Monday, January 26, 2009

The 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

SHOW NOTES:

As readers of The Book of Life's blog know, the 2009 winners of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards were announced a few weeks ago. We participated in the award's Blog Tour by interviewing silver medalist Aranka Siegal, author of Memories of Babi. Now we bring you an audio interview with Kathe Pinchuck, chair of the awards committee, to give you a sneak peak into the inner workings of the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

AUDIO:

Click the play button on this flash player to listen to the podcast now:

Or click MP3 File to start your computer's media player.

CREDITS:

Our background music is provided by The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band.

Books and CD's mentioned on the show may be borrowed from the Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel. Browse our online catalog to reserve books, post a review, or just to look around!

Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Interview with Aranka Siegal, Author of Memories of Babi


Memories of Babi
has been recognized by the Association of Jewish Libraries as a 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category. As part of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, The Book of Life is proud to introduce you to author Aranka Siegal and to share a little of her "backstory."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please do NOT ask The Book of Life for Aranka Siegal's contact information. We do not have her current info.

Aranka, all of your books are autobiographical. What motivates you to share your life story with readers?

The reason for my writing autobiographically is because I attribute a great deal of my survival to my early years. I want to share lessons instilled in me by my resourceful mother, Rise. She had managed to put food on the table for her many children against all odds. She made it her mission to keep her family alive and together, sometimes risking her life to accomplish this. She used the black market to bring home a sack of flour to bake bread, potatoes, a basket of vegetables and some bones to make the daily pot of soup. My mother was raised on her family’s farm by her religious widowed mother, my grandmother, Babi. Babi lived by orthodox Jewish values of kindness, generosity, honesty, hard work and helping the less fortunate. I hope to pass on to today’s young people some of the life lessons that helped me survive the Holocaust in hopes of helping them survive their personal challenges.

Memories of Babi is based on your own experiences with your grandmother. Can you reveal which parts of the book are true, and which parts are fictional?
Memories of Babi is based on events that happened. All published stories we read have been composed, modified, and edited. The story of the Lekvar Fusesh is where I have most allowed myself to take advantage of poetic license. I wanted to show festivity, harmony and goodwill as an example for readers of the way things could have been without the mistrust, jealousy and hostility that was part of that reality.

Why do you call your main character "Piri" instead of "Aranka"?

The reason I use Piri, instead of Aranka (and my mother's maiden name, Rosner) is because I didn’t want to change the feelings of my friends and acquaintances in my town in New York by thinking of me as a Holocaust survivor. Piri is not a completely fictitious name because it derives from my Jewish name, Perele. By the 1960’s I had established a place for myself in America as a suburban wife, mother and participant in civic affairs and services. My dear husband of 52 years marriage had said at the time Upon The Head Of The Goat was being published, “I would be happy and proud if you would publish your book under my family name.” I decided to please him, though by then the galleys were out and the only part of the book that could be altered was the jacket.

It's remarkable how clearly you are able to recall Babi and your childhood. Why do you think these early memories live on so strongly for you?

All through my internment in concentration camps I held on to my memories. These were my only identity left after all other recognition was stripped away. I would revisit Babi, listen to her voice and remember her teaching me the laws she had lived by and the things we did together. I would go over them often until, in my moments of fantasy I was back in the countryside of Komyat and be myself, instead of the skeletal figure with head shaved in a dirty, shapeless gray sack, wooden shoes, starving with hunger pains in Auschwitz, a place devoid of nature, surrounded by death.

You end the book by saying you pray that Babi forgives you for not sharing her strong faith, yet you've written a book with very strong Jewish themes. What does it mean to you to have won the Sydney Taylor Honor Award, a Jewish book award? How would Babi feel if she knew you'd won this award?

I had always wanted to please Babi as a child and I still try to even now when I am older than she was then. I write and live with very strong Jewish feelings, but even as a little girl I questioned and tested God. After what I had seen and experienced in the Holocaust, my belief in God as an all knowing and compassionate being has been very deeply shaken. I heard multitudes of voices call to him, along with mine. No response, no help came.

Winning a Sydney Taylor Honor Award makes me feel that I have finally won Babi’s favor because it is given for the same values that Babi had lived by. I know that Babi, if she knew, and perhaps she does, would be deeply moved particularly because it is a Jewish award.

As for myself, I feel greatly honored to have been selected for this prestigious award.

If you could speak to Babi again, what would you say to her?

I would tell Babi that I had come full circle when I experienced the miracle of the birth of my two children, Rise and Joseph. My husband and I decided to join a temple so that we could hand down to our children our Jewish heritage and Babi's teaching.

