Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Esther Hautzig, First Sydney Taylor Winner, Dies at 79

School Library Journal broke the news today (see obit) that author Esther Hautzig died on Sunday, November 1 at the age of 79. Esther Rudomin Hautzig was the author of the memoir The Endless Steppe, about her experiences in Siberia, where her family was exiled during WWII, ultimately saving their lives. The book was the winner of AJL's first book award in 1968 (before the award was even called the "Sydney Taylor").

Esther attended the 2004 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Brooklyn, NY, where she received a standing ovation during the Awards Banquet in honor of her status as inaugural award winner. Besides winning the gold medal for The Endless Steppe in 1968, Esther also received a silver Sydney Taylor Honor Award in 1992 for Riches and silver again in 2002 for A Picture of Grandmother.

In 2002, School Library Journal included a rather tepid review of A Picture of Grandmother, calling it "a slight story." Feeling that the reviewer had missed the point, I wrote a letter to the editor explaining that anyone who knew the "backstory" of Hautzig's childhood, a warm family life disrupted by the war, would understand that A Picture of Grandmother was a poignant tribute to the lives of those who were lost. It celebrated the beautiful normalcy of their lives instead of bemoaning their deaths.

After the letter was printed in SLJ, I received an envelope with the name "Esther Hautzig" in the upper left hand corner. I almost hyperventilated. I had just finished listening to the audiobook of The Endless Steppe the week before, and still felt very close to the "character" of Esther's younger self. To my shock and delight, Esther had read my defense of her book in SLJ and had sent me a heartfelt letter and a packet of articles about Holocaust writing for children. She thanked me for the positive review I'd written for the Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter (see below for review text) and she said "Your letter to SLJ made me cry. The original review (and the reviewer's response) made me cry for quite another reason. Your support of the premise, and my reason for writing it, was balm for my soul."

This was perhaps the most important thing an author has ever said to me, because it made me realize that the audience for reviews is not just fellow librarians or parents shopping for their children, it's the authors themselves. Esther taught me how very important it is to review books respectfully, and to respond to a book not only with emotion but with substantive critiques.

Just that exchange of letters would have been enough (dayenu!) but I was fortunate to have my cake and eat it too. Not only did Esther join us at our AJL convention in Brooklyn in 2004, she also met me when I traveled to New York on other occasions, getting together for a cozy dinner at a German restaurant, for a back-room tour of the Donnell Library where she worked, or for an afternoon tea break. Although I only knew her briefly, and probably spent less than 24 hours with her when you add it all together, she made me feel as if we were intimate friends. She gave me a copy of her book Remember Who You Are: Stories About Being Jewish and a classical piano CD by her husband Walter, a concert pianist. (Listen to Walter play in the video below, and watch for Esther in the audience at the 50 second mark.) I gave her a set of stationary cards printed with nature photographs taken by my husband, Jonathan, and a CD recording of my own Book of Life podcast. We took the bus together across Manhattan, and she made sure I had a transfer ticket before she got off at her stop.

Esther was the most gracious lady, one of those shining souls who makes the people around them feel good. I'll follow her lead from A Picture of Grandmother (and really from all of her writing) and say, not how much I'll miss her, but how glad I am to have known her.

A Picture of Grandmother by Esther Hautzig, illustrated by Beth Peck, Farrar Straus & Giroux 2002 (review by Heidi Estrin from Amazon.com, originally appeared in AJL Newsletter)

The Association of Jewish Libraries awarded this book a Sydney Taylor Book Award silver medal, and it truly deserves recognition. It's a quiet gem. At face value, it's about the value of truth, the importance of forgiveness, and the joy of family bonding. The language is simple yet elegant, formal in a European way that adds flavor to the Vilna setting. Young readers will be drawn in by the mystery that baffles Sara and the honesty of the emotions portrayed will resonate with them. On another level, the story is a remarkable tribute to the author's pre-war childhood. As anyone who has read Hautzig's The Endless Steppe knows, most of her family perished in the Holocaust; she survived with her parents and grandmother only because they were exiled to Siberia as capitalists. In this book she brings her belvoed Vilna back to life, peoples it with her extended family, and breathes significance back into matters that the Nazis were soon to treat as inconsequential. Rathe rthan describe the disruption of family connections by war, she examines the history of the family and the mending of broken connections. Although it takes place in 1939 the story has nothing to do with war, highlighting the normalcy that was soon to be destroyed and intensifying the poignancy for those who know Hautzig's history. The story is fiction, but it is based on real events in Hautzig's childhood, and many of the characters bear he names of her actual relatives. The facts may be fictional but the feelings are real.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More Awards for an AJL Winner

Deborah Heiligman's nonfiction books for children have been named AJL Notable books several times in the past (Celebrate Hanukkah, Celebrate Passover, and Celebrate Rosh Hashanah). Now this excellent author has been named a finalist for the National Book Award in the Young People's Literature category! The book in question is a children's biography of Charles Darwin called Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith.

