25em 0 0; } #comments-block dd.comment-timestamp { margin:-.25em 0 2em; font:78%/1.4em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; } #comments-block dd p { margin:0 0 .75em; } .deleted-comment { font-style:italic; color:gray; } /* Sidebar Content ----------------------------------------------- */ #sidebar ul { margin:0 0 1.5em; padding:0 0 1.5em; border-bottom:1px dotted #ccc; list-style:none; } #sidebar li { margin:0; padding:0 0 .25em 15px; text-indent:-15px; line-height:1.5em; } #sidebar p { color:#666; line-height:1.5em; } /* Profile ----------------------------------------------- */ #profile-container { margin:0 0 1.5em; border-bottom:1px dotted #ccc; padding-bottom:1.5em; } .profile-datablock { margin:.5em 0 .5em; } .profile-img { display:inline; } .profile-img img { float:left; padding:4px; border:1px solid #ddd; margin:0 8px 3px 0; } .profile-data { margin:0; font:bold 78%/1.6em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; } .profile-data strong { display:none; } .profile-textblock { margin:0 0 .5em; } .profile-link { margin:0; font:78%/1.4em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Arial,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; } /* Footer ----------------------------------------------- */ #footer { width:660px; clear:both; margin:0 auto; } #footer hr { display:none; } #footer p { margin:0; padding-top:15px; font:78%/1.6em "Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Verdana,Sans-serif; text-transform:uppercase; letter-spacing:.1em; } /* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { }

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Introducing Alexis O'Neill

The High holidays are a time for reflection and counting the blessing in our lives. One of the greatest blessings of all is the gift of friendship. I am thrilled to introduce my dear friend, Alexis O’Neill. Alexis is a gifted writer. Her books strike a deep chord with children, teachers, and parents. Even more, Alexis is a great friend to the children’s writing community. Through her work with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) she has encouraged and mentored countless writers. In her newly launched book, THE WORST BEST FRIEND (Scholastic), Alexis explores the challenges of friendship. With her gift of rhythm and word play, young readers will relate to Conrad as he deals with his worst best friend.

Her other children’s books include THE RECESS QUEEN (Scholastic), LOUD EMILY (Simon & Schuster), and ESTELA'S SWAP (Lee & Low). In addition, Alexis has written fiction and nonfiction for popular children’s literary magazines. A writing teacher for the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, she is also a Regional Advisor for the SCBWI. A popular presenter who visits schools all over the country, Alexis’s highly interactive assemblies demonstrate the importance – and fun – of playing with words and “reading and writing with your whole body!”

It is an honor for me to introduce Alexis on my blog, and a greater honor to call her my friend.

Tell me about Worst Best Friend.

In THE WORST BEST FRIEND, Mike and Conrad are best, best friends – until a cool new kid comes between them. But what happens when teams are chosen for the big kickball game, and Conrad doesn’t measure up in the cool guy’s eyes?

I think a lot about friendship. One day I wondered, how do some friends manage to stay friends their whole life long and while others break apart? And I wondered, when something comes between friends, can a friendship can ever be repaired?

What was the inspiration for the story?

My dad, Tip, and his best friend, John, who were loyal friends from childhood, were the inspiration for this book. They called each other every week. When my dad was dying, John visited him every day. I also thought about how my sister, Donna, and our neighbor Corrine, have been best friends since they were babies, and now their own babies are grown up. I love that they all stayed true-blue their whole lives through.

Was WBF written as a companion book for Recess Queen?

I didn’t plan THE WORST BEST FRIEND as a companion book -- but the illustrator, Laura Huliska-Beith saw it that way. She’s brilliant! She put the action right on the same playground as THE RECESS QUEEN, and even had characters make cameo appearances. It was a “duh” moment for me. Of course there are lots of overlapping stories on any school playground. I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me! Kids who see the connections between the two books are ecstatic. It’s like a “Where’s Waldo” experience as they look for Mean Jean (who is now reformed), Katie Sue and the Cowboy Dude.

Worst Best Friend and Recess Queen show a deep empathy for playground social dynamics. Where do you draw this knowledge?

I used to be a kid.

What is the most interesting question you have been asked by a young reader?

One time, a second grader from an inner city school asked, “Have you ever lost confidence in something you were working on?” I was flabbergasted. No adult – never mind a kid – had ever asked such a deep question. Confidence is at the heart of all of art making – actually, of any kind of moving-forward-in-the-world activity -- whether it’s writing, drawing, singing, acting, researching, exploring, living . . . So, that’s the question that stays with me. And when I find I’m not moving forward with a project, I wonder if it’s because I’ve lost confidence in my ability to do justice to it, or if it’s just a bump in the road to getting where I need to go.

Alexis, thank you for bringing us such wonderful books about friendship. For more information about Alexis, please visit her web site at

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 26, 2008

Deborah Blumenthal

Deborah Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and nutritionist who divides her time between writing adult novels and children’s books. She has been a regular contributor to The New York Times covering health and fitness stories, consumer issues and travel, including four years as the Sunday New York Times Magazine beauty columnist. She has also been a home design columnist for New York Newsday. Her stories have appeared widely in many other newspapers and national magazines including The Daily News, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Bazaar, Cosmopolitan Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Self, and Vogue.

