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 { }

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Sun's Special Blessing - Sandy Wasserman

Sandy Wasserman is a teacher, author, wife, mother, and grandma, and lives on Long Island, NY. She has taught for more than 30 years in both Public and Day Schools, working for the most part with Gifted children, who inspire many of her stories. She is delighted to be able to have more time to write for children - an interest she’s had ever since she received her first library card in the Bronx, NY. Sandy loves to travel and explore unusual places. In the future, she hopes to inspire children through other book projects she’s working on. She is a member of SCBWI, LICWI and the LI Association of Jewish Librarians. Sandy stopped by to discuss her new book, The Sun’s Special Blessing.

Tell me a bit about the blessing for the sun.

The blessing for the sun, known as "Birkat haChamah," is recited every 28 years. The 2009 recitation marks the 206th cycle of the blessing, which celebrates God's placement of the sun on the 4th day of creation. Therefore, the blessing will always be recited on a Wednesday. Although in modern times we are thankful for the sun's warmth and for its place in helping us to grow food, the blessing is for God's creation of the sun, rather than how thankful we are with what the sun provides.

What was your inspiration to write about the blessing?

When the blessing was last recited, in 1981, I was teaching third grade at the Solomon Schechter Day School in Nassau County on Long Island. In preparation for the event, all teachers were asked to prepare a lesson. My idea was to create a 'time capsule' with my students. My students and I did this and buried many Jewish and secular items in a wood and metal chest. Many years passed, and I taught Gifted & Talented children in a public school setting. Then, several years ago, after I retired, I had a 'flashback' of that event. Perhaps it was more of a realization that 20+ years had passed and the time for the blessing would be coming in just a few years. I had always wanted to take time and try to write for children, but with family and a demanding teaching position, writing seriously was not a priority. NOW, I was retired! No excuses! (Afterword: the 1981 time capsule was located in March of this year and a new one was buried for the 2009 Birkat HaCHamah. It was a most joyous and fulfilling event!)

I was fortunate to work with Yaacov Peterseil at Pitspopany Publishers, and to work with Ann Koffsky, as the illustrator.

How did you become a writer?

I had always wanted to write, and often dashed off 'letters to the editor' and enjoyed teaching writing to my students for over 35 years. I 'became' a writer by taking the advice I had always stressed with my students: Revise! Revise! Revise! So two years after my retirement, I wish they could have seen me with my many revisions of The Sun's Special Blessing! I joined a writer's group, a critique group, took a few courses and attended conferences, such as the annual Jewish Writers' Conference at the 92nd ST "Y." in Manhattan. I joined SCBWI and the SSCBWI listserve, and found the writing community to be so supportive and encouraging to a new writer.

What is one fun fact about you?

Hmmm. I have a good sense of humor and look at the humorous side of almost everything. I try not to take myself too seriously and enjoy seeing the fun in everyday life. When my granddaughter, Yael, learned that her Savtah's book would be published and therefore on "other peoples' shelves" with her name in the dedication, she was excited. She's four years old, and frankly, I'm almost at the same level of excitement about this first book; does that make me childlike? As a teacher of gifted students for many years, I usually think 'out of the box;' this often makes for funny enounters with friends and family, and hopefully other books.

Sandy, thanks for sharing your knowledge about this special blessing!

To learn more, visit Sandy's web site at

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Deborah Guttentag

Please welcome author Deborah Guttentag. Today she is talking of her books, Saving Soroya and Into the Dark. A Manchester, England native, Deborah is wife of the Rabbi of the Whitefield Hebrew Congregation and mother of 6 children and several grandchildren. Drama and writing have been her main interests since she was a little girl, and her family background has been a major influence on her writing. Deborah’s parents were both refugees from Nazi Germany and the quintessential feelings of refugees — insecurity and isolation of the individual — feature prominently in much of her writing.

What was the inspiration for the books?