Here's what the National Book Foundation has to say about it, along with their suggested links:


Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary treatise on evolution, in 1859. Even today, the theory of evolution creates tension between the scientific and religious communities. This same debate raged within Darwin himself and played an important part in his marriage: Emma’s faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on his controversial theory.

This biography of Charles Darwin takes a personal look at the man behind evolutionary theory. His children doubled as scientific specimens, and his wife’s religious convictions made him rethink how the world would receive his ideas. What emerges is a portrait of a brilliant man, a radical science, and a great love.


Deborah Heiligman majored in religious studies in college. Then she married a science writer and fell in love with science, too. She has written twenty-five books for young people, many of them about science or religion. Ms. Heiligman was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where she and her husband, Jonathan Weiner, also raised their sons. They now live in New York City.


Deborah Heiligman's Official Site

Deborah Heiligman's Blog

VIDEO - Features Nonfiction Children's Book Authors (including Deborah Heiligman) discussing INK (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids)

INK Blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Awards for Richard Michelson

Skipping Stones is an international, multicultural and nature awareness magazine for today’s youth, now in its 21st year. Their yearly Skipping Stones Honor Awards recognize books that "promote cooperation and cultivate an awareness of our diverse cultures. Together, [these books] encourage an understanding of the world’s diversity, ecological richness, respect for differing viewpoints and close relationships in human societies."

Richard Michelson, author of the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner As Good As Anybody and the 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Book A is for Abraham (both in the Younger Readers category), has now been doubly honored. As Good As Anybody and A is for Abraham are both listed in the 2009 Skipping Stones Honor Awards! A hearty mazel tov to Richard!

Click here for the official announcement and the full list of winning titles, which includes children's books and teacher resources.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Anna Levine on SLJ Blog

Sydney Taylor Honor author Anna Levine (Freefall, 2009 Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category), appears today on School Library Journal on "Bowllan's Blog." Blogger Amy Bowllan has been running a very popular "Writers Against Racism" series of interviews, and we are very pleased to see her include Judaism in the mix.

In the interview, Anna says "I am a strong believer of the power that literature can have as a way of crossing cultural and linguistic borders. As writers, if we can envision and create worlds in which people co-exist then we can plant the seeds of change." Go, Anna!

To read the full interview, click here.

To visit Anna's website, go to www.annalevine.org.

And enjoy Anna's new book trailer for Freefall below!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Committee Gets New Members

For Immediate Release
September, 2009


The Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries has appointed three new members. Their four-year terms will begin in January 2010. The committee benefits from the diverse membership of AJL, and with the unique talents and experience of the incoming members, we are confident the high standards of the committee will continue.

Debbie Feder is the Director of the Library Resource Center at Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago. An active member of the Chicago AJL Chapter, Debbie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and earned her MLS from Dominican University. Debbie, who also worked at the Skokie Public Library, is a lover of children’s literature, first enthralled by All-of-a-Kind-Family.

Aimee Lurie comes to the committee with experience in a variety of Jewish libraries, including the Temple-Tifereth Israel, the Fairmount Temple and the Agnon School, as well as public libraries. Amy has reviewed books for the AJL Newsletter and VOYA and feels that “reviewing books is every librarian’s professional responsibility and it has always played a critical role in my personal professional development. Not only does it play an invaluable role in collection development, I have found it is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of publishing trends.” Aimee is active in the Cleveland chapter of AJL and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ohio State and an MLS from Kent State University.

Nancy Silverrod is a librarian at San Francisco Public Library. Nancy graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Michigan University and earned her MILS at the University of Michigan. Nancy states that “My reading over the years led me to a deeper connection and involvement with Judaism, and the opportunity to recommend high quality books to interested readers is one of the things I most enjoy about my work” – a great combination.

Barbara Bietz of Oak Park, California will assume the chairmanship. She is the author of Like a Maccabee (Yaldah Publishing, 2006). As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in numerous publications, and she is a frequent reviewer for Jewish Book World and the AJL Newsletter.