The truth is I do speak to Babi all the time.

Why did you decide to include recipes at the back of the book? Which is your favorite recipe?

Including the recipes was suggested by Margaret Ferguson, my dear friend and editor of 25 years. Chicken soup is the one I make the most often because it is part of the traditional Sabbath meal. I also use it as the Jewish penicillin. My chicken soup is my daughter's favorite and I love making it for her whenever she comes to visit.

Aranka Siegal, thank you so much for sharing your memories in this interview and in your wonderful books!

Blog Tour: Please Excuse the Delay...

I am scheduled to post an interview with Aranka Siegal (Memories of Babi) today as part of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour - but I haven't heard back from her yet! She joined the tour at the last minute and warned me that she had a busy weekend, so I've just got to be patient. As soon as I hear from her, the interview will be posted here.

Thanks for your patience! In the meantime, here's the book's description from the publisher, FSG:

Piri is a city girl, but every year she goes to visit her grandmother Babi on her farm in the Ukrainian village of Komjaty. There is a lot that Piri finds strange, even scary, in Komjaty, such as the ghost in the form of a rooster who supposedly haunts the cemetery! But Piri loves country life: making corn bread, eating plums right off the tree, venturing out with her grandmother in the early morning to hunt for mushrooms. And during her time with Babi, Piri learns lessons that will stay with her all of her life, about the importance of honest hard work, of caring for the less fortunate, and of having the courage to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
In these nine stories, Aranka Siegal paints a tender portrait of the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, inspired by her own experiences with her grandmother.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please do NOT ask The Book of Life for Aranka Siegal's contact information. We do not have her current info.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I've Joined the Blog Tour!


I am pleased to announce that The Book of Life has joined the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour! On Sunday, January 18, 2009, I will be posting an interview with Aranka Siegal, author of Memories of Babi, a Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category.

I really enjoyed this book, which has an old-fashioned flavor but remains accessible to modern children. Here's the publisher's description:

Piri is a city girl, but every year she goes to visit her grandmother Babi on her farm in the Ukrainian village of Komjaty. There is a lot that Piri finds strange, even scary, in Komjaty, such as the ghost in the form of a rooster who supposedly haunts the cemetery! But Piri loves country life: making corn bread, eating plums right off the tree, venturing out with her grandmother in the early morning to hunt for mushrooms. And during her time with Babi, Piri learns lessons that will stay with her all of her life, about the importance of honest hard work, of caring for the less fortunate, and of having the courage to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
In these nine stories, Aranka Siegal paints a tender portrait of the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, inspired by her own experiences with her grandmother.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please do NOT ask The Book of Life for Aranka Siegal's contact information. We do not have her current info. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Stops on the Sydney Taylor Blog Tour

Two additional stops have been added to the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Valerie Zenatti, author of A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, will appear at Lori Calabrese Writes on Tuesday, January 20, and Natascia Ugliano, illustrator of Sarah Laughs, will appear on Write for a Reader on Thursday, January 22.

Here is a full, updated schedule, with links to more info on each book:

Sunday, January 18, 2009
Karen Hesse, author of Brooklyn Bridge
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Jewish Books for Children

Monday, January 19, 2009
Richard Michelson
Author of As Good As Anybody, Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
and
Author of A is for Abraham, Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Well-Read Child

Monday, January 19, 2009
Ron Mazellan, illustrator of A is for Abraham
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Tales from the Rushmore Kid

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Valerie Zenatti, author of A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at Lori Calabrese Writes

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Jane Yolen, author of Naming Liberty
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Boston Bibliophile

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Anna Levine
Author of Freefall, Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category
and
Author of Jodie's Hanukkah Dig, Notable Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Abby (the) Librarian

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Jim Burke, illustrator of Naming Liberty
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Page Flipper

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Jacqueline Jules, author of Sarah Laughs
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Chicken Spaghetti

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Natascia Ugliano, illustrator of Sarah Laughs
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Write for a Reader

Friday, January 23, 2009
Deborah Bodin Cohen, author of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 23, 2009
Shahar Kober, illustrator of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Into the Wardrobe

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

The Sydney Taylor Book Award, the annual prize for Jewish children's and teen literature, will be celebrating and showcasing its 2009 gold and silver medalists with a Blog Tour! Here is the preliminary schedule:

Sunday, January 18, 2009
Karen Hesse, author of Brooklyn Bridge
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Jewish Books for Children

Monday, January 19, 2009
Richard Michelson
Author of As Good As Anybody, Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
and
Author of A is for Abraham, Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Well-Read Child

