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Monday, January 26, 2009

Illustrator Marc Lumer

I'm pleased to introduce children's book illustrator, Marc Lumer. Marc Lumer's early works have appeared on the Warner Bros hit shows Batman and Superman. While Lumer was at DreamWorks his paintings helped create the animated films Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado. He now owns and operates a boutique advertising agency in Los Angeles, Marc does a lot of work with for Jewish organizations. He created the colorful dancing Rabbis on billboards and banners for the Chabad Telethon adds and the logo for the web site, and creates the designs and illustrations Farbrengen Magazine. Marc lives in Fairfax district of Los Angeles with his family.

Tell me about your new book.

When Miracles Happened: The Wondrous Stories of Tzaddikim (Targum), is inspired from ancient Sephardic tales about of two famous ancestors of the Baba Sale. In the first story we follow Rabbi Shmuel Elbaz on his way to collect money for an impoverished community and see how he will he get to his destination without money to pay the ships captain. In second story we watch his descendant, Rabbi Yaakov, travel through the desert and discover how he will save his life when confronted by a band of robbers. The book, retold by Esther Davis, is aimed to teach young children the meaning of Jewish courage and faith.

As an illustrator, is it challenging to create art based on a writer's words?

In general if you are working with a good writer that knows his craft it is pretty easy. Good writers have a good visual sense and they create their stories with a sense of what will be interesting to illustrate.

Was any research involved?

The illustration style in this book is realistic and the stories take place in two specific time periods. I did quite a bit of research on everything from costumes to backgrounds and from weapons to ships. I even did a photo shoot with models for some parts of the book to get the expressions right.

Are you working on anything new?

I just finished a book called the Yarmulke Kid for Saphire Press and written by Shmuel Marcus and due out early next year. I am currently illustrating an exiting adventure story written by Shmuel Blitz and Miriam Zakon for Artscroll and due out sometime in the fall of 2009.

Marc, thanks for givng us insight into the illustrator's process. To learn more about Marc and his work, please visit

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sydney Tayor Book Award Blog Tour - Welome Winner Karen Hesse!

Karen Hesse’s books have entertained and enlightened countless readers. I have been a great fan of her work for many years. I’m delighted that she has been honored with the Sydney Taylor Book Award for her historical novel Brooklyn Bridge. I first read Brooklyn Bridge when I reviewed it for the Association of Jewish Libraries and again for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. I was captivated from the first page. In the book, Joseph Mitchom is a fourteen-year old boy growing up in Brooklyn in 1903. His parents have created a cottage industry with their creation of the original Teddy Bear. The Jewish immigrant experience in New York comes to life, including a sense of extended family that is so reflective of the time. In spite of the family’s growing wealth, Joseph is the unlucky kid who has never been to Coney Island. There is an element of mystery and the supernatural in a sub-plot that Hesse uses as a vehicle to share the plight of homeless children. Brooklyn Bridge is a beautifully crafted story and a great contribution to children’s literature.

I am thrilled to welcome Karen Hesse to my blog and officially launch the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour!

In Brooklyn Bridge you tell the story of Joe Michtom and his parents who created the Teddy Bear. What about their story inspired you?

I’m always interested in exploring stories with Jewish themes. So when I came across the teddy bear entry in Bill Slaven’s book I was taken not only with the step-by-step description of the construction of a teddy bear (I really am fascinated by how things work, how things are made, etc), but with the back story, the story about how this beloved toy came into creation as a result of the inspired vision of an immigrant Jewish couple struggling to make a living in America. There are millions of immigrant stories and each one is a testament to individual courage and hope. I’m so fortunate that twice now immigrant stories have come to me at a time and in a way that I was able to receive them and make literature out of them.

You created a unique subplot about the children under the bridge. Was the spiritual aspect something you initially planned to include in the story?

I wish I could claim to know what I’m going to do with a book when I start it. I don’t. The book evolves with each revision as I go deeper into character and theme. When I begin a book I rarely, rarely know how it will end. I suspect, with my particular set of writing skills, if I knew from the beginning how the book would climax and resolve, the reader would know, too, and would therefore be deprived of the joy of discovery and surprise that comes with the ideal reading experience. When the book began to reveal itself to me, I conceived of it as a sort of three-ring circus, with Joseph’s story in one ring, the bridge children in another, and Coney Island in the third. The audience, by turning its attention from one ring to another gets an evening of entertainment that is bigger and more eye-opening than if all their attention had been paid to one ring alone. I don’t think every book should be told this way. But this particular book seemed to demand such an approach.