The 2009-2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee will also include Debbie Colodny (Libertyville, Illinois), Rita Soltan (West Bloomfield, Michigan); Kathe Pinchuck (Clifton, New Jersey), past chair; and Rachel Kamin (Chicago, Illinois), compiler. Heidi Estrin (Boca Raton, Florida) will assist the committee as AJL Public Relations Liason.

Tremendous Harkaras Hatov (appreciation) to Susan Berson (Denver, Colorado and Kathy Bloomfield (Wellesley, Massachusetts) who have served their four-year terms on the committee with distinction.

For more information, contact Kathe Pinchuck, Chair, Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, chair@sydneytaylorbookaward.org

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sydney Taylor Book Award Slide Show

A slide show of some of the fun we had with the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners and committee members at the AJL Convention in Chicago, July 2009.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two Interviews with Raul Colon

Raul & his lovely wife, with award certificate

Social media guru Mark Blevis was a presenter at the AJL convention, and while he was there he snagged some interviews for his own blog and podcast. Here are two interviews with Raul Colon, illustrator of the Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers category, As Good As Anybody by Richard Michelson.

Listen to Raul on the Just One More Book Podcast...

...and hear more from Raul at the markblevis.com blog.

Award Acceptance Speeches

A video of the Sydney Taylor Book Award acceptance speeches of Richard Michelson & Raul Colon (As Good As Anybody), made by award committee member Barbara Bietz, originally posted on her blog at barbarabbookblog.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

STBA Convention Podcasts

Each year at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention, the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee gets together to do a panel review of recent Jewish books for kids and teens. It takes the whole morning, and there are usually at least 100 people in attendance. It's a lively event in which committee members praise books, deconstruct books, disagree with each other, and share lots of honest opinions. The session usually includes guest appearance by recent award winners as well.

At the 2008 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Cleveland, Ohio, we recorded the committee's presentation, as well as the talks given by Sarah Gershman & Kristina Swarner (author & illustrator of The Bedtime Sh'ma, which won a gold in the Younger Readers category) and Sonia Levitin (author of Strange Relations, which won gold for Teen Readers). These recordings (and many others) are available via the AJL Podcast at jewishlibraries.org/podcast.

Click here for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee's panel "Adventures in Book Reviewing"

Click here for Sarah Gershman and Kristina Swarner (The Bedtime Sh'ma)

Click here for Sonia Levitin (Strange Relations)

The 2009 AJL Convention will be held July 5-8 in Chicago, IL, and once again we will be recording sessions for podcasting.

Monday, May 18, 2009

See You at Book Expo!

Each year at Book Expo America, we scout for new Jewish books and we distribute information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award to publishers. This May we'll be giving out our elegantly designed packet containing an oversized bookmark designating the 2009 winners (As Good As Anybody, Brooklyn Bridge, & A Bottle in the Gaza Sea), a CD-ROM containing every review written by our committee members during 2008 as they considered all submissions for the 2009 award, and instructions for applying for the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award.

If you'll be at Book Expo, please look for Sydney Taylor Book Award committee member Heidi Estrin, who'll be traipsing up and down the aisles giving out Sydney Taylor packets (and doing interviews for The Book of Life podcast, too)!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Past STBA Winner Sarah Darer Littman Speaks

2006 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner Sarah Darer Littman graciously agreed to be interviewed for the STBA Blog. We hope to bring you more blast-from-the-past interviews in the coming months, so we can catch up with our favorite authors and see what they've been doing!

Sarah, you won the Sydney Taylor Book Award (in the Older Readers Category) in 2006 for Confessions of a Closet Catholic, your first published book. Tell us about the experience of having your first book receive this kind of recognition.

It was a tremendous honor and for someone as deeply insecure as I am, it was very affirming. I'm sure winning the Sydney Taylor Award brought the book to the attention of people who might otherwise have given it much consideration, particularly because the title. I really enjoyed getting out on the road to visit Jewish communities that had embraced the book. Plus, I got to wear a tiara! Life was good. I Of course, I then proceeded to have a dreadful and I'm sure completely unrelated case of the Second Book Blues.
Confessions of a Closet Catholic is about a Jewish girl, Justine, whose family gives her mixed messages about "how Jewish" she should be, so she tries on Catholicism for a while before returning to her roots. What was the inspiration for this unusual storyline? Do you think many kids question their faith in this way?
Growing up, I often felt there was an unspoken message to be Jewish but not "too Jewish", whatever that was supposed to mean. I don't know if that was because my parents were part of the post Holocaust generation that understandably felt there was an inherent danger for Jews in putting their heads above the parapet, or something else altogether, but the mixed signals confused me. That and the fact that I had many Catholic friends (and a serious case of Christmas envy) were sitting there in the back of my consciousness when I was taking a workshop with the late Paula Danziger and she asked the question, "What does your character have hidden in the closet?"

