Friday, June 20, 2008

Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award Announced

The Sydney Taylor Book Award has a sister award, the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award, which recognizes the best manuscript by an unpublished author for Judaic children's literature. The Manuscript Award was established by Sydney's husband, Ralph Taylor, because Sydney's own All-of-a-Kind Family series first came to light as the winner of a manuscript contest. Ralph knew how important it was to encourage writers, and that is what the Manuscript Award does. Several past winners of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award have gone on to be published, and some have even received further awards; think of Julia's Kitchen by Brenda Ferber, Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf, or A Pickpocket's Tale by Karen Schwabach.

Here is the press release announcing the most recent winner of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award!

2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award Announced

An Unpublished Gem
Margaret Chaiken has won the 2008 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries for her unpublished novel Stealing the Show. The award is presented annually for the best unpublished manuscript of Jewish content written for children 8-11 years old. The winner receives a cash award of $1000.

This year's winner, Stealing the Show, is a historical novel. Ten-year-old Ana, upset that she cannot attend a soccer award dinner that falls on the evening of the first Passover seder, is transported back to 16th century Antwerp and a family of conversos. Through her experience of literally walking in someone else's shoes, Ana learns to appreciate Judaism and understand the importance of one's convictions. A meeting with historical figure of Dona Gracia Nasi and the perils of the Inquisition bring excitement to the story.

Chaikin was inspired to write her novel while teaching fourth grade at Park East Day School in New York. She wanted to convey the story of Dona Gracia Nasi's exciting life to her students, but found nothing suitable.

She decided to write her own book, using historical fiction as her vehicle. Aileen Grossberg, chair of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award Committee, says "The time travel that forms the framework of the novel will immediately draw the reader into the story, and the tense situations that the characters face will make the reader want to find out what happens. The Committee was overjoyed to find such a wonderful historical story brought to light for modern readers!"

More Info Available
The Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award will be presented at the annual convention of the Association of Jewish Libraries this June in Cleveland, Ohio. Submissions for next year's Manuscript Award are being accepted through December 15, 2008; more information is available at

AJL Convention Article Mentions Sydney Taylor Book Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention starts this Sunday, June 22, 2008! It's taking place in Cleveland, OH, and today's Cleveland Jewish News ran a great article about the gathering. The article mentions the Sydney Taylor Book Award by name:

“The convention allows me to meet and brainstorm with my colleagues from around the world,” says librarian Wendy Wasman, convention co-chair. “We are also able to promote Jewish authors and advance Jewish literature through our two internationally recognized awards n the Sydney Taylor Book Award (best in Jewish children’s literature) and our reference award for scholarly materials.”

The article also mentions the post-conference being held in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Taylor Book Award:

New this year is a post-convention day limited to 100 participants called “A Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature.” The day will include study sessions and book signings by noted authors of Jewish children’s literature.
If you'd like to follow the convention as it unfolds, check out the convention blog at Please be sure to post comments, and to use the tag "ajlcleveland2008" if you participate in any social media stuff related to the convention!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Always Prayer Shawl on the Slush Pile

I just came across this very interesting tidbit: did you know that the amazing 1994 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner The Always Prayer Shawl was an unsolicited submission? I happened to find a Brodart newsletter that explains this history:

For Boyds Mills Press's The Always Prayer Shawl, by the late Sheldon Oberman, the story's rich cultural and religious focus told in powerful prose landed the book in the hands of esteemed reviewers. The children's picture book won the Sydney Taylor Award (1994) and National Jewish Book Award (1994), among others, and made the ALA Booklist's "Best Books Of The Year" list (1994).

Boyds Mills Press, tucked away in Honesdale, PA, publishes about 50 children's books each year, including picture books, fiction, nonfiction, activity books, poetry and paperback reprints. Citing a goal of publishing "good stories with lasting value," Editorial Director Larry Rosler described the unsolicited manuscript of The Always Prayer Shawl as powerful and simply outstanding. Once the book was ready for release, promotions were targeted to a specific market-religious and cultural communities-using mailers, and the book was included in the company's catalog. "The awards, of course, brought a lot more attention to the picture book once it was released," said Rosler.

"Regardless of our size, we do what all good publishers do-cultivate relationships with our authors," explained Rosler. Following The Always Prayer Shawl, Boyds Mills Press published two more titles by Sheldon Oberman: By The Hanukkah Light and The Wisdom Bird: A Tale of Solomon and Sheba, which also received a Sydney Taylor Award (2000). A collection of Jewish folktales retold by Sheldon Oberman is forthcoming.

Making sure the story comes first, Boyds Mills Press, like many other small publishers, is able to select works that fit their genre rather than fill a market need or succumb to publishing trends. In the end it's the story's value and quality, or simply its hilarity and appeal that propels it to stardom.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Shiny Gold Buttons

Whew, what a weekend! I spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Book Expo America in LA, trekking up and down the aisles to hand out Sydney Taylor Book Award media kits to publishers and to investigate the newest in Jewish lit.

I also gave out shiny gold Sydney Taylor Book Award lapel pins. You can see one on my name badge in this picture - I'm on the right. With me are (left) uberlibrarian Etta Gold, and (middle) uberblogger/author/STBA-committee-member Barbara Bietz. The pins were a new addition this year to our Sydney Taylor marketing efforts and people seemed to like them - they are awfully gold and shiny!

Thanks goodness Barbara took one picture because I left my camera at the hotel and just concentrated on getting as many audio interviews as I could. After introducing myself and inquiring about a publisher's forthcoming Jewish titles, I handed them a media kit and then stuck a microphone in their face. I made a lot of people nervous, so I want to thank everyone for being such good sports about being recorded. The audio will be posted on my podcast, The Book of Life, within the next few weeks. Stay tuned to find out about the newest of the new in Jewish lit for kids and for adults! Maybe one of the books I found will even turn out to be the next winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award!