As both my parents were refugees from Nazi Germany, and as the Jewish community I grew up in was made up largely of German refugees, I have always been very conscious of the unstable position of the Jewish people in the Diaspora. Saving Soraya is about a young teenage Jewish girl, Nomi, looking for adventure on a family holiday in France who discovers a Jewish girl in hiding, who has escaped from Iran. When I wrote the book five years ago things were not as bad as they are now in relation to Iran and now some of the novel seems even more relevant than it did a few years ago. There is an episode in the second half of the book when Soraya is terrified by the relaxed way in which the Levy family walk about the streets of Paris with their tzitzit and cappels prominently displayed. She says it may be safe now but it won’t always be. In fact the Jews of France are now careful to wear caps on their heads because of the open anti-Semitism there. There is also a scene in which the family visit a site dedicated to the martyred Jews of the Holocaust who were taken from there to their depths. So although Saving Soraya is basically a teenagers’ adventure story there are dark moments in it and there is an underlying theme of the insecurity of the Jew.

The inspiration for Saving Soraya was a family holiday in France. For years I’d been searching for a good plot. One Shabbos evening on holiday we had a rather strange experience. We were sitting watching the sun go down. It was terribly hot and close and everyone was on edge - there was a curious sense of expectancy in the air. Suddenly, some large blue insects swooped down from outside into the living room. It was rather odd and unnerving and I realised I had to distract everyone – so, of course – I told a story! The story was about a boy on holiday in France who makes a strange discovery. One of my sons said to me. ‘Why don’t you try to write this kind of plot for children?" Kids want mystery and suspense.’ Eventually, the boy in the story evolved into a girl…the plot changed – but the backdrop – a holiday in France remained!

The plot for In the Dark was similarly conceived on holiday. A cross child needed entertaining. I began a story about a boy and a girl who are taken in as evacuees during World War Two. As it happened my husband’s uncle had just sent us an email describing his visit to Shefford where he had been evacuated for a short time as a boy. I have always been intrigued by the idea of Jewish children being placed with gentiles, completely out of their normal home environment. My mother in law told me how she had been belittled at first, together with her younger brother in the home of a rather cold, unpleasant lady – who had told her that someone had died in her bed! That idea went straight into the book!

I have also always been fascinated by the idea of people having power over others. Some people, through the sheer force of their personality can frighten others into doing what they want. These people are often unpredictable and difficult to please. Do you allow yourself to be controlled by them because they seem in some way superior to you or do you exert your own personality over them? Are you less than them just because they try to belittle you? How is it that some people are not overpowered by these controlling personalities whereas some are? In In the Dark Rochel is drawn into Miss Darwen’s power while Susie, her friend is able to see right through Miss Darwen.

Was a lot of research involved?

I spent a good couple of years researching the book and writing several early drafts. My main ideas for the plot were a) the idea of evacuation b) the idea of a dominating personality. I had no idea, however, in which part of England the book was to take place or at which point in the war. One of my sons suggested that the early part of the war – 1939 was the most suitable for a spy story – the British were very afraid of enemy aliens at the time. I read several books about the life people lead during the war – e.g. rationing, bomb shelters. I also read about the Battle of Britain and the bombing campaigns. A lot of the stuff I read was very technical and a bit over my head but it gave me a feel for the complexity of the danger to Britain in 1939. I also read about the danger to Britain from the U boat campaign in the Battle of the Atlantic – the idea was to cut off supplies to Britain, starving it into submission.

I visited Liverpool several times to get a feel for the place – Rochel comes form there. I smelled the sea air and heard the seagulls! I also saw some of the key places that were bombing targets for the Germans. I visited Scarisbrick once (a village near Liverpool) – the place on which Barroclough is based. A lady called Margaret drove me round the whole village. We were looking for the kind of house that I thought Miss Darwen might live in. She stopped suddenly outside a tall, three storied building. ‘This is Miss Darwen’s house!’ she said. I took photos of it and all through the writing of the novel I imagined the events taking place there. Margaret also sent me maps and pictures of the military installations around the area that helped me plan the novel.