Now I'd been fascinated with all the rituals of Catholicism as a teen, but I'd never gone as far as sitting in my closet practicing confession with my teddy bear. Yet somehow the vision of this character, Jussy, doing just that came into my mind when Paula asked that question. When I started the book, I didn't really have any idea where it was going, but it ended up being an answer to the questions of my teenaged self.

I think that being a teen is a time of forging one's own identity, and so it's natural to question all the assumptions in one's life. I went through an agnostic phase in college, but realized that faith was important to me once I graduated and was living in New York in my 20's. If we question and still believe then our faith is an even deeper one than it was before, because we've come to it not just by rote, or because our parents sent us to Hebrew School, but because we've realized that faith is integral to living a meaningful life.
What was the reaction to this book amongst Jewish readers versus Catholic readers?
I was thrilled that Confessions had the distinction of winning the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers AND was named one of the Top Ten Books Suitable for Christmas Gift Giving by the Catholic News Service. I'll be willing to bet that hasn't happened too often in the history of the Sydney Taylor awards :-) I've had wonderful emails from readers of many denominations, and Confessions was put on the reading lists of several parochial schools. Interestingly, I found that some Jewish readers were put off by the title. I was at a Jewish Book Fair in New York City and a young girl wanted to buy the book. Her father looked at it and came over, very concerned that reading it would encourage her to leave the faith. I had a long conversation, assuring him, "Don't worry, she's Jewish at the end!"
You've got a new book out called Purge. Tell us about that.
Purge is a YA novel which tells the story of a teen girl's recovery from bulimia. Told through journal entries and scenes from her time in a psychiatric facility, readers follow Janie's journey from denial to the realization that maybe she does actually belong there, and does want to get help.

It's a very different book from Confessions, but it's a book that I felt that I needed to write. I suffered from poor body image my entire life, and was actively bulimic as an adult (I've been in recovery for seven years now). I have a daughter, and I see the tremendous pressure on girls the emphasis on looking good and being thin as opposed to being smart and achieving things. My hope in writing the book was that it would help to generate discussion about body image and eating disorders. I've got a downloadable discussion guide on my website to help get things started.
What's up next?
My next book, LIFE, AFTER, which comes out from Scholastic Press next year, returns to a more Jewish theme. Set during the Argentinean economic crisis in 2002, it follows the struggles of Daniela Bensimon, whose aunt was killed in the AMIA bombing, and her family's eventual emigration to the United States, where memories of 9/11 are fresh and being an outsider isn't easy.
Have you seen the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners for older readers that have come out since you've won? (Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse, The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman, Julia's Kitchen by Brenda Ferber) If so, what do you think of them?
Of those, I've only read Julia's Kitchen thus far, which I loved. I'm thrilled that the Sydney Taylor Committee established the award for Teen Readers. The inaugural book, The Book Thief, is one of my favorite books ever, (not to mention that I have a huge author crush on Markus Zusak) and this year's winner, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, was beautifully written and incredibly timely - I've been recommending it to everyone.
The newest crop of Sydney Taylor Book Award winners will be recognized at this summer's Association of Jewish Libraries convention. Tell us what it was like for you when you won, and tell this year's winners what they should expect!
My call couldn't have come at a better (worse?) time. If this doesn't come under the "TMI" category, a) I was having my legs waxed (never my favorite activity) and b) had just read an "I'm dumping you" e-mail by some jerk guy I'd been dating (seriously couldn't he been man enough to call?) so I'm lying there all teary eyed thinking, "Yeah, not one of my better days," and my cell phone rang. It was Heidi Estrin, who introduced herself and asked if she could record the conversation. "Yes..." I sniffled. Then she told me the good news - that'd Confessions had won the Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers. I think the leg waxing lady thought I was nuts, because I went from sniffly and sad to happy and giggly and "OMG!OMG!" in the space of seconds!

Later that evening, I went out in New York City to celebrate with some friends, and one of them bought me a tiara. I was walking around Greenwich Village wearing my tiara and people kept coming up to me asking me if I was getting married. "No," I'd tell them. "It's much better than that - my book just won an award!!" New winners should expect to be welcomed a wonderful and supportive group of librarians. It's a fantastic experience. Mazel Tov!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Publicity Opportunity at AJL Convention

The Association of Jewish Libraries is the "parent organization" that administers the Sydney Taylor Book Award. If you would like to communicate with the librarians and book-lovers who care about the award and about Jewish literature, this is a great publicity opportunity for you.

