“The Kissing Bandit” is an indie children’s book that celebrates the importance of positive affection between parents and kids. The brainchild of Jewish dads Jason Menayan and Aaron Dence, “The Kissing Bandit” started as a kickstarter campaign and eventually became an interactive story about the dapper Professor Roade who magically transforms into colorful bandit Edora, and a hand-made reversible puppet to go with it. This week Jason and Aaron will be giving away a book and puppet set to three lucky winners (enter the raffle below).
Meanwhile, we sat down with Jason to talk about his inspiration for the book and what he kvells about.
1. What was the inspiration for “The Kissing Bandit”?
It was my idea. I really couldn’t stop kissing my newborn daughter and just kind of invented Edora as a kind of alter ego of the persona I had adopted. At first Zahava just regarded me with amusement as I kissed her all over, but as she got older, she would giggle. I thought it would make for a cute book. A playful scamp that can’t help but kiss kids until they laugh hysterically…what’s not to love?
2. What does your daughter think of the book?
She loves it! And believe me, if she didn’t like it we’d know it. She has no compunction about knocking a book she doesn’t want me to read to her out of my hands with a loud, “No!”
We’ve read it to her so much at this point that she kind of “babble” reads it aloud with us now. She also kisses Edora, both the puppet incarnation and the illustrations of her in the book. It’s really adorable.
3. “The Kissing Bandit” is not particularly LGBT-themed or about an LGBT family, but there is a rainbow color scheme throughout. As two gay dads, was that an intentional statement?
Heehee! No, actually! The only rainbow element of the visual concept when we came up with our prototype was Edora’s hair. That was the extent of the gay dads’ contribution to the color scheme.
The Carpenter brothers, who are both straight (Jason is actually married to Rachel Chow, who designed the reversible puppet), came up with the rainbow lips, the rainbow footsteps, the rainbow umbrella, and Professor Roade’s rainbow bow tie. Of course, we love the direction they took–the richness of color is really more a visible representation of expressiveness and the joy of affection than a nod to LGBT rights. They couldn’t have done a better job of illustrating the book and designing the puppet according to our vision if they were psychic.
4. We love your daughter’s awesome Hebrew name! Why did you choose Zahava?
Thank you! You know we came to Kveller while doing our research, right? MANY times. It took us soooo long to settle on her name.
I personally like the Israeli politician Zahava Gal-On, and golden has special meaning for Californians (our state is golden, after all) and especially San Franciscans (even a synagogue here in San Francisco is called Sha’ar Zahav, or Golden Gate). Aaron had also heard the name since he had been receiving emails from a woman with the same name in the start-up world. I also just like how it sounds, and that it’s almost impossible to misspell or mispronounce even if you don’t know Hebrew.
What clinched the deal was our babymoon to Israel a couple of months before our daughter was born. We took a trip to the Dead Sea and passed the Ahava cosmetics headquarters, and we realized that at least the way it’s spelled with Latin letters, Zahava incorporates the Hebrew word for love.
5. What makes you kvell?
What doesn’t?! Zahava gives me new reasons to shep nachas from her every day. The moments that really make me swell with pride are those when I see something that’s decidedly “her.” For example, she LOVES music and dancing. Just about whenever she hears any kind of music, she stops, plants her feet apart, and starts swaying, almost in a trance. Even if she’s the only one. Adults and children alike stop, stare, and chuckle warmheartedly, and Zahava just continues to gyrate to the melody. I love it so much I can’t stand it!
To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below. We will draw a winner on Monday, August 24.