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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

12 nights of Chanukah fun: a mega Jewish holiday picture book roundup

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Usually, I write reviews of Jewish books – for kids and adults – here on this blog (Adventures in MamaLand).  But I also have a blog called Write Kids’ Books, specifically for children’s book writers.  Sometimes, there’s some crossover and I’m not sure where to post something.

When I took a children’s picture-book writing course earlier this year, I had to research “comps” – comparable books on a similar topic.  Since I was writing a Chanukah book, I decided to research what else was out there in the world of Chanukah books.  I chose these books almost at random, but I think it’s a good assortment of what’s out there.

Over on my writing blog, I’ve shared a short analysis of each of these books. 

  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague
  • Mrs. Greenberg's Messy Hanukkah, by Linda Glasser, illustrated by Nancy Cote
  • Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster, by Jane Sutton, illustrated by Andy Rowland
  • Chanukah Lights, by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Robert Sabuda
  • Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story, written and illustrated by Naomi Howland
  • The Story of Hanukkah, by David A. Adler, illustrated by Jill Weber
  • Sammy Spider's First Hanukkah, by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn
  • Biscuit's Hanukkah, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories
  • Elmo’s Little Dreidel, by Naomi Kleinberg, illustrated by Christopher Moroney
  • Light The Lights! A Story About Celebrating Hanukkah And Christmas, by Margaret Moorman
  • Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap, by Deborah Bodin Cohen, illustrated by Shahar Kober
  • Battle for Torah: The Message of Hanukkah, by Kay Kindall, illustrated by Neil Kindall

I hope you’ll head over there and take a look – and maybe discover a couple of new favourites.  (I’ve also included two of my own Chanukah books for kids.  I hope you’ll check these ones out, too.)

Enjoy!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


A new kind of science book – written for Jewish kids

Screenshot from Olam Shel Emet:  Spineless Wonders, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Let’s face it.  There are more of them than there are of us.

I’m talking about Christians.

Lots of them in the world.  And not so many of us.

When we were homeschooling, I envied Christian homeschoolers the wealth of educational kkresources they had that integrated their faith with every subject imaginable:  from literature to math, from history to science.  So much so that we tried out a few programs, like Apologia Science.  I liked them to some extent, and the faith part was great, but we kept running up against bits of the program that we couldn’t use:  the Christian parts.

I particularly loved the idea of integrating faith and science.  That’s why I decided to create a new series of science ebooks written specifically for kids growing up with a Jewish worldview.

  • Have you ever wanted to hand your kids a science book knowing they’ll get more out of it than just the bare facts?
  • Have you wished they could learn about science through the wonder of faith – without encountering random Christian tidbits?
  • Do you want them to know that Hashem is behind everything that exists on this earth, even if it’s not usually considered part of “limudei kodesh”?

We live in an Olam Shel Emet – a world of Torah truth.  So that’s what I’m calling these books.

It takes a long time to write a book from scratch.  A reeeeeally long time.  On my other blog, writing about and reviewing children’s books and ebooks, I’ve been able to read some of what I think are the best books available in this genre, so I have pretty high standards.  Plus, I don’t have anything like this to work from – everything here is original and totally new.

The first volume in the series – I’m writing them, so I get to pick what I write! – is all about invertebrates:  Hashem’s “spineless wonders,” in the sea and on the land.

What animals are covered?

  • In the sea:  Jellyfish, corals, sponges, octopus, starfish
  • On land:  Worms, bugs, germs, snails, crabs

(Don’t worry; I know bugs and germs aren’t scientific terms – I cover that in plenty of detail in the book.)

Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

REVIEW & EXCERPT: There’s a Shark in the Mikvah! A mitzvah book with BITE?

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If I say “mikveh book,” do you groan inside?  Do you think of a book that might be Important to read, with a capital I?  Heavy, serious, but not all that fun?

This is not that book.

The hilarious cover gives that away immediately:

cover, There's a Shark in the Mivah back cover, There's a Shark in the Mivah

This book is called There’s a Shark in the Mikvah, and it’s a new collection of stories written by Penny Thau and Naava Swirsky. 