2009 AJL Convention Ads, Exhibits & Sponsorships

44th Annual Association of Jewish Libraries Convention
Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers
301 E. North Water Street Chicago, IL 60611
July 5-8, 2009

Would you like to reach hundreds of Judaica professionals from around the world? Join us as the Association of Jewish Libraries presents its 44nd annual convention in Chicago July 5-8, 2009.

Our members represent synagogues and schools, major universities, research centers, and other settings. You can participate in a number of ways

  • Exhibit products and/or services in the Convention Exhibit Hall
  • Advertise in the convention program book
  • Sponsor a convention event, with recognition at the event and in the program book
  • Congratulate the organization, or members you know, with a message in the program book

You can support the work of this respected and successful organization, while bringing your own work or good wishes to the members’ attention. Information about Advertising, Exhibits, and Sponsorships may be found here.

The deadline for these opportunities is MAY 27, 2009.

Credit card payments will be processed via PayPal.

A preview of some of the info you'll find at the AJL website...


All single booths will be set with (1) 6 x 30 table and (2) chairs.
Cost = $300 per table
Half-table price = $175
Table with no sales rep [books only] = $125
Double booth (2) tables = $500
Larger booths will be individually priced: contact ajlchicagoexhibits@gmail.com


Click here for full ad specs. Please note the special discount on full page ads available to exhibitors.

Page size


Full page

Exhibitors $400, Non-exhibitors $450

Half page


Quarter page


Eighth page (business card)


Web ad
placement on AJL Convention web page (to run May 1- July 10, 2009)


Please note we have a new discount offer! If you also purchase advertising for 1 year in the AJL Newsletter (4 issues, beginning in Fall 2009), you can receive a 5%-15% discount on your Convention Program Ad.

Please contact Shoshanah Seidman at (847) 491-7585 or sseidman@northwestern.edu if you are interested in any of the following sponsorship opportunities.




Keynote speaker: Peter Hayes, Prof. Northwestern University

Sunday, July 5


Exhibit Hall Coffee Break

July 6 (am)
July 6 (pm)
July 7 (am)
July 7 (pm)

$3,000 each

Awards Luncheon

July 6


Pre-Banquet Reception

July 7



July 7


Special sessions: Israel, Yiddish & Israeli Theater, Music, Jewish Art

July 5-6-7


Complimentary Meals for Speakers and Volunteers


Authors Program

July 7


Hospitality Suite


Reception in honor of Mrs. Barbara Schneider-Kempf, General Direktor, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

July 6



July 5-6-7-8


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In the Footsteps of Sydney Taylor: Her Legacy Lives On

At the 2008 Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Cleveland, Ohio, well-known kidlit expert Rita Berman Frischer gave a presentation called "In the Footsteps of Sydney Taylor: Her Legacy Lives On." This lecture offered an overview of Jewish women writers past and present from the perspective of Rita, herself the founding chair of AJL's book award committee.

Rita's presentation was recorded and is now available through the AJL Podcast at jewishlibraries.org/podcast.

You can also listen to the recording right here:

If you'd like to add this podcast to your own web site, feel welcome to click "embed" on the player above to get the html code.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Interview with Richard Michelson

Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee member and blogger Barbara Bietz has posted a lovely interview on her blog with Richard Michelson, 2009 gold and silver Sydney Taylor medalist. Here's a little taste:

BARBARA: Are there some interesting facts about the relationship between Reverend King and Rabbi Heschel that you did not include in the book?

RICHARD: Reverend King was killed on April 4th, 1968, just 9 days before Passover was to begin. King’s emphasis on the Jewish Exodus in his sermons formed the basis of a strong bond between both men and King and his family had planned to join the Heschel’s at their Seder. What a wonderful holiday celebration that might have been. I am sure it would have forged further alliances between the two men.
Click here to read the entire interview!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interview with STBA Committee Member Barbara Bietz

Barbara Bietz, author, blogger, and Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee member, was interviewed on the blog The Writer's Journey. In a very profound and philosophical conversation, she shared her insights into the writing process. Here's a sample:

The Writer's Journey: Taking the stance that creativity is a natural state, how do you view getting stuck?
Barbara: Creativity is a natural state, but so is getting stuck. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, there is a time for high-energy work, and a time for quiet stillness. Getting stuck is a time to listen more carefully to the inner voice. It is time to think, to ask questions of yourself and your characters. Getting stuck is an opportunity to stand back and ask, “What do I need?” It can also be an opportunity to regroup and nurture other aspects of your creativity – often resulting in a flood of new ideas. The hard part is giving in to being stuck, and letting the process take you to a new place.