How much research was involved in writing Brooklyn Bridge?

I scoured the pages of the New York Times and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1903, 1904, and 1905. I delved into business records to better understand the Michtom’s Ideal Toy and Novelty Company. I read about the period and watched early video. I listened to music from the period. I got to know Prospect Park intimately, and Brooklyn Bridge, and Coney Island, first through books and video, then through time spent walking, riding, and breathing in these settings. My research brought me to Brooklyn during a fierce rainy spell and I went through two umbrellas, discarded in trashcans in front of the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Public Library. I must give a big shout out to the museum and the library and their extraordinary collective staff who could not have been more helpful. And thanks also to the Brooklyn Historical Society. And to Paul Zelinksy and his wife, Deborah, who allowed me to intrude on their busy lives and opened up Brooklyn to me in a way I could never have done on my own.

Did you have any contact with the Michtom family?

Yes, I interviewed several members of the Michtom family both early on in my research, and again, a year or so later, near the end of the project. Everyone had different memories to share with me, each member of the family I spoke with contributed to my understanding and enhanced it. The Michtom descendants were generous, warm, and supportive. I hope I have not disappointed them with the fiction spun from their family story.

What are you working on now?

I’m reluctant to talk about projects in progress. They are so fragile during their formative stages.

Karen, thank you for sharing your insights about your writing process. Congratulations on your much deserved award!

For more information about the blog tour please visit

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Friday, January 9, 2009

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour is Coming!

My friend Heidi Estrin has orgainized a blog tour for the STBA winners. Here is the schedule:

Sunday, January 18, 2009Karen Hesse, author of Brooklyn BridgeSydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Categoryat Jewish Books for children

Monday, January 19, 2009Richard MichelsonAuthor of As Good As Anybody, Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers CategoryandAuthor of A is for Abraham, Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat The Well-Read Child

Monday, January 19, 2009Ron Mazellan, illustrator of A is for AbrahamSydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat Tales from the Rushmore Kid

Tuesday, January 20, 2009Jane Yolen, author of Naming LibertySydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat The Boston Bibliophile

Wednesday, January 21, 2009Anna LevineAuthor of Freefall, Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers CategoryandAuthor of Jodie's Hanukkah Dig, Notable Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat Abby (the) Librarian

Wednesday, January 21, 2009Jim Burke, illustrator of Naming LibertySydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat The Page Flipper

Thursday, January 22, 2009Jacqueline Jules, author of Sarah LaughsSydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat Chicken Spaghetti

Friday, January 23, 2009Deborah Bodin Cohen, author of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah RideSydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category at Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 23, 2009Shahar Kober, illustrator of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah RideSydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Categoryat Into the Wardrobe

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Congratulations to all the winners - it has been an honor to serve on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee!


The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers:
As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson with illustrations by Raul Colon
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Older Readers:
Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
(Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan)

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen Readers:
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti

Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners for Younger Readers:
Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Shahar Kober (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules with illustrations by Natascia Ugliano
(Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet by Richard Michelson with illustrations by Ron Mazellan (Sleeping Bear Press, an imprint of Gale)
Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen with paintings by Jim Burke
(Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin)

Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners for Older Readers:
Memories of Babi by Aranka Siegal
(Farrar Straus and Giroux)

Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winner for Teen Readers:
Freefall by Anna Levine
(Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Notable Books for Younger Readers:
Mysterious Guests: A Sukkot Story by Eric Kimmel with illustrations by Katya Krenina
(Holiday House)
Jodie’s Hanukkah Dig by Anna Levine with illustrations by Knesia Topaz
(Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
Harvest of Light by Allison Ofanansky with photographs by Eliyahu Alpern
(Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
Sammy Spider’s First Shavuot by Sylvia Rouss with illustrations by Katherine Janus Kahn
(Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
My Tzitzis Book by Elisheva Schreiber with clay creations by Batsheva Ravad
Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert with illustrations by Karla Gudeon
(Blue Apple Books)