Deborah is the author of numerous picture books, including Aunt Claire’s Yellow Beehive Hair (Dial Books, 2001) with illustrations by Mary GrandPre of Harry Potter fame, as well as young adult, adult, and non-fiction titles.

I’m pleased to welcome Deborah and share her thoughts about writing.

Tell me a about your book, Aunt Claire's Yellow Bee Hive Hair?

It's the story of a Jewish girl and her grandmother who spend a rainy afternoon gathering together old family pictures and memorabilia to create a family memory book, "to keep the past alive, so that it will never be forgotten."

What inspired this story?

All my memories of spending weekends at my grandparents' apartment in the Bronx looking through their picture album and thinking about all the relatives I never met or knew much about.

You have written books in many genres. Do you have a favorite genre?

Right now I'm enjoying writing young adult novels, but I'm always thinking of new ideas for picture books and adult novels too.

How did you become a children's writer?

I never planned to, but one day after a playdate that lasted too long my daughter was overtired and had a terrible temper tantrum. I went home, fed her lunch and put her in for a nap. After that I sat down at the typewriter -- because back then I worked on a typewriter -- and tried to figure out what happened. It turned into a picture book: "The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum."

Do you have any other Jewish themed books?

So far, only "Aunt Claire's Yellow Beehive Hair."

Any new books coming out?

My latest picture book, published February/2008 by HarperCollins with illustrations by Denise Brunkus of Junie B. Jones fame, is "Charlie Hits it Big," the story of a little guinea pig with big dreams who runs off to Hollywood where he finds out about stardom and much more.

What are you working on now?

I just finished another young adult novel, and have an idea for an adult novel.

Deborah, your career is an inspiration! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk about your work.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joan Betty Stuchner is an award-winning author. Her recent release, HONEY CAKE takes place in Denmark during World War II. It is a story of hope during a very dark time. Joan Betty was born in Leeds, England, but has lived in Vancouver Canada since 1965. She says she “always had a head full of stories, but didn't write many of them down until I was in my twenties.” Along with numerous books, her poetry has been published in Ladybug Magazine and her stories have been featured in Spider magazine. Joan Betty has worked as a teacher, performed as a storyteller live and on television, and has appeared in many stage plays with local community theatre companies. Currently, she works as a library assistant and also teaches part time at her synagogue school. She lives with her husband and son in Vancouver, where she enjoys a lovely view of both sea and mountains from her balcony.

Tell me about your new book, HONEY CAKE.

HONEY CAKE is set in Denmark during the Nazi occupation of WW2. It's the story of a Jewish boy David, and his Christian friend Elsa, whose lives are disrupted by the war and also by the presence of enemy soldiers in their beloved city of Copenhagen.
David's sister is a university student who is hardly ever home. Shortly after David finds out that she's actually working for the resistance, he too is called upon to run a very dangerous errand. Still, for a while it seems as if David's biggest problem in life is his inability to do math. But something much more serious is about to happen.

In 1943 the Nazis decide to round up all the Jews on Rosh Hashanah. That's when the Danish people are put to the test. It's really a story about how people cope under difficult circumstances, and try to live as normal a life as possible. It's also about courage, loyalty and friendship. Ordinary people, grown ups as well as children, become heroes by simply doing what's right.

It sounds like a very serious book, but there's also humour in the story, coupled with suspense. And it leaves the reader with a feeling of hope for humankind. It made me feel that way when I'd finished writing it. HONEY CAKE is a chapter book and it would be suitable for some grade two children, but I know some grade fives who have enjoyed reading it too.

I must mention that the US edition is published by Random House, and the Canadian edition is published by Tradewind Books. Award winning artist Cynthia Nugent illustrated the story with wonderful line drawings, and Joanne Renaud created the beautiful US cover.

What inspired this story?

It began when I sent what I thought was a very funny story to Mike Katz of Tradewind Books in Vancouver. He e mailed me a few days later: 'Let's talk.' I thought, great, he likes my story. But when I phoned him it turned out he wasn't interested in that story at all. He said, "How would you like to write a picture book about the Danish rescue of Jews during World War II?"

Right away the idea really appealed to me. I did my research, created characters that I felt very close to, and eventually what happened, of course, was that the 2,000 word story became a 10,000 word story. It wasn't a picture book any more!

How much research was involved?

I read some history books, especially those with personal recollections - it helps that I work at a university library - and I also checked the internet.The stories of ordinary Danes, both Jewish and Christian, fascinated me. I was especially struck by the courage of Danish children. But I also had a stroke of luck that sometimes happens when you're writing, when your antenae are up there and pointing in the right direction.