You can read the entire interview here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Honors for Richard Michelson

Image magazine, a journal that bridges "faith and imagination" has selected author Richard Michelson as Artist of the Month in their 20th anniversary issue! They say "The beauty of Michelson’s writing—whether it is in poetry or in his many award-winning children’s books—is that he always finds the human note, however paradoxical or ambivalent that note might be."

Richard, of course, won big in the Sydney Taylor Book Awards this year: he received a gold medal for As Good As Anybody and a silver medal for A is for Abraham, both in the Younger Readers category. The Image profile mentions these achievements, among many others.

Image also printed two poems by Michelson. Here's the opening verse of one of them, titled "Another Holocaust Poem" --

Another Holocaust Poem


I watch them enter, lined up, ark-like, two by two, chatting quietly,
and after the teacher, counting, passes, one pushes and the one pushed
begins the chase. This is how the orphans marched through Warsaw in 1942,
I tell the behaved ones, orderly and under orders, and I’m just about to start
that terrible story, the one they don’t yet know, when I pause to open the door,
as I always do, for a little air. And there they are again, arms akimbo,
like two stooges, the Angel of Death and the Angel of Forgetfulness,
those vaudeville comics, those incorrigible face-making kids,
stuck forever—you first—no you—in the undersized doorframe
of the museum I will, for lack of a better word, call childhood.

Read the full poem at Image's website. And congratulations to Richard for all his great accomplishments and for the well-deserved recognition.

Memories of Aranka Siegal

Holocaust survivor and memoirist Aranka Siegal is the author of Memories of Babi, a 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. In this interview from The Book of Life podcast, she shares some of the memories on which her award-winning books are based.

Press PLAY

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sonia Levitin's Return

Sonia Levitin, author of over 40 books for children and teens, has turned her Sydney Taylor Book Award-winning 1987 novel The Return into a a musical stage play. RETURN chronicles an Ethiopian Jewish girl's walk to freedom in Israel via Operation Moses. In this interview from The Book of Life podcast, Sonia describes the metamorphosis from book to play.

Press PLAY

P.S. Sonia Levitin also received the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Strange Relations in 2008, and two Sydney Taylor Honor Awards, for The Singing Mountain in 1998 and for Silver Days in 1989.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Interview with Esther Takac

Barbara Bietz, author, blogger, and member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee, has interviewed Esther Takac. Esther the National Jewish Book Award and Sydney Taylor Notable status for her book Genesis -- The Book with Seventy Faces.

Esther is an Australian children's author and psychologist living in Melbourne. Her story Loni and the Moon (Lothian, 2003) was placed on the Victorian Premier's Reading List.

Here's an excerpt from Barbara's interview with Esther:

BARBARA: What was the most interesting part of the process of writing the book?

ESTHER: The process of writing the book was a fascinating one. It was my pleasure and privilege to spend many hours reading the works of our traditional and contemporary scholars, many of whose insights on Genesis, and life in general, I found to be full of wisdom, moving and inspiring. It was also very interesting to think about ways of conveying these different approaches, the concept of multiple meanings or seventy faces, to the reader, in ways that invite the reader to actively engage and struggle with the issues raised.
Click here to read the entire interview!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Black History Month, Jewish Style

Richard Michelson, author of 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner (Younger Readers Category) As Good As Anybody, speaks about his work on The Book of Life podcast. In the same interview, graphologist Arlyn Imberman analyzes Richard's handwriting, along with King's and Heschel's.

Press PLAY

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Great Minds Think Alike

The Jewish Book Council has announced its new crop of National Jewish Book Award winners and finalists, and it looks like they're in agreement with the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee about some of the year's top books. Take a look at our shared opinions below!

The Mysterious Guests: A Sukkot Story by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Katya Krenina
  • Sydney Taylor Notable Book, Younger Readers Category
  • National Jewish Book Award Winner, Illustrated Children's Books Category

As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Raul Colon
  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner, Younger Readers Category
  • National Jewish Book Award Finalist, Illustrated Children's Books Category

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Karla Gudeon
  • Sydney Taylor Notable Book, Younger Readers Category
  • National Jewish Book Award Finalist, Illustrated Children's Books Category

Memories of Babi by Aranka Siegal
  • Sydney Taylor Honor Book, Older Readers Category
  • National Jewish Book Award Finalist, Childrens & Young Adult Literature

Genesis: The Book with Seventy Faces, A Guide for the Family by Esther Takac, illustrated by Anna Pignataro
  • Sydney Taylor Notable Book, All Ages
  • National Jewish Book Award Winner, Jewish Family Literature, in Memory of Dorothy Kripke

Monday, January 26, 2009

An Interview with the Sydney Taylor Awards Chair


Thanks so much to all the bloggers, authors, illustrators and readers who participated in our first-ever Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour! It went so well that we're considering doing another tour for the 2009 Notable Book authors and illustrators. Please let us know if you'd like that by posting a comment.