I borrowed a book from the library called ‘MI5’ which described in detail the spying work of the agents and counter agents during the war. This was extremely helpful in helping me plot the book so that it made historical sense! I kept that book for about five years, renewing it over the months but sometimes not managing to renew it. In the end I clocked up a fine of £60!

What is the most interesting thing you learned in the process of writing the books?

That people are genuinely interested in discussing your book with you and helping you find things out and are willing to make suggestions. People like to be involved in the process of creating a book!

What is your favorite holiday?

The English countryside, when it’s not too hot and not raining! Visiting old houses, imagining living in them and then returning to the comfort of a modern holiday home. Walking through the forests and meadows and beside the canals. There’s nothing like the peace and beauty of ‘this green and pleasant land.’

Deborah, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about writing and your fascinating research! I especially enjoyed the learning about Miss Darwen's house!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Portraits of Jewish American Heroes

Malka Drucker is an award winning author of 20 books, including GRANDMA'S LATKES, and her highly acclaimed JEWISH HOLIDAY Series which won the Southern California Council on Literature for Children Prize series. She belongs to many literary organizations, including: The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, The Southern California Council on Literature for Young People, the Association of Jewish Librarians, The Authors Guild, and PEN. Malka was ordained in 1998 from the Academy for Jewish Religion, a transdenominational seminary. She is also the founding rabbi of HaMakom: The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am delighted to share my interview with Malks about her newest book, Portraits of Jewish American Heroes (Penguin, 2008) a collection of short biographies, beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Rosen.

What inspired you to write Portraits of Jewish American Heroes?
I wrote Portraits of Jewish American Heroes because I was asked to. The publisher had published a book about African American Heroes that did very well, and they decided to publish a series of other ethnic groups by writers of that group. That being said, I said yes immediately because I love to read and write biographies and always have. Second, Jewish and non-Jewish children need to know about Jews who have enriched America more than ever. Names like Madoff get far too much attention. All children, perhaps adults as well, live in a world where celebrity and charisma trump character, and those whom the world calls heroes are merely famous. A hero is one who is a pioneer, who sets examples for others, and whose effort is for the benefit of more than oneself.

How did you choose which heroes to write about?
That was a great challenge! The format of the book was for 20 heroes and I agonized over not including many heroes. These were my considerations: gender equality, a 350 year span of American Jews, and representatives from diverse fields of accomplishments. I’ve been asked many times how I could exclude Sandy Koufax. I chose Hank Greenberg because he had the honor and struggle of being the first Jew to play major league baseball in a city known for Henry Ford’s antisemitism.What was the most interesting part of the process?I learned so much from researching this project! When people ask me what age group the book is aimed at, I say all ages. Besides the individual contributions—child labor laws, social work, jeans—there is a collective picture. From Chaim Solomon who came to America to escape antisemitism to Daniel Pearl who died because he was an American Jew, they all loved this country for its promise of freedom. I saw how Jewish values strengthened the lives of these heroes and how they made America a better country.

How do you balance being a writer with your work as a Rabbi?
A rabbi does a lot of writing, so I never get out of practice between books. The problem is finding the time to write the books! When I’m working on a book, I try to do nothing else for a month at a time. I also have a community that is very understanding and takes responsibility for itself 75 percent of the time.

Are you working on any other books for young readers?
I’m playing with the idea of a Mary Poppins-like rabbi who has a small dog with uncanny ability to solve difficult problems. Together they time travel with a bunch of religious school dropouts into adventures throughout Jewish history. Along the way, they get to ride in an ark and get to see the first rainbow, help David defeat Goliath, and discover the excitement of our history.

What is a fun fact about you?
I love gummy bears and goldfish.

Malka, thanks for visiting. I can't wait to read your time travel story! To learn more about Malka and her work, please visit her web site at

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Welcome Leah Subar, author of COPYCAT!

