(Sometimes-Not-So) All-of-a-Kind-Families

November 2, 2010

by Laurel Snyder

With the Jewish High Holidays behind us, and Jewish Book Month looming, it feels natural to talk about Jewish books.  Of course, being the Mixed Up Files, we’re discussing (duh) the Jewish middle grade, specifically.   To that end, we’ve invited our wonderful friend Heidi Estrin to join us, for an illuminating chat about Jewish books for kids!

Heidi hosts The Book of Life, a monthly podcast on Jewish books, music, film, and web. She is Vice-President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and past chair of AJL’s Sydney Taylor Book Award committee. She’s also  the Library Director & Computer Specialist at Feldman Children’s Library, Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, Florida.  But most of all, she’s a friend to kids (of all ages)who love books!

Thanks so much for joining us today at the MIXED UP FILES blog, Heidi.  We’re glad to have you here.

Thanks, Laurel, I am thrilled to be here!

A lot of people, when they think about Jewish middle grade, really fall back on All of a Kind family and Anne Frank, and then get stuck. So we were hoping you could share your thoughts with us  on Jewish characters or themes in other books, books we maybe haven’t read, or haven’t thought of as Jewish.

Let me first give All-of-a-Kind Family its due, since the series was actually pretty important in the history of Jewish kidlit as a genre. It was the first (non-Biblical) story with Jewish characters that became popular with readers from all different backgrounds. It kind of set the tone for our current embrace of multicultural literature! That’s why the Association of Jewish Libraries calls its annual Jewish children’s literature award the Sydney Taylor Book Awards, in memory of the author of All-of-a-Kind Family. Read the rest of this entry »

Israel’s government adopts PJ LIbrary

October 10, 2010

by Jacob Berkman

The government of Israel and a North American foundation are partnering on a literacy program for Israeli pre-schoolers.

Israel’s government will invest $500,000 to bring to Israel the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library, which in the U.S. gives to more than 100,000 Jewish children free books with Jewish content.

The program has existed in Israel on a small scale, but the government’s boost will help the give free books each month to some 40,000 underserved children.

Sifriyat Pijama, as it is known in Hebrew, will distribute books through Israel’s schools. The books will go to children whose families have reduced or restricted financial means.

“It is exciting for us to see that the Israeli Ministry of Education finds the Sifriyat Pijama program worthy of such a large investment,” says Joanna S. Ballantine, executive director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Heidi Rabinowitz Estrin

July 26, 2010

by Barbara Krasner

The July 2010 Librarian’s Notebook features Heidi Rabinowitz Estrin, library media specialist for Feldman Children’s Library at Congregation B’nai Israel, a large Reform synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida. Heidi is also the incoming Vice President/President-Elect of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). Mazel Tov! The Whole Megillah asked Heidi some questions about her role, AJL, and her perspective on Jewish children’s books as a librarian.

The Whole Megillah (TWM): What are the biggest challenges for Jewish librarians and libraries?

Heidi Rabinowitz Estrin (HRE): One of our biggest challenges is visibility. Many people are unaware that Judaic libraries exist, or that larger libraries may have special Judaic collections. Librarians are traditionally an unassuming breed, but we need to blow our own shofar a bit more and draw more attention to what we do.

TWM: What are the opportunities?

HRE: Jewish publishing has really flourished in recent years, so one opportunity is that once we do get people’s attention, we’ve got really great stuff to share with them. We have the opportunity to get patrons excited about their Judaic libraries! Another opportunity that applies to all kinds of libraries is the way new technologies and social media allow for such rich communication. Librarians can now reach way beyond the walls of their own libraries! I reach beyond my own library with my podcast, The Book of Life, and of course the podcast is on Facebook too.
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Queen did not have Hebrew book offer, Jordanian officials say

July 22, 2010
The Sandwich Swap

The Sandwich Swap

Queen Rania of Jordan did not receive offers to publish her new children’s book in Hebrew, official Jordanian sources said.

The sources said Thursday that those offers would have gone directly to the U.S. publisher, Hyperion, following reports the previous day that Rania had rejected offers to publish The Sandwich Swap in Hebrew.
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Ruthie’s family and other animals

July 5, 2010
A Green Fantasy

A Green Fantasy

by Liat Collins

A Green Fantasy
By Edna Chayen | Mazo Publishers | 183 pages | $16.95

Many parents know how a whole family can get caught up in a school project. In this book, described as “a preteen fantasy,” readers can join 10-year-old Ruthie as she, her 12-year-old brother Dan, newfound friend Peter and ecology student cousin Jack all become consumed with her summer project: Noah’s Ark.

I found that my way-preteen son and I – both interested in animals and the environment – also discovered a lot to think about as Ruthie’s band figures out how the ark must have been a closed ecosystem and how it could have been built – no easy feat when you consider it must have been completely watertight, with the dimensions of a football field and built without the benefit of modern tools.
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June 13, 2010

While I was in Israel earlier this year I picked up a wonderful book that had just been released called HaMasmidim. Written in Hebrew, this book is filled with stories about Gedolim and their dedication to the study of Torah. The stories are meant to be a source of inspiration and a guide to help boys in the perseverance of Torah study. The book appears to be geared towards children and young adults but I believe that the stories in it are appropriate for all ages. Beautifully bound, with clear type and side-bar pictures of the Gadol being spoken about, this book is something like I’ve never seen. It also has what I think is one of the best introductions to any book that I’ve ever seen before. The following is my attempt to translate the intro as best I could but the original Hebrew is really much better:
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Matzo Ball Boy at bedtime? Jewish families sign up

April 21, 2010

by Rebecca Wigod

Jewish families in Metro Vancouver are registering with a program called the PJ Library, which sends their young children a free book and/ or CD on Jewish themes once a month.

That’s “PJ” as in “pyjamas.” The program aims to encourage parent-child bonding over Jewish books at bedtime.

There are about 25,000 Jews in Metro Vancouver, estimates Michael Fugman, who chairs the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.

The PJ Library was founded by Harold Grinspoon, a real estate mogul in Springfield, Mass. Now 80 years old, he was inspired by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and by seeing his daughter-in-law give picture books with Jewish themes to children at a Passover seder.
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