Be prepared.  This book has bite, by which I mean attitude.  There are no bland platitudes here about the centrality of the mikveh to Jewish life… just fun, spicy anecdotes that actually add up to a very substantial whole.

You’re not only going to want to read it over and over but also buy copies for every new kallah (bride) you know to help them love this mitzvah that often gets a lousy rap.  It’s just a shame they didn’t make it in a laminated, waterproof editing that you could bring along to your pre-mikveh soak.

And I’m so excited to be able to share an excerpt from this book with you here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It’s Kislev – is your pocket full of heart?

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Want to see something cool?

Both of my kids’ schools are making a huge deal out of something I’ve literally never noticed.  The name of the current Hebrew month, Kislev (כסלו), can be divided - with only a little wizardry - into two separate words:  kis (כיס/pocket) and lev (לב/heart).  (That’s the wizardry – the “vav” is swapped out for a “vais”/”vet”.)

So GZ brought home this “mitzvah note” project from Kitah Alef (Grade One), where we have to use this month fill up his “pocket” with love and nachas.

Which I think is just an absolutely terrific excuse to praise a kid who’s three months into his first real year of school and hovering halfway between feeling confident because he knows the routines and feeling like he’s drowning in the despair that comes from realizing there are so many months (and years) still to go.

Very cool.  Why didn’t they do this at either of my kids’ Jewish schools back in Canada?  No idea.

A good friend of mine growing up, who moved from Russia to Israel and then to Canada, told me he acquired his overwhelming love of puns because they didn’t exist in Hebrew.  But from what I’ve seen, Israelis love puns and use them often; the cheesier, the better.  And in this case, a little pun can do a lot of good for your kids’ self-esteem.

Sort of like a little “kiss”… straight to their “lev.”

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I write books for kids!  They’re cool!  I promise!  Sign up here to keep updated with all that’s happening in the world of me-as-fledgling author.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


[kiss photo credit:  Yogi via Wikimedia]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My mother’s favourite* joke

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My mother has a joke.  Maybe you’ve heard it before?

So a guy goes to the doctor.  Says, “Doctor, it hurts when I go like this.”
And the doctor says, “So don’t go like that.”

This was almost literally my conversation today, with my second orthopedist this month, about the unbearable pain in my right foot.

My problem is that it only hurts when I’m barefoot.  Put on a pair of shoes and I’m Wonder Woman.  I leave everybody in my dust.  Take them off… and I’m Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma, barely able to get out of bed.

This pain has a name:  PTTI.  That’s its name in Hebrew, too.  Posterior Tibial Tendon Insufficiency.  Don’t Google it; the pictures are horrific and mine really isn’t that bad (see below).  Basically, it means that the flat feet I’ve had my whole life have bottomed out completely. 

So today I met with Ortho #2, Specialist Foot Ortho Guy.  Ortho #1 was a regular ortho, non-specialist.  Both very nice and personable despite the long lines outside their doors.  This guy was slightly older, grey hair, distinguished looking small beard and glasses.  Faint, faint, faint trace of a Russian accent.

Conversation with the Doctor.

Me:  Should I sit down?

Him:  Of course.  You think I should sit while a woman is standing?  Anyway, I see people with foot problems.  What do you think the chair is there for?  (This was a torrent of Hebrew; these are the only four things I picked out of the deluge.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

9 things you’ve got to stop saying about mental illness… and 4 questions to ask yourself instead.

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Some of these phrases are so deeply ingrained that you might not even realize you’re talking about mental illness when you say them.

  1. “You’re driving me crazy.”
  2. “I’m feeling schizophrenic about the situation.”
  3. “Quit being so paranoid!”
  4. “Are you totally nuts?”
  5. “He broke up with that psycho girlfriend.”
  6. “Maybe you’re hearing things.”
  7. “She’s a little disturbed.”
  8. “Welcome to the loony bin.”
  9. “He has issues.”

