Like the MamaLand Empire!

Have you joined the MamaLand Empire?
      ... and join my mailing list for biweekly Jewish parenting ideas - no spam, no ads, just me!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hashem's Amazing World: three terrific science / nature books for Jewish kids

The Hashem's Amazing World series, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Looking for a way to share the wonders of science and nature with Jewish kids?
These books may be the answer.
I don't post a lot of brags on here, but I wanted to quickly pop in and let you know how excited I am about this series - the Hashem's Amazing World series.  
The first book, Zoom: A Trip to the Moon, has been out for a while.  But the other two have been sitting in various stages of Technical Difficulty-land for a few months while life caught up with us and I had to deal with other things (excuse me, did I mention I just moved to another continent last year?).

I love looking at all the covers lined up like this (and at home, lining up the real thing is even more thrilling)...

What are they all about???

Zoom! A trip to the moon - explores the moon, earth and space, and gets our little explorer home in time for Shabbat.

Buzz! A teeny tiny world - gets down and dirty with some actual bugs (and a spider), and explores why Hashem put bugs here in the first place.

Baby! Life before birth - discreetly explores what happens before a baby is born from a spiritual and physical perspective.  In case you're worried, when I say discreet, I mean it - I've tried to strike a balance between sharing information and letting parents decide how much their kids are ready to know.  Here are two sample images.  Click through to see more.



What's next???

I'm definitely interested in suggestions for future books.  Someone suggested dinosaurs.  Now THERE is a topic that would be terrific with a lot of kids, but needs to be handled very carefully from a perspective of hashkafa.

Any other thoughts?

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

Friday, October 17, 2014

MamaLand Review: Every Picture Tells a Story, a new illustrated weekly parsha book for kids

image

How are parsha books like popcorn?  You can’t have just one! 

If you’re anything like our family, you already have a preponderance of parsha books. 

But it’s impossible to have “enough,” isn’t it?  Especially when it comes to finding great kids’ parsha books that are both appealing to kids and reflect your family’s hashkafa (religious outlook).  And especially if the author isn’t afraid to do something a little different.  So when the chance to review a new parsha book that combines words and pictures in an innovative new format came along, I got a bit excited. 

There’s a good chance that this book may be just right for your family.

For my review, I received free from the publisher both the hardcover Every Picture Tells a Story Volume One:  Bereishis (Menorah Books: 2014) and the accompanying softcover colouring book:

cover, Every Picture Tells a Story cover, Every Picture Tells a Story (colouring book)

Aren’t those great covers?  They’re bilingual!  And they tell you exactly what you’re going to get inside. 

(I don’t love the fact that on Amazon, you can’t use “Look Inside” to peek into the books, but the publisher has previews on their website instead.  Smart marketing would suggest that they include a URL to these previews in the book description on Amazon, because I was not the only one deterred by this.)

Here’s what I loved about the book, right off the bat:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

FREE Printable Easy Reader Mini-Book, “On Rosh Hashanah”

image

Joining the free printable mini-books I have made for Shavuos, Pesach and Chanukah, is this awesome little counting book for Rosh Hashanah.  Specially designed to print, cut out and staple at home.

imageimage image

To receive a free PDF of this very simple print-cut-staple easy reader for Pesach, featuring all the usual cute “borrowed” Internet graphics you have come to love from my printables, please sign up for my mailing list (below).  I’ll send it to you within 24 hours.

If you’re already on my mailing list, just fire off an email to me at Tzivia@tzivia.com.

Here are the others in this series:

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

The hour between 12 and 1

image

What time is it right now where you are?

As I write this, it's early morning here (Israel) and the middle of the night in North America.  Time for all reasonable people to be sleeping. 

Are you still awake?

It is also Elul, the time before Rosh Hashanah when we make the changes in our lives so we can start becoming the holy people Hashem wants us to be.

When we lived in North America, it was nice having friends in Israel because I could chat with them late at night.  For them it was morning; their kids had already gone to school.

And I was up much too late.

Here, I find the same thing happening in reverse.  When it's late at night here, everybody's running around back in North America, getting supper ready, relaxing during the evening.

And I am STILL up much too late.

The hour between 12 and 1 is the worst.  Maybe you know the feeling.  The thought that you should just shut down and go to bed?  The sense of diminishing returns. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shopping for picture books for Jewish holidays? Here are 6 you’ll love.

image

Do you have something you’re really bad at?

I do, so I’ll go first.

I’m lousy at self-promotion. 

Not just bad.  Lousy.  Especially in person.  I have been at people’s houses, shown them the parsha book that I wrote, and then, when they ask me where they can buy one, I say something like, “oh, it’s probably not right for you.”  Or, “you don’t want to buy it.”

Literally, I have said that.  More than once.  I’m like the ANTI self-promotion force.  I am my own worst critic.