In the meantime, here is an interview from The Book of Life podcast with Sydney Taylor Book Award committee chair, Kathe Pinchuck. Kathe shares her experience and insight on the process of selecting winners, and on trends in publishing. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blog Touring with Cohen & Kober

Today's stops on the blog tour feature author Deborah Bodin Cohen and illustrator Shahar Kober, joint creators of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride, a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category.

Read an interview with author Deborah Bodin Cohen at Becky's Book Reviews with blogger Becky Laney.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

BECKY: What inspired you to write Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride?

DEBORAH: My daughter Arianna, who is a 7-years-old, loves everything to do with transportation. A couple years ago, she especially loved trains and train stories. In Rabbinical school, I walked past the Jerusalem train station everyday and was intrigued by it. I decided that a train story for Jewish kids might work. As I did a little research, I discoverd that the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway opened just before Rosh Hashana. And, so, Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride was born.



Read an interview with Engineer Ari illustrator Shahar Kober at Into the Wardrobe with blogger Tarie.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

TARIE: What did you think of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride when you first read the story?

SHAHAR: Well, I immediately thought it would be great fun to draw the red engine! I like trains. I was also very happy with the chance to investigate the period, how people looked and dressed, how local architecture looked like, how trains looked like back then, etc. The visual research prior to the sketches stage is always my favorite part, especially in such a book which is based on history.



Thanks so much to all the bloggers, authors and illustrators who took part in the first-ever Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour! And thanks, of course, to all you readers out there. Please do post your comments here and/or at the participating blogs to give us your feedback so our next tour can be even better!

Remember, you can find the full list of all Sydney Taylor winners, honors and notables here. Enjoy your reading!

Blog Touring with Jules & Ugliano

Today's stops on the blog tour feature author Jacqueline Jules and illustrator Natascia Ugliano, joint creators of Sarah Laughs, a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category.

Read an interview with author Jacqueline Jules at Chicken Spaghetti with blogger Susan.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

SUSAN: What are you reading these days?

JACQUELINE: What a fun question! It reminds me of an in-house school television show we once did for “Read Across America” day at the Northern Virginia elementary school where I work as a library media specialist. Our physical education teacher made a video of himself reading from morning until night. I would have made the video myself, but our students needed a male role model. Thanks for the opportunity to report when and what I’m reading this particular week.



Read an interview with Sarah Laughs illustrator Natascia Ugliano at Write for a Reader with blogger Shelly. FYI, Natascia has illustrated other books by Jacqueline Jules, including Abraham's Search for God, which was named a Notable Book last year by the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

SHELLY: What are some of your favorites? Author, food, color, book, any others…

NATASCIA: My favorite authors are H. C. Andersen (for children's books), Isabelle Allende and Emily Dickinson. My favorite color is green. My favorite food is pastasciutta, an Italian food.



Tomorrow will be the final day of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour (although since this one has been a success, we may do another one in a few months featuring our Notable Book authors and illustrators!).

We'll wrap up with Deborah Bodin Cohen and Shahar Kober, author and illustrator of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride. Deborah will be at Becky's Book Reviews, and Shahar will be at Into the Wardrobe. Remember, all interviews will remain archived online, so once they are posted you can read them any time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blog Touring with Levine & Burke

Today's stops on the blog tour feature author Anna Levine and illustrator Jim Burke.

Freefall and Jodie's Hanukkah Dig were both recognized by the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee: the former as a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category and the latter as an Association of Jewish Libraries Notable Children's Book of Jewish Content in the Younger Readers Category. Read an interview with the author of both books, Anna Levine, at Abby (the) Librarian with blogger Abby.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

ABBY: In Freefall, Noah asks Aggie about her favorite sunrise. Where was your favorite sunrise?

ANNA: I used to live on a kibbutz up on the Northern border of Israel. From my window I could see Lebanon. Mornings I would get up at 6:00 AM to work in the apple orchards and I remember walking through the still silent kibbutz to the dining hall and seeing the sun rise, illuminating the sky. I would savor the stillness and beauty aware that it was fleeting (soon the hot sun would be beating down on me while I had a heavy sack around my neck reaching for an apple that would surely send me tumbling off the ladder). This is what Aggie and her friends have learned to do, to appreciate the moments of joy while they can grasp them, because life here changes so quickly.



