Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two Gold Medalists Speak!

Barbara Bietz, a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, has interviewed2007 STBA medalist Brenda Ferber (Julia's Kitchen) and 2008 STBA medalist Sid Fleischman (The Entertainer and the Dybbuk) for her blog! Both authors took the gold in the Older Readers Category. A highlight from each interview:


Barbara: Tell me a little bit about your latest book. Why you were drawn to write about a Jewish theme or character?

Brenda: JULIA’S KITCHEN is about an 11-year-old Jewish girl finding hope and resiliency after her mom and sister die in a house fire. My initial inspiration was to write about grief, about coping in life when the worst possible thing happens. I was interested in the relationship people have with God when tragedy strikes. So often, people thank God for all their blessings in life, but does that then mean God is to blame when something awful happens? That was the question I explored in JULIA’S KITCHEN. Because I’m Jewish, it was natural for me to write about a Jewish character and to have a Jewish perspective on God’s role in our lives.

Click here to read the entire interview with Brenda!


Barbara: The concept of a dybbuk might be unfamiliar to kids. How have readers responded to this aspect of the story?

Sid: Yes, even among Jews, I have found only spotty familiarity. But they respond immediately and with fascination when the dybbuk is explained. Kids, especially, to discover there is a well-defined Jewish ghost lurking about. From mail I have received so far, kids especially are enchanted with Avrom, the dybbuk in the novel, and particularly the ending when he tricks the villain into confessing.

Click here to read the entire interview with Sid!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

STBA Winner Lauded in New Zealand

Creating Readers, a blog run by staff at the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, exists to help create motivated and engaged young readers. They cover children's and YA literature (especially from New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.

They recently reviewed Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass, the 2004 Sydney Taylor Book Award gold medalist in the Older Readers Category. Here's what reviewer Janice Rodrigues said:

You probably hear about the complexities of the Israel-Palestinian situation almost every week on the news. Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass is a frighteningly real minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day depiction of how quickly lives can change by acts of terrorism.

The story is set in contemporary Israel. The book is strung together through narrations by Thomas, a German boy on a mission to find out more about his grandfather, Vera, a Jewish girl trying to escape her distressing past, Baruch, a Holocaust survivor working on a kibbutz, Sameh, a Palestinian boy on an assignment and his friend Omar, Dr Ibrahim Stitti, a Palestinian doctor working in a hospital in Israel and Clive Burleigh, a Middle East news correspondent.

The format of the book is brilliant as it sets the pace for the events that unfold. The author Pnina Moed Kass says in her interview that writing this book seemed to be her only act of release from feelings of overwhelming sadness, bitterness and incomprehension.

This book was the winner of the 2004 Sydney Taylor Award. Read this book and get a feel for the effects of terrorism from different points of view.