But it’s that time on the Jewish calendar (note to self:  buy new calendars!) when we head out – or head online – to buy kids’ books for the upcoming fall yamim tovim.  Whether they’re for our own children, other people’s children, or just to hand out randomly to children we meet on the subway (hey, a struggling author can hope, right?).  We’re all in the mood for books that make Judaism fun, colourful and appealing.

So I’m going to take a break to blow my own horn, briefly, and let you know that with the fall chagim coming up, you still have time to explore some books I wrote that you and your kids might enjoy.  If you aren’t interested, don’t buy them... drat – there I go, undermining myself again.

Let’s start over:

These are ALL great books.  I’m proud of them.  And they’re all reasonably priced and available on Amazon.com.  Bonus:  buy any book with a Kindle edition, and I’ve set things up so it will give you the Kindle version FREE.

(If you’re in Israel, contact me; I have copies here that I can send you directly.)

Here are all my yom tov books (so far; there are more coming!)… and why you and your kids will love them:

image Penguin Rosh Hashanah Because penguins… and Rosh Hashanah.  How cool are they together?  (Answer:  very.)
image We Didn’t Have an Etrog! Everything’s ready for Sukkos / Sukkot… except the etrog (esrog)!  Two eager kids learn a lesson in patience as they prepare for yom tov.
image One Chanukah Night For slightly older kids, Sammy comes face-to-face with history and discovers his own connection with the stories of the Tanach.
image The Marror Man Run, run, as fast as you can… think you know the ending?  Maybe not, in this fun Pesach twist on a classic tale.
image Seven Special Gifts Perfect for Sukkos / Sukkot, Shavuos / Shavuot, or just generally reading about the Land of Israel.
image Shabbat Monsters Not exactly a yom tov book, but Shabbat comes around every week, and with these cute monsters, every kid will look forward to it.

This isn’t all I’ve written, just everything that has a bit of a festival “flavour.”  Click here to see all my books. 

Can I ask you a favour?

While I’m tooting my own horn… it’s kind of tiring being the only one.

If you’ve bought or read one of my books in the past, please click back through and leave a review.  As an independent writer, I live and die by reviews.  They’re the best way to tell other readers that a book by a new and undiscovered writer deserves their attention.

Again, click here to find all my books and (hopefully) leave a fair review.

And now, back to my regularly-scheduled self-effacement…

Thanks for your support.  I totally appreciate it!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Start to finish, a Rosh Hashanah (ish) Israel (ish) craft project

DSC_0076

Spoiler alert!  If you are on our “nearest and dearest” list, please don’t scroll down to peek at the craft project revealed below.  It is currently winging its way to you in the mail.  Be patient.

(Um, if you feel you are near and dear and considerable time has passed and you have NOT received your very own Craft in the mail – well, oops.  We still love you, but are far from having our act together over here on this new side of the Atlantic.  Better luck to all of us next year.)

So my nanny used to get these cards.  Maybe you’ve seen them.  They were all-occasion cards with paintings on the front.  Mediocre paintings of puppies and kittens and clowns and water and boats.  And the only thing that was special about the cards was that on the back, they said they were mouth-painted by people who had no limbs.

Mouth-painted.  That phrase stuck with me, maybe because everybody always told me not to put paintbrushes in my mouth.  Or maybe the image of a limbless guy painting a landscape.

And the thing is, they didn’t have to be GOOD paintings.  Once you knew they were mouth-painted, that was enough.

So that’s how I think about our craft project.  A year ago, we had our legs pulled out from beneath us by our move to Israel.  Sure, we did it deliberately, we planned it in advance, and we’re happy we came.  But a year ago, I was overwhelmed by the thought of finding vegetables, making lasagna, assembling a meal.  Let alone renting an apartment, finding a job, ordering gas balloons, and all the other things that we’ve managed to accomplish in the year we’ve lived here.

We have had such a beautiful summer, homeschooling together.  And I wanted to wrap it up with a nice something that we could send to everybody we love before Rosh Hashanah.

Luckily, I planned ahead of time.  Between Pesach and June, when things were flowering, I took the liberty of stripping lots of flowers and bringing them home to press.  The kids thought I was nuts, but okay.

(They realized it was cool when they saw me opening up a couple of huge dictionaries and plopping the flowers inside.)

Some flowers faded more than others, but whatever… this is all about lessons learned, and not about the end result.

Remember, it’s like mouth-painting. 

We’re not just doing crafts – we’re doing crafts in Israel.  Everything is hard:  I don’t have my regular glue, scissors, paper, whatever.  No WalMart; how are you supposed to craft without WalMart?

But I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the flowers all along. 

