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Mar 15 2013

PJ Library Corner: Interview with Laurel Snyder, Author of The Longest Night

By at 9:39 am

the longest night laurel snyderOne of the most unique Passover children’s books we’ve seen yet is the new picture book from Laurel Snyder, The Longest Night. Like many books of the sort, it retells the story of Exodus, but it’s told from the perspective of a young Jewish girl. And where other kids books may skip or doll up some of the more violent/sad parts of the Passover story, Snyder stays pretty true to the script. It makes for a compelling read, and we were lucky enough to sit down with Laurel and ask her a few questions.

**The Longest Night is a PJ Library book, as well as Snyder’s previous children’s book, Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to be KosherTo get great Jewish books like these for free every month, sign up for PJ Library. If you’re in the New York metro area, sign up through Kveller here. If you live elsewhere, check out this map to find your local PJ community.**

It seems like the plagues get a lot of attention when it comes to celebrating Passover with kids, but they’re usually cutesied upplague finger puppets, plague masks, plague bowling set, etc. The plagues in your book are decidedly not cute (no offense). Why did you choose to present a more realistic view of the plagues, and do those cutesy products mentioned above bother you?

Honestly, there’s something fascinating about taking the gruesome and making it playful. I’m not offended at all. But we should ask what we’re trying to accomplish when we do that. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 21 2013

My Son’s Purim Costume is Miss Viola Swamp

By at 1:41 pm

miss nelson is missingPurim was never my favorite holiday for many of the same reasons that I never liked Halloween. I was embarrassed to dress up. I worried that other kids would laugh at me. I never liked my home-made costumes. And having to do this twice a year instead of just on Halloween made it all the more painful. My husband felt exactly the same way growing up in Israel, though he was spared the extra torture of Halloween. 

And I can tell that my kids share some of that Purim apprehension. Especially now that we’re living in Israel and it’s not just one evening when you put on your costume and go to shul. It’s a week of Black & White Day and Face Paint Day and Wear an Accessory Day (I’m sorry, huh?) and Polka Dot Day and Pajama Day. And finally, Wear Your Costume to School Day. That’s right. Six days of chaotic mornings deciding whether or not to participate in the Purim revelry du jour. It’s too much for this mama. Although at this point my oldest, who is 8, knows his tolerance for teasing and what he’s willing to endure in the name of self expression. He learned that lesson two Purims ago while we were still living in the States.   Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2013

Let’s Get Real About Jewish LGBT Families

By at 11:45 am

the purim superhero

Yesterday, we announced the launch of The Purim Superhero, the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book in English. Today, one mother reflects on initial reactions to the book.

The other day, Kveller’s partner site MyJewishLearning.com posted on their Facebook page about a new children’s book coming out that focuses on Purim. According to the write-up, Elisabeth Kushner’s The Purim Superhero is “the sweet story of a boy named Nate who has a Purim dilemma: he loves aliens and really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes, and he wants to fit in. With the help of his two dads, he makes a surprising decision.” Read the rest of this entry →

Fairytales for the Next Generation: Beauty Isn’t Everything

By at 9:40 am

I am a storyteller, so my children were first exposed to fairytales through my own storytelling rather than reading them in books.

My son really loved “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” amended slightly to teach the lesson about not walking into strangers’ houses, and “Little Red Riding Hood,” which I was nervous about telling due to the carnivorous wolf but which my son found hilarious. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 16 2013

We Proudly Present: The Purim Superhero

By at 9:50 am

the purim superhero

As you may have guessed, we’re huge fans of Jewish children’s books, which is why we were very excited to co-sponsor the launch of The Purim Superhero, the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book in English!

This book, written by Elisabeth Kushner and illustrated by Mike Byrne, was the winner of Keshet’s National Book-Writing Contest, and we couldn’t be happier to finally see it released from Kar-Ben Publishing.

So what’s it all about? Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 14 2013

PJ Library Corner: A Tree is Nice, Indeed

By at 5:03 pm

a tree is nice children's picture book

In case you didn’t know, there’s a minor Jewish holiday coming up on January 25th called Tu Bishvat, and it’s all about trees.

Oftentimes referred to as the “New Year for Trees” or the “Birthday of the Trees,” Tu Bishvat comes as the trees in Israel just start to blossom (we know, we know, there’s still snow on the ground in many places right now, including Israel, but an early springtime celebration never hurts).

Anyways, back to the trees: many families celebrate Tu Bishvat by planting trees and celebrating all that they have to offer. This month, PJ Library, an organization that sends out free Jewish books to families each month, offered up a true gem, just in time for Tu Bishvat: A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont. Originally published in 1956 and winner of the Caldecott Medal, this charming picture book is a throwback to a simpler time, and a reminder to soak in the wonder of nature all around us. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 10 2013

The Best Ways for Busy Parents to Occupy a 5-Year-Old

By at 3:48 pm

I’m lucky that Ronia loves to have books read to her, and on Shabbat you’ll often find the three of us curled up on the couch reading from a stack of our favorite children’s books.

She’s also recently gotten into chapter books, and is loving this gorgeous illustrated edition of The Arabian Nights so much that we read two thirds of it over one Shabbat. But we’re busy people, and sometimes we just don’t have the time to sit and read to Ronia. I have to make dinner, or do 15 minutes of work, or focus on the drive to Trader Joe’s. So we’ve developed an arsenal of games, activities, and things to listen to that keep Ronia happy and allow her dad and me to take care of business. Read the rest of this entry →

Busy Parents: You Do Have Time to Read

By at 9:51 am

“HOW do you have time to READ??” Whenever I mention a book I’ve read or am reading, this is usually the response I get from other mothers.

I assume this reaction of disbelief is because I have articulately/accurately described the chaos involved in raising four children/one relationship/one self.

But do you notice how no one ever says, when you mention Matthew and Mary, “YOU watch TV??? HOW do you have the TIME?” (on Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS, FYI). And yet, I know for a fact that most of you parents out there watch non-kid-oriented TV. I have nothing against TV (particularly not if it is Downton Abbey, Homeland, Girls, Mad Men or Game of Thrones). TV is fun. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 14 2012

Literview: Karen S. Exkorn, Author of Fifty-Two Shades of Blue-ish

By at 1:06 pm

Fifty-Two Shades of Blue-ish is a hilarious Jewish parody of 50 Shades of Grey.

In it, a nice Jewish girl named Rachel Levine gets involved with Jew Ishman, a tall dark and handsome CEO of Kosher Candyland. Jew is sexy, and very committed to Jewish women, but Rachel has to decide if she really wants to submit to his ALMOST TEN COMMANDMENTS (he always puts them in all caps) and a relationship with “Master Mars Bars” (what he prefers to be called). The book will keep you giggling even if you haven’t read the trilogy it’s riffing on.

We interviewed Karen S. Exkorn, author of Fifty-Two Shades of Blue-ish about her book, her life, and why she decided to donate a portion of her profits to an autism charity.

How did the idea for a Jewish parody of Fifty Shades of Grey come to you? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

The Better Way to Read to Your Kids

By at 1:46 pm

siblings reading to each otherSometimes, while all four children are seated at the table, shoveling cheerios down their o-shaped mouths, I have tried to limit breakfast battles by reading a book.

It does not seem to matter what kind of book I read in the early hour; they all listen and concentrate on the tale at hand. With my children ranging from teen, tween and post-tot, it fascinates me that each child is able to enjoy the story, no matter what their reading level is. This has led me to think about the power of picture books and early reading comprehension. Read the rest of this entry →

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