Leah Subar’s book, COPYCAT, introduces readers to Tzipora Stein. Tzipora longs to fit it. When the girl who has teased her in the past invites her to join the “in” crowd, Tzipora is thrilled, but there is a price to pay. Leah says, “I hope this book will help readers in some way when they need to decide between being ‘popular’ and doing what they think is right.”

Leah is a native of Denver, Colorado, lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She and her husband, “Uncle Reuven,” wrote and produced the popular children’s music series, “Uncle Reuven and the Simcha Train.” Leah’s articles about motherhood and family life appear in numerous publications, including Mishpacha Magazine and Mishpacha Junior. Her plays are produced in the United States, England, and Israel. She is currently working on an anthology of children’s stories, tentatively titled “Impact for Kids” (Targum Press).

Tell me about Copycat?
Copycat is the story of an eleven year-old girl who desperately wants to be part of the ‘in’ crowd. But she needs to decide how far she is willing to follow the crowd in order to be part of it. This question pervades the entire story, climaxing with a face-off between her and the school bully,where she is forced to make a choice: Will she stand up for what she believes in,even though doing so will cost her all of her friends and embarrass her in front of the entire school?

It’s a book that makes you think twice about who you want to be friends with!

What was the inspiration for the book?
When I was eleven,I was called Freckle Face and Shorty pie, just like my protagonist. I,too,struggled to belong.

The villain in my book is quite evil, too evil for a book nice Jewish kids are going to read! Or so I thought, until I spoke to the principal of a major Jewish girls school in New York: she told me that all the students in her school are required to sign a “Bully Contract!” This contract defines “bullying” and the punishment for first-time and repeat offenders. The school offers support to help “victims” learn how to cope and to stand up for themselves.

Before I heard that, I was tempted to tone down my villain, to make her more ‘pareve.’ But when I heard how prevalent the problem of bullying really is, I realized that my book has a timely and important message.

How did you become a children’s writer?
By writing. My Yiddish-speaking friends call it zitz fleishe. In English, it’s called ‘hard work’ — waking each morning and sitting at the desk to write. As a busy wife and mother of a large family, it’s hard to make the time. But even 200 words a day adds up to a book eventually. Mine did.

Why do you write specifically for children?

I’m not sure, but a few years ago, just for fun, my husband and I produced a music CD for kids called “Uncle Reuven and the Simcha Train.” It became a #1 Best-Seller! (Country Yossi Family Magazine Feb 2005)It started out as songs I made up when putting my children to sleep. I feel completely natural composing music for a young audience, and with writing it’s the same thing.

What interesting thing did you learn in the process of writing this book?
Great question, because whenever we set out to write something, we don’t realize how deeply we ourselves may be affected in the process. At least I did not think about it during my book’s beginning stages. Instead, it was all about how my readers will internalize my message, how they will be affected.

But somewhere deep into the process, as my protagonist struggled with her enemy, I discovered that I, too, struggled with the memories of my own pre-adolescent years. I had not fully gotten over being called “Four Eyes.” I’m still figuring out how to say with confidence and grace:“This is who I am.” Writing my book has taught me that no matter how much we consider ourselves “all grown up,” we still have far to go.

What is your favorite holiday?
My husband’s grandfather used to say when asked what his favorite food was: “The one I’m eating now.” My favorite holiday? The one I’m celebrating today! The Jewish calendar is so rich! I love sitting in our sukkah, eating matzah, bursting out in tears as the final shofar blasts at the end of Yom Kippur, and we all say:Next Year in Jerusalem!

Shabbat is really the center of everything that goes on in my home. I bake challah, make gefilte fish, matzah balls, potato kugel…the works! It’s so delicious! I’m not bragging, because Shabbat itself is the fabulous secret ingredient that makes all the food so yummy. We sing songs around the table — everybody is home, even the teenagers. Nobody is talking on the phone. We’re together. We talk. We’re family.