Monday, January 19, 2009
Ron Mazellan, illustrator of A is for Abraham
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Tales from the Rushmore Kid

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Jane Yolen, author of Naming Liberty
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Boston Bibliophile

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Anna Levine
Author of Freefall, Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category
and
Author of Jodie's Hanukkah Dig, Notable Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Abby (the) Librarian

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Jim Burke, illustrator of Naming Liberty
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at The Page Flipper

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Jacqueline Jules, author of Sarah Laughs
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Chicken Spaghetti

Friday, January 23, 2009
Deborah Bodin Cohen, author of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, January 23, 2009
Shahar Kober, illustrator of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
at Into the Wardrobe

Please be sure to visit these blogs on and after these dates to read interviews with these amazing authors and illustrators. And check back with The Book of Life during the next few weeks for an audio interview with Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee Chair Kathe Pinchuck, and for a February interview with gold medalist Richard Michelson.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2009 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced!


The winners of the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Jewish children's and teen literature have just been announced! The full press release and list of winners is posted below. I'll be interviewing Kathe Pinchuck, chair of the awards committee, so I'll soon have a podcast for you with her insights into the process of choosing winners. Also, I've already recorded an interview with Rich Michelson, gold medalist in the Younger Readers Category for As Good As Anybody, and that will appear in February's podcast episode.

Many of the winning authors will appear in a Blog Tour beginning on Sunday, January 18, 2009 at Barbara Bietz's Jewish Books for Children Blog. Be sure to check that out, and to watch the awards blog at sydneytaylorbookaward.blogspot.com for the blog tour schedule.



PRESS RELEASE: 2009 SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARDS ANNOUNCED BY ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES

Richard Michelson and Raul Colon, author and illustrator of As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, Karen Hesse, author of Brooklyn Bridge, and Valerie Zenatti, author of A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, are the 2009 winners of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award.

The Sydney Taylor Book Award honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. The winners will receive their awards at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Chicago this July.

Michelson and Colon will receive the 2009 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, published by Alfred A. Knopf. Two very special clergymen, one a rabbi, the other an African-American reverend are raised in divergently different countries yet experience similar levels of persecution and bigotry that will one day bring them together. As colleagues in America’s struggle for civil rights, they march together from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965. Colon’s colored pencil and watercolor illustrations “offer a beautiful complement to the text, describing two unique paths from childhood to adult life – Martin’s in the rich, warm brown-tones of the American south and Abraham’s in cool blues and grays that reminded the illustrator of old World War II movies. When the two exemplary men join in their march for tolerance, the palettes merge in full color harmony,” comments Debbie Colodny, a member of the Award Committee. This book is recommended for grades 2-5.

Hesse will receive the 2009 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Older Readers Category for Brooklyn Bridge, published by Feiwel & Friends. While his family left the anti-Semitism of Russia to build the American dream, Joey Michtom’s dream is to visit the glittering Coney Island. “Crafting a story from the spark of a true event, the invention of the Teddy Bear in 1903, Hesse masterfully weaves multiple themes of hard-work, survival, homelessness, and familial dedication with interlocking and parallel stories of families who live reasonably well opposite those less fortunate living in the shadows below the imposing Brooklyn Bridge,” comments Rita Soltan, a member of the Award Committee. This book is recommended for grades 5-8. Hesse also won the 1992 Award for Older Readers for Letters from Rifka, and a 2004 Honor Award for Older Readers for The Cats in Kransinski Square.

Zenatti will receive the 2009 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers Category for A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, published by Bloomsbury. “This story about the relationship between an Israeli girl, Tal, and a Palestinian boy, Naim, via e-mail and instant messaging, is honest but hopeful. Well-written and compelling, the tale of their relationship conveys the confusion, anger, exhaustion, and depression felt by many young people during the 2003 intifada,” comments Susan Berson, a member of the Award Committee. Zenatti’s memoir, When I Was a Soldier, was a 2005-6 AJL Notable Book for Older Readers.

Six Sydney Taylor Honor Books were named for 2009. For Younger Readers, Honor Books are: Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Shahar Kober (Kar-Ben), Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules with illustrations by Natascia Ugliano (Kar-Ben), A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet by Richard Michelson with illustrations by Ron Mazellan (Sleeping Bear Press) and Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen with paintings by Jim Burke (Philomel Books). Aranka Siegal’s Memories of Babi (Farrar Straus and Giroux) was named an Honor Book for Older Readers, and Freefall by Anna Levine (Greenwillow Books) was named an Honor Book in the Teen Reader Category.