Oh, yeah… and then there’s the Big #10:  “mental illness.”  What does it mean, anyway?  Is it like a virus, rotting away at somebody’s brain? 

Most of us have no clue. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The family tree of grief – a quote

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Have you lost somebody you loved?

Of course you have.  I know from all the people who spoke to me and shared stories after my brother Eli died in the spring.  Maybe you told me yours.  I loved hearing those stories.  I don’t know what I will do with them yet, but they are all still alive, here in my mind, waiting to come out in some way.

This quote jumped out at me over Shabbos, and I wanted to share it.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken"It's a sort of kinship, as though there is a family tree of grief. On this branch the lost children, on this the suicided parents, here the beloved mentally ill siblings. When something terrible happens, you discover all of a sudden that you have a new set of relatives, people with whom you can speak in the shorthand of cousins."

- Elizabeth McCracken, from the book An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

Will you believe me if I tell you that a book about grief can be funny?  Happy?  Optimistic? 

"This is the happiest story in the world, with the saddest ending," McCracken begins her memoir, about the loss of a baby, and the birth of two more.  About becoming a mother and a bereaved mother in the same instant. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

MamaLand Review: Elisha Davidson, the kosher Harry Potter –?

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Are you ready for a wild ride? 

I hope so, because writer M. R. (Rhonda) Attar has just released the first in what promises to be a trilogy of adventure books about young Elisha Davidson, Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire (Menorah Books:  2014).

Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire I’d call the book weird and wonderful.  But I’d also caution that it’s not for the youngest readers, or maybe for any reader younger than 12 or 13.  There are scenes that are frightening and/or violent, like in the first chapter, where a renowned professor passes out era pool of blood.  (He remains comatose for the entire book.)

This is an ambitious book, weaving hundreds of years of mystical Jewish teachings into an exciting modern-day story.  It reads quickly as long as you don’t let yourself get too hung up on the details.  But that might be just me.

Like I said:  weird… and wonderful.

There are enough parallels to the Harry Potter books to either delight or annoy fans, depending on how they feel about such things. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Enter to win: “Chanukah Monsters” Chanukah Disaster giveaway!

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Chanukah’s coming… What could go wrong???

Well, Murphy’s Law of Holidays says anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong when it comes to holiday seasons.  But there’s no reason we can’t laugh about it now.

Tell me all about your biggest, baddest, funniest, craziest or most MONSTROUS Chanukah disaster and you could win my book Chanukah Monsters (softcover, 8.5” x 8.5”, full-colour paperback, retail value $8.99 on Amazon.com), including mailing anywhere in the United States or Canada (sorry, other people; I love you, but you’re too expensive!).

  1. One winner will receive one copy of Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod (hey, that’s me!).
  2. Second and third runners-up will receive a free e-copy of any of my books available in digital form (winner’s choice).

Come on… think up your worst disaster.  Get it off your chest and help the rest of us smile when we’re thinking about what could go wrong (or right) this year.  It doesn’t have to involve fire, or latke poisoning, but it could…

To win: 

  1. Share your story in the Comments section below.  Nothing fancy; just a couple of sentences.
  2. But wait!  You ALSO have to enter via the Giveaway Tools contest box below (entering a comment alone isn’t enough).  The Giveaway Tools gadget offers you a few other cool ways to win.  These are all optional.
  3. Winners will be drawn on Nov 22/23 via Giveaway Tools, and results will be posted on this page.

I can’t wait to see your stories!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

FREE Chanukah Monsters colouring book

image from Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Like it, Share it, pass it along!  Here’s the link:  http://bit.ly/coloringchanukah

(You may have to join CurrClick if you haven't already, but membership is free, and this was easier than hosting the PDF myself).

The colouring book is based on the artist’s original sketches for my new book, Chanukah Monsters, with brief all-new text added by moi.

FREE Chanukah Monsters Colouring Book, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

While you’re at it, if you like the colouring book, check out the original Chanukah Monsters, available now for print and Kindle from Amazon.com:

Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Enjoy, and if you do, pass it along to a friend!

 


Tzivia / צִיבְיָה