Leah, thank you for such thoughtful, inspirational responses! Best of luck with COPYCAT!

Listen to Leah's music at

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pamela Ehrenberg - Blog Tour Kick-Off!

Last year Pamela Ehrenberg’s book Ethan Suspended created a loyal fan base, including me. I am thrilled to kick off the blog tour for Pamela Ehrenberg and her new novel, Tillmon County Fire, a multi-dimentional, thought-provoking story of small town life in Appalachia. The gripping plot, unique cast of characters, and the stories they share will keep readers turning the pages.

I’m delighted to share my interview with Pamela.

Tell me about your new book, Tillmon County Fire.

It's about a couple of kids who set fire to their classmate's house in an anti-gay hate crime. The story is told from eight different perspectives, the voices of kids who are in one way or another connected to the event. One kid's story is all in poetry; another story has large chunks of instant-messaging dialogue. There's even one story told in the third person, which was a big departure for me.

What was your inspiration for the book?

Though the characters and events are fictitious--and the setting is fictitious too--I drew my inspiration for the setting from the year I spent as an AmeriCorps member in Appalachian western Maryland. My inspiration for the storytelling style came from the Ernest Gaines book A Gathering of Old Men. That story was also told in multiple perspectives, and it was a story where the place itself--the community--could be seen as a character in the book.

Was research required?

Most of the research was the first-hand experience of living in an Appalachian community. But I got to do some research on police scanner codes--at one point, my working title for the novel was 477, which is the scanner code for arson. And I researched what kind of birds would have been around that part of the country in April. And the designs on different old-timey bottlecaps. And NYC prep schools, and Carrie Underwood lyrics. Fun stuff. Stuff that probably would have been really time-consuming before the Internet.

What was the most interesting discovery you made during the writing of the book?

I'm afraid that if I choose anything that's actually in the book, people will think back and say, "gosh, I didn't find that interesting at all!" But one thing that was interesting to "discover" was the (invented) history of this (imaginary) county where the book takes place. At one point, I had a whole chapter that was a letter written by one of the county's first settlers, talking about some of the county's history that tied back into the current story. All that's left of that chapter now is about a sentence and a half in the prologue. But it was fun to uncover the layers of history in the place. The discovery helped me get to know the county better, even if most of it didn't make it into the book.

Is there a Jewish link in the book? Why is the connection important?

Yes--Ben, one of the main characters, is one-quarter Jewish, and his father had abandoned the family years earlier to seek a Jewish life that wasn't possible in this part of Appalachia. Ben begins traveling to a synagogue 60 miles away (the synagogue, by the way, was inspired by the shul where I spent Rosh Hashanah during my AmeriCorps year). He's an outsider for being part-Jewish but also an outsider within the synagogue--and at the same time, this experience gives him a space to work through some of the other issues he's struggling with, some of the other ways he's an outsider.

Be sure to follow Pamela on the rest of her tour! Check out the details on her web site at

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meet Jacqueline Dembar Greene!

American Girl fans have been awaiting the newest addition to the historical doll collection. Her name is Rebecca Rubin and she was welcomed to the world on May 31. As with all the American Girl dolls, a series of books about Rebecca has been released.

Rebecca is a nine-year-old Jewish girl growing up in New York City in 1914 during the height of America’s immigration era. Written by award-winning author Jacqueline Dembar Greene, the stories offer insight into a unique time in America’s history, including the struggles of immigrants, the early days of the movie industry, and the fight for safe working conditions. Young readers will experience Rebecca’s loving extended family, the excitement of Coney Island and the sights and smells of the Lower East Side of New York.

The six Rebecca books are a wonderful contribution to children’s literature and I am honored to have the opportunity to interview Jacqueline Dembar Greene.

How were you chosen to be the writer for the Rebecca series?