Notable Books for Older Readers:
The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Scholastic Press)
The Walls of Cartegena by Julia Durango with illustrations by Tom Pohrt
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Capturing the Moon by Rabbi Edward M. Feinstein (Behrman House)
Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass: Igniting the Nazi War Against Jews by Stephanie Fitzgerald (Compass Point Books)
My Chocolate Year by Charlotte Herman with illustrations by LeUyen Pham
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo with illustrations by Michael Forman
(Candlewick Press)
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman with illustrations by Ross McDonald (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
The Bat-Chen Diaries: Selected Writings by Bat-Chen Shahak (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
Keeping Israel Safe: Serving in the Israel Defense Forces by Barbara Sofer
(Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)
Honey Cake by Joan Betty Stuchner with illustrations by Cynthia Nugent
(Random House, a Stepping Stone Book)

Notable Books for Teens:
Nothing by Robin Friedman (Flux)
Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust by Rutka Laskier
(Time, Inc. Home Entertainment)
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
(Orca Book Publishers)
The Freak by Carol Matas
(Key Porter Books)

Notable Books for All Ages:
Genesis—the Book with Seventy Faces: A Guide for the Family by Esther Takac with illustrations by Anna Pignataro (Pitspopany Press)
Celebrating with Jewish Crafts by Rebecca Edid Ruzansky with photographs by Roberto Zeballos-Peralta(self-published)


Monday, January 5, 2009

Welcome David Adler

David Adler is the much-loved author of over 200 books for children, including the iconic Cam Jansen Series. David’s writing career was inspired by his curious three-year-old nephew whose questions led to David’s first book, A Little At A Time (Random House) is being released with new art in 2010 by Holiday House. His latest book, Don’t Talk To Me About The War (Viking) is a touching middle grade novel about a young boy’s life in New York during World War II. I have been a huge fan of David’s books for many years, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to chat with him about Don’t Talk To Me About The War.

What was your inspiration for Dont' Talk To Me About The War?

Writing Don't Talk To Me About The War was a real process. It began with my fascination with the time between WW I and WW II. I had already written one very successful book of historical fiction about that time period, The Babe and I, a picture book featuring an encounter with Babe Ruth. The book won may awards including a Golden Kite Honor Award and the California Medal. Don't Talk To Me About The War began for me with the idea to fashion a story on one boy and his family's reaction to Roosevelt's fireside chats. After all, so much has been said and written about those talks, how families gathered by their radios to listen. Well, how did they react? That idea proved unworkable. The chats were too infrequent, only about once every six months. Instead I began with the 1940 rescue at Dunkirk, two views, one of a girl wrapped up in the horror of the trapped soldiers and her best friend Tommy who feels it's all happening so far away, across the ocean, and means very little to him. But more is happening in Tommy's life. There's baseball and his favorite team the Brooklyn Dodgers, radio, his friend Beth whose mother recently died and whose father works in the press room of the New York Daily Mirror, their friend Sarah's escape from Nazi-held Europe, and Tommy's mother's medical issues. It's a coming-of-age story as Tommy assumes more responsibilities at home as his mother becomes less able to care for Tommy and his father.

Was any research involved?

Oh, yes! I began with a calendar. I always knew what day it was in my story: May 23, 1940; May 24, 1940; May 25, 1940. And as I wrote I had that day's newspaper on my desk. If I wrote the Dodgers won that day, they did. The score and the details of the game in the book are accurate. The radio schedule and the weather is also accurate. The news reports about the rescue at Dunkirk are accurate, too, even the slow pace the full news reached the United States. Also, for Tommy's mother's illness I consulted old medical texts and a woman whose mother was diagnosed in 1939 with the same illness. I didn't want to know how it's treated today. I needed to know how it was diagnosed and treated in 1940.

Are you working on anything new?

Of course! I am working on an older level biography, similar in approach to my B. Franklin, Printer and George Washington: An Illustrated Biography. There are also Cam Jansen, Young Cam Jansen, and Jeffrey Bones mysteries in the works as well as another book of historical fiction.

David, it's been an honor to have you visit my blog!
For more information about David Adler and his books, please visit

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