In addition to the medal-winners, the Award Committee designated twenty-two Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2009: six in the Younger Readers Category, ten in the Older Readers Category, and four for Teens. Genesis—the Book with Seventy Faces: A Guide for the Family by Esther Takac with illustrations by Anna Pignataro (Pitspopany Press) and Celebrating with Jewish Crafts by Rebecca Edid Ruzansky with photographs by Roberto Zeballos-Peralta (self-published) impressed the Award Committee with their uniqueness and range. They have been designated Notable Books for all ages. Notable titles, and more information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award, may be found online at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org. Interviews with winning authors will be posted on prominent children’s literature blogs as part of a Blog Tour beginning on January 18, 2009; details will be posted on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog at www.sydneytaylorbookaward.blogspot.com.


GOLD MEDALISTS

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers:


As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson with illustrations by Raul Colon (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Older Readers:

Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse (Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan)

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen Readers:

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti (Bloomsbury)

SILVER MEDALISTS

Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners for Younger Readers:

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Shahar Kober (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules with illustrations by Natascia Ugliano (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet by Richard Michelson with illustrations by Ron Mazellan (Sleeping Bear Press, an imprint of Gale)

Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen with paintings by Jim Burke (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin)

Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winner for Older Readers:

Memories of Babi by Aranka Siegal (Farrar Straus and Giroux)

Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winner for Teen Readers:

Freefall by Anna Levine (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

NOTABLE BOOKS OF JEWISH CONTENT

Notable Books for Younger Readers:

Mysterious Guests: A Sukkot Story by Eric Kimmel with illustrations by Katya Krenina (Holiday House)

Jodie’s Hanukkah Dig by Anna Levine with illustrations by Knesia Topaz (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

Harvest of Light by Allison Ofanansky with photographs by Eliyahu Alpern (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

Sammy Spider’s First Shavuot by Sylvia Rouss with illustrations by Katherine Janus Kahn (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

My Tzitzis Book by Elisheva Schreiber with clay creations by Batsheva Ravad (Feldheim)

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert with illustrations by Karla Gudeon (Blue Apple Books)

Notable Books for Older Readers:

The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Scholastic Press)

The Walls of Cartegena by Julia Durango with illustrations by Tom Pohrt (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Capturing the Moon by Rabbi Edward M. Feinstein (Behrman House)

Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass: Igniting the Nazi War Against Jews by Stephanie Fitzgerald (Compass Point Books)

My Chocolate Year by Charlotte Herman with illustrations by LeUyen Pham (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo with illustrations by Michael Forman (Candlewick Press)

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman with illustrations by Ross McDonald (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

The Bat-Chen Diaries: Selected Writings by Bat-Chen Shahak (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

Keeping Israel Safe: Serving in the Israel Defense Forces by Barbara Sofer (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner)

Honey Cake by Joan Betty Stuchner with illustrations by Cynthia Nugent (Random House, a Stepping Stone Book)

Notable Books for Teens:

Nothing by Robin Friedman (Flux)

Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust by Rutka Laskier (Time, Inc. Home Entertainment)

Gravity by Leanne Lieberman (Orca Book Publishers)

The Freak by Carol Matas (Key Porter Books)

Notable Books for All Ages:

Genesis—the Book with Seventy Faces: A Guide for the Family by Esther Takac with illustrations by Anna Pignataro (Pitspopany Press)

Celebrating with Jewish Crafts by Rebecca Edid Ruzansky with photographs by Roberto Zeballos-Peralta (self-published)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Marc Aronson's Unsettled


SHOW NOTES:

Marc Aronson is an editor, a publisher, and an author of historical nonfiction for young people. He writes the "Nonfiction Matters" column in School Library Journal, and also hosts the Nonfiction Matters blog on the SLJ website. I met up with Marc at the 2008 School Library Journal Leadership Summit in Hollywood, Florida to talk about his latest and perhaps most controversial book, Unsettled: The Problem of Loving Israel. We had such an interesting conversation that I hardly edited the recording at all. I hope you'll find meeting Marc as fascinating as I did. Please feel free to join our conversation by posting comments here on The Book of Life website.

As an added bonus, scroll down to see a video created by Amy Bowllan of School Library Journal's Bowllan's Blog, showing highlights of Marc Aronson's visit to her own school to discuss his books.


AUDIO:

Click the play button on this flash player to listen to the podcast now:

Or click MP3 File to start your computer's media player.

VIDEO:



CREDITS:

Our background music is provided by The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band.

Books and CD's mentioned on the show may be borrowed from the Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel. Browse our online catalog to reserve books, post a review, or just to look around!

Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com!