That’s a question I wondered about myself! I was quite surprised to receive a call one afternoon from an editor at American Girl. She explained that they were interested in developing a new character, one that would feature a Jewish girl in an immigrant family. She asked if I would be interested in submitting a proposal for a six-book series to accompany the character. How could I refuse? When pressed about how American Girl decided to contact me, the editor mentioned that she had read my historical novels, Out of Many Waters and One Foot Ashore. She had also looked at online information about other books that I had written. I think that the company was interested in a Jewish children’s book writer who was familiar with historical novels. But some of this is just a guess! Mostly, I’d have to say it was my lucky day.

How much research was involved?

I recently checked the bibliography I compiled for the series and counted over 100 books. Most of them I read cover to cover.In addition to poking through libraries to discover books on obscure topics (like makeup for silent films), I watched several documentary films about New York City during the influx of Eastern European immigrants around the turn of the Twentieth Century.American Girl assigned an historical researcher to the Rebecca project. He was a wizard at finding a wealth of information just when I’d reached a dead-end. He found websites that answered questions for me, and provided illustrations and material from vintage catalogs on clothing, decorations, furnishings, and so much more. It was a luxury to have such support in finding information that I normally would have had to track down on my own.Another avenue of information was even more fun than sleuthing the library stacks.

American Girl sent a team of people involved in the Rebecca series to New York City for several days. A member of the art department, my editor, the illustrator, the historian, and I visited locations and museums that provided first-hand knowledge of the Lower East Side neighborhood where Rebecca lived. We visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, took tours through the marvelous Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, and went to numerous museums. The Jewish Museum, the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the Museum of the City of New York, the Coney Island Museum, and a long list of other places filled our visit. The weather cooperated with a lovely January thaw, and we tramped around the neighborhoods from East Seventh Street, where we imagined Rebecca could have lived, to Rivington Street where I placed her father’s shoe store. I snapped numerous photographs to spark my memory after I returned home, and took pages of notes. In between, sampled “authentic foods” in the local delis and bakeries. After all, how could we get into the spirit of our trip without fueling up with rugelach?

Was the writing process different than with your other books?

The Rebecca series was similar to my previous books in many ways. It is based on historical events, yet the stories are fiction. I spent a great deal of time doing background research until I felt as if I could step into a time machine, emerge in New York City in 1914, and feel quite comfortable. As with other novels I have written, I moved from gathering facts to conceiving of a main character. One I envisioned Rebecca’s personality and created her family and friends, I moved on to writing outlines of the plots.In many other ways, the project was quite different than working in isolation. Generally when I complete a book, I try to find an interested publisher, and then work with an editor to make revisions. With the American Girl series, the publisher found me, and I worked with the editor from the start.I had never written so many books about one character all at once. I had to think of how Rebecca might grow and change over a full year. Each book had to stand alone, yet also fit in with previous books in the series. It was a challenge to think of six book ideas that would wrap up neatly.There was another unique aspect to writing for American Girl—I didn’t have to write the books in a vacuum. I met with the editor or had occasional long phone discussions (with a break for lunch!) to think of different ways to solve a plot problem. Having so much support was helpful and energizing.

What is your favorite thing about Rebecca?

Like Gepetto who carved Pinocchio from a block of wood and saw him become a real boy, I feel as if Rebecca came to life as the stories were created. She began as an idea and stepped from my imagination into her own life. I hope she’s a girl that readers will care about. Above all, I like the way Rebecca finds a balance between keeping her family’s traditions and forging ahead in a changing American world. Sometimes, she starts off on the wrong path, but as events develop, she finds new approaches. Rebecca learns from her efforts, and from the people around her. She is always changing and growing into the person she wants to be.At the end of the sixth book, Rebecca says that she has come to feel that every person is like a member of a band, each playing her own instrument, but together creating a harmonious sound. I felt as if Rebecca had finally hit her own perfect note.

Jacqueline, thank you for sharing your author’s journey and for creating such a wonderful character for us to enjoy! To learn more about Jacqueline and her work, please visit her web site at

For more information about Rebecca and other American Girl dolls, visit

Labels: , ,