Naming Liberty is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category. Read an interview with illustrator Jim Burke at The Page Flipper with blogger Chelsea. And be sure to check out the interview with author Jane Yolen at The Boston Bibliophile.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

CHELSEA: Do you have a favorite piece of artwork that you've done? Can you describe it?

JIM: My favorite two paintings in Naming Liberty: "Bartholdi's Studio" from the full title page spread...in which I tried to capture the stillness of the studio, yet show that it's full of life. And also "Liberty's Nod" when Liberty's head was rolled down the Parisian Street with an ensuing parade. I love sticking little things in works that may not get noticed, such as "Librairie du Mirage" The "Mirage" Bookstore, pertaining to the massive head rolling down the street, nodding to folks as she goes, as well as "Cafe du Desert"--the deserted cafe, because everyone has left to cheer on Liberty.



Tune in tomorrow for interviews with Jacqueline Jules (author, Sarah Laughs) at Chicken Spaghetti and Natascia Ugliano (illustrator, Sarah Laughs) at Write for a Reader. Remember, all interviews will remain archived online, so once they are posted you can read them any time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blog Touring with Yolen & Zenatti

Today's stops on the blog tour feature authors Jane Yolen and Valerie Zenatti!

Naming Liberty is a 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category. Read an interview with author Jane Yolen at The Boston Bibliophile with blogger Marie. And be sure to check in at The Page Flipper tomorrow for an interview with illustrator Jim Burke.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

MARIE: We've seen a lot of books about immigration over the years; why do you feel the themes of Naming Liberty are still relevant today?

JANE: America is still a nation of immigrants. And once again, certain immigrants are being castigated, beaten, thrown under the metaphoric patriotic bus. So if this book in some small way reminds us again that--in America--outsiders become insiders. In this year, when we have elected a man who should have been an outsider--a child of two nations, two colors, two hearts in a single breast as a the pphilopsoher Montaigne once said--and who is now our most public insider, it seems the right book at the right time.



A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category. Read an interview with author Valerie Zenatti at Lori Calabrese Writes with blogger Lori Calabrese (of course!).

Here's a sampling of the interview:

LORI: How does it feel to receive the 2009 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award's Teen Readers Category?

VALERIE: I am very honored and proud! And very happy also, especially because my mother is sure that this is the last step before the Nobel!



Tune in tomorrow for interviews with Anna Levine (author of Freefall and Jodie's Hanukkah Dig) at Abby (the) Librarian and Jim Burke (illustrator of Naming Liberty) at The Page Flipper. Remember, all interviews will remain archived online, so once they are posted you can read them any time.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blog Touring with Michelson & Mazellan

Our Blog Tour continues with interviews of two picture book creators: Richard Michelson and Ron Mazellan.

As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom and A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet won gold and silver respectively in the Younger Readers Category. Read an interview with the author of both books, Richard Michelson, at The Well-Read Child with blogger Jill Tullo.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

JILL: As Good As Anybody is a powerfully inspirational book. What message do you hope your readers take away after reading it?

RICHARD: That each and every one of us has the power to change the world for the better, and that it is our duty to try to do so. No excuses accepted. That means you! As King says, “The way things are is not the way they always have to be.” And as Heschel says (all writers, me included, take heed) “Words must be followed by deeds.”

Since the book came out I have been doing many workshops with school groups. We read together, and role-play, and talk about prejudice and standing up to bullies, and how to effect change. I am always amazed at how much kids “get it.” They instinctively know what is right and what is wrong, but they feel, and often are, powerless. Hopefully As Good As Anybody will help jump-start family and classroom discussions.



As noted above, A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet, is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category. Read an interaview with illustrator Ron Mazellan at Tales from the Rushmore Kid with blogger Tina Nichols Coury.

Here's a sampling of the interview:

TINA: When and why did you start illustrating children's books?

RON: My work as an illustrator began with working in advertising and the entertainment industry. I enjoyed the work but the art had little permanence. While illustrating children’s books, your work can have a shelf life. A great book has the possibility to last decades and inspire a family for years to come.



Tune in tomorrow for interviews with Valerie Zenatti (author of A Bottle in the Gaza Sea) at Lori Calabrese Writes and Jane Yolen (author of Naming Liberty) at The Boston Bibliophile. Remember, all interviews will remain archived online, so once they are posted you can read them any time.