Someone at my temple, that I'd known quite casually for a few years, turned out to have been one of the Danish children rescued and sent to Sweden. Her name is Bente Nathan Thomsen, and not only was she generous with her time, telling me little personal stories and anecdotes, she also lent me a videotape that she had made for a Jewish archive. It detailed many of her experiences. There were more stories than I could use, of course, but Bente's information helped to add so much more colour to the book.

What was the most interesting thing you learned?

It's difficult to choose. There are two things that really stand out for me. The first is that when the Danes found out about the Nazi plan to round up all the Jews, almost the whole country mobilized. People rode around the streets on bicycles warning Jews. They tore pages out of public phone books and went to the houses of people with Jewish sounding names. The escape route was organized almost overnight. The bottom line was that in Denmark everyone was family.

The second discovery that blew me away was that all of the Danes imprisoned in Theresienstadt camp survived the war - except those who died from natural causes. King Christian and Danish officials kept in touch with them throughout the war. I think the Germans kept on hoping the Danes would become their allies.

What are you working on now?

Well, my last book JOSEPHINE'S DREAM, just came out in the US (Silverleaf Press) It's illustrated by another fabulous artist, Chantelle Walther, and is a picture book about the late, great Josephine Baker.

As usual I have too many stories on the go (four short novels to be exact), but the one that's closest to completion takes place in 18th century England. One of the characters is a highwayman. (He's an actual character from history. In fact, I once sat on the iron bed in his old prison cell). There's a lot of humour in the story, some mystery and suspense.

The boy in the story longs for more adventure, so I've already got a sequel in mind that places him in a town of smugglers. Entire towns were involved in the smuggling trade. And again, by coincidence, it turns out that most of the English coastline, where I spent my summer holidays as a child, was for centuries, used by smugglers.

Joan Betty, it's been wonderful getting to know you. I look foward to reading your future books!

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Writing Class

Hi Friends,

I'll be teaching a class this fall on WRITING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN at the Oak Park Community Center. No experience is necessary for this introductory class—just a love of children’s literature and a desire to learn! If you would like to join in the fun, here is the info:

Writing Books For Children - Monday October 6 through November 10
Oak Park Community Center
1000 N Kanan Road, Oak Park, CA 91377

Register online at Oak Park Community Center at

Hope to see you there! Feel free to e-mail me at with any questions.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thanks to Tina Nichols Coury!

I want to thank my dear friend Tina Nichols Coury for creating a beautiful video book trailer for Like a Maccabee Please check it out!

Be sure to visit Tina's wonderful blog about children's literature, art, and more at

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome Anna Levine!

I’m thrilled to introduce Anna Levine. Anna is the Regional Advisor for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) in Israel. Her new book, FREEFALL (Greenwillow) is being released this week. Anna was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and grew up in Montreal, Quebec. When she turned eighteen she immigrated to Israel where she lived on a kibbutz for five years picking apples.

Today, Anna lives in a neighborhood outside of Jerusalem with her husband Alex, a professor of plant and environmental sciences at the Hebrew University, and her two sons, Nimrod, who will be studying at Ben Gurion University in the south (now backpacking through India) and Tomer, who has just begun his military service in an elite combat unit.

Anna’s website and blog at is full of fascinating information about her life and fabulous photos of Israel. Be sure to check it out!

Tell me about your new book, FREEFALL.
FREEFALL is a novel for young adults that is set in Israel. It tells the story of eighteen-year-old Abigail Jacobs just before her draft into the Israeli army. It’s a novel about everything that being eighteen and living in Israel entails from family to friendships, to military service and of course….to experiencing the thrill of falling in love for the very first time.

How much research was required?
When my son and his friends got their first draft notices, my research was easy in that they sat for hours in my living room discussing the pros and cons of all the different units. But in order to flesh out Abigail, Lily and the other girls in Aggie’s unit, I had to interview a lot of female soldiers. It was an amazing experience to meet and talk with such articulate, mature and determined young women. Other scenes in the novel came from my personal experiences during the first Lebanon war when I lived on the northern border.

What would you hope American kids understand after reading about Israeli teens?
I hope my American readers see themselves in this novel. Yes it takes place in a foreign country and yes there are scenes of rockets falling and war, but Aggie is a girl like them who strives for independence, values friendship, cares about her family and discovers love. I want my American readers to see how much we have in common.

Are your books available in Hebrew?
Not yet!

Tell me a little bit about your life as a writer in Israel.
Well first of all, there must be something in the air in my neighborhood because across the street from me lives David Grossman and Aaron Apelfeld!

Israel is a very central character in all of my work, whether I am writing about the country, the culture or the conflicts. After twenty years of living here, I still feel like an outsider, which helps to give me some distance and perspective. Perhaps that is why my work about Israel tends to be less critical. I am constantly in wonder at the creativity, the scientific and technological developments, and the cultural consciousness of the people for each other and the State. I know we are far from perfect and I’m not blind to the issues we struggle with, but I choose to focus on what I admire about this country and the people.

Anna, it has been a delight getting to know you. Best wishes with the launch of FREEFALL!

Labels: , , , ,