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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Book of Life Podcast

So honored to be interviewed by Heidi Estrin on The Book of Life.

Listen here

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour is Coming!

Blog Tour 2012: The Sydney Taylor Book Award Interviews

The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be celebrating and showcasing its 2012 gold and silver medalists and a few selected Notables with a Blog Tour, February 5-10, 2012! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a wide variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs.

Later this spring, we'll follow up with an episode of Katie Davis's Brain Burps About Books devoted to the Sydney Taylor Book Award!

Click here for the full schedule

STBA Blog Tour


Friday, January 20, 2012


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries

Michael J. Rosen and Robert Sabuda, author and artist of Chanukah Lights, Susan Goldman Rubin, author of Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, and Robert Sharenow, author of The Berlin Boxing Club, are the 2012 winners of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award. The awards were announced at the mid-winter meeting of the School, Synagogue and Community Center Division of the Association of Jewish Libraries.The Sydney Taylor Book Award honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.

The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. The winners will receive their awards at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Pasadena, California this June.

Rosen and Sabuda will receive the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Chanukah Lights, published by Candlewick Press. This exquisite book celebrates Jewish history by pairing poetic prose with intricate paper cut pop-up art. Barbara Bietz, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, said: “From the shtetl to skyscrapers, the white pop-up scenes against a background of deep rainbow colors illuminate Jewish life for the eight nights of Chanukah. Together, children and adults will marvel at the stunning scenes that magically unfold with each turn of the page.”

The gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Older Readers Category will be presented to Susan Goldman Rubin for Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, published by Charlesbridge Publishing. This biography shares the inspiring story of the young musician and his commitment to succeed in spite of his family’s opposition. Through hard work, determination and a spirit that won’t quit, Bernstein’s dream is realized as he takes the stage as a conductor at Carnegie Hall. Numerous photos help bring Bernstein’s journey to life. Committee member Barbara Krasner commented: “Music Was It" shows the struggle between the old and new worlds - the immigrant generation and the American generation. Susan Goldman Rubin's well-researched and polished narrative was filled with tension that today's kids can relate to.”In 2000, Goldman Rubin received the Sydney Taylor Honor Award for Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. Her book, The Cat with the Yellow Star: Coming of Age in Terezin, was a 2006 Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

Robert Sharenow will receive the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers Category for The Berlin Boxing Club, published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishing. This historical novel reveals the history of Nazi Germany through the eyes of Karl Stern, a typical 14-year-old German boy. Karl never gave much thought to being Jewish and had little connection with any religious life. When classmates bully Karl, he is forced to face the dangers in his own community. Given the opportunity to learn boxing from German champion Max Schmeling, Karl jumps at the chance. He grows strong and learns to defend himself. But as the Nazi’s gain power and his family is in peril, Karl questions who he can trust. Aimee Lurie, incoming Chair of the Award Committee noted: “The superb writing, meticulous research, and dramatic look into the world of boxing pack a punch that will leave teens mesmerized! Readers will be captivated and inspired by Karl's transformation from being the victim of anti-semitic violence to a strong, confident young man who is able to protect his family.”

For complete list of winners, honors, and notables please visit:

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Mitzvah Project

Diane is the co-author of three non-fiction books for tweens, most recently, The Mitzvah Project Book Making Mitzvah Part of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah… and Your Life (Jewish Lights). Her writing partner is her best friend from college, Liz Suneby.

The Mitzvah Project Book Making Mitzvah Part of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah… and Your Life is a perfect book for any child in your life preparing for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Kids can be overwhelmed with the idea of a Mitzvah Project. Diane and Liz provide wonderful resources to help organize kids, helping them make the right choice that will lead to a meaningful experience. I'm was happy to have the opportunity to chat with Diane about her work.

What inspired you to write The Mitzvah Project Book? The annual Mitzvah Day at my family’s synagogue, Washington Hebrew Congregation, was a major source of inspiration. I saw how just one day of service could spark great changes—both within a community and within the volunteers themselves. Likewise, my daughters gained a sense of their own power to change the world from their bat mitzvah projects. Their projects motivated them to continue with volunteer work. That was so inspiring! I wanted to help Jewish tweens find meaningful mitzvah projects so they too would feel the force of tikkun olam.

Tell me a bit about the research.
Collecting the stories of the young people’s projects was rather daunting at first. We worried, “How are we going to find a wide range of projects from all over the country?” We networked with rabbis and educators from California to Vermont via email. My coauthor, Liz Suneby, and I also reached out to friends, friends of friends and those beyond our six degrees of separation. Jewish Lights, our publisher, was very supportive of our quest. In “The Mitzvah Project Book,” we also profile a few kids’ efforts in Australia and Canada. I’m not quite sure how those kids found us!

What did you learn while writing the book that surprised you the most?
What I learned that surprised me the most is that any mitzvah project done with a full heart is a worthy one—whether it took 5 hours or 500 hours, whether it touched one person or helped hundreds of people. The first fifty kids we spoke with had done fifty dissimilar, wonderful projects! The breadth of their efforts, talents and good deeds amazed me. Kids also have boundless imaginations, compassionate instincts and sensitive insights that many of us adults have lost. I really wanted this book to appeal to any Jewish tween who might pick it up and leaf through the pages—whether they were a soccer star, computer whiz, fashionista or foodie. And I hope the book achieves that goal. If it does, it is because of the awesome kids who shared their projects with us.

Any advice for aspiring non-fiction writers?
Forget about the adage, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I think all successful writers are curious. Explore things that are unfamiliar and keep your mind open. Return to anything that gives you a happy pinprick of “aha!” or quickens your heart—because those are the things that will inspire you. Keep an inspiration board, notebook or file to stimulate ideas. And a bit of bravery is useful too. Everyone has self-doubts and self-doubts can paralyze any of us—but wrap those pesky thoughts up in the thickest paper you can imagine and forget about them! Pretend you are writing something you wish had already been written (even if for your younger self)—so just start and keep on writing.

What is your favorite holiday?
This is a hard choice, but I will pick Rosh Hashanah (Passover is a close second). I love the promise of fresh starts, new beginnings, positive changes and hope for the future. Of course, apples and honey are a delicious tradition. At our house, we’ve been collecting apple and bee paraphernalia to decorate our table for this holiday. Also, noodle pudding is my absolute favorite Jewish delicacy and we enjoy it every Rosh Hashanah. I always prepare my co-author’s mom’s apricot jam noodle pudding recipe. In college, Liz and I once ate an entire pan of it by ourselves!

To learn more about The Mitzvah Project, please visit:


Monday, January 2, 2012

Goodbye Simms Taback

Our community was sad to hear about the passing of Simms Taback, creator of Joseph had a Little Overcoat, and many other beautiful books. His contributions to literature for children will be enjoyed for generations. May his memory be a blessing.

To read more, visit