A few years ago, Naomi Rivka designed a bookmark that I knew was never going to win the public library bookmark contest.  But I thought it was beautiful, so I printed off colour copies, mounted them on cardboard and “laminated” them and gave them out to a few lucky relatives.

That’s what I wanted to do with the flowers.  Only without cardboard, without my regular glue, with weird Israeli laminating plastic… well.  It’s about the process, not the product… right?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Two things that are definitely not “us.” Thing #1.

IMG_00005077

Thing #2 is Tzfat.  A city we love, but will probably never live in.  You can read more about that over here.

But it’s Thing #1 that hurts. 

Thing #1 is homeschooling.

It’s hard not to cry as I write this (partly because Windows Live Writer ate my last version of this after I’d spent 10 minutes typing – waah).

I have had the BEST summer, learning at home with the kids.  Learning, growing, exploring, doing cool stuff together.  And yeah, proving to myself that even here in Israel, I’m still me.  They’re still them, albeit now with a touch of Israeli schoolkid chutzpah.

Given the choice, the kids would continue homeschooling, all year long.  Staying in PJs, going on tiyulim, choosing what to learn, how fast, at exactly the right level.

Given the choice, we grown-ups would continue homeschooling, all year long.  Avoiding making lunches, and yeah, staying in PJs.  Missing the chance to throw ourselves on the one-size-fits-all, inexorable conveyor belt that is any education system, even in Israel.

Have I mentioned that I hate making lunches? 

Ask any of my kids; it’s true.  Always have.  It doesn’t help that I hate almost all sandwiches and this is a nation that reveres them to the point of mandating a nationwide sandwich break at 10am every day.

But, of course, sandwiches are not a good reason to keep your children home.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Free-BEE! Free Kindle book on Amazon.com

image

My favourite price in the world:  free.  And my favourite thing in the world:  a kids’ book.  (Yes, one of mine.)

Please Like, Share and pass along this deal.  FREE UNTIL AUGUST 14 ONLY!

Learn a little about Israel's modern history and its most beloved songwriter in this short kids' chapter book! This week (Aug 10-14), my book "Naomi Shemer: Teaching Israel to Sing" is FREE for Kindle.

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE KINDLE VERSION FREE UNTIL AUGUST 14.

I started writing this book when my daughter, named after Naomi Shemer, was a baby… but only finished it last year, when she was 8.  A long time in the making, but I think it’s worth every second.  (And I loved reading it to her and telling her about the amazing lady for whom she’s named.

Acclaimed in her lifetime as the "First Lady of Israeli Song" and the author of unforgettable classics like Jerusalem of Gold (Yerushalayim shel Zahav), Naomi Shemer is almost unknown in the English-speaking world. With its engaging, straighforward narrative, this book opens the world of Naomi Shemer for the first time to English-speaking children and their parents. Come find out what made her special.

(I'd also love to get some reviews up, so if you and your kids read/enjoy it, please leave an honest review to help others.)

Here are some shots from the paperback version of the book:


image image image

Enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE KINDLE VERSION FREE UNTIL AUGUST 14.

If you’ve already read this book, or to get notices for future freebies… join my mailing list!

Jewish parenting insights and more free books? Yes, please!

(Not too many... you’ll get a short personal note every other week or so. No spam, no ads; I promise.)
* indicates required

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What we’re doing for school this summer.

IMG_00004865 

So did I mention we’re homeschooling again?

At least for the summer.  Does that make me the kind of wannabe / poseur I hate?  Or an earnest parent trying hard to make something work during weird, transitional times…

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I thought I’d share a quick update on how things are going this summer with our “homeschooling / summerschooling” plans. 

(It was originally going to be quick – sorry!!)

IMG_00004866It remains to be seen whether we’re going to do this long-term.  But the truth is, it feels very good.  Very, very good.

In some areas, we’re picking up exactly where we left off.  But mostly, things slipped a lot during the year.  The only area in which both kids are further ahead (besides Hebrew!) is math.

I had a few clear criteria before we started:

Friday, July 25, 2014

The thing I didn’t expect (the thing you’re hiding).

image

Know what I didn’t expect?

When I stood up a month and a bit ago to give my eulogy for my brother, and shared it with you online, I didn’t know so many other people, so many other families, were suffering, too.

Look, I’m a writer:  a shy, prickly, private person, who relates better to a keyboard than to other human beings and their eyeballs.

But after that eulogy, it was non-stop eyeballs.

Do you know how many people came up to me afterwards to tell me that they, too, had a mentally ill family member?  I don’t either.  Some were people I’d known for years.  Normal people; productive, happy, busy, hardworking, everyday kinds of people.

The thing I didn't expect (but should have) is that almost everybody has a story like this somewhere in their immediate family. Family members who were broken in the same way or a similar way to my brother Eli.

These are stories that must be told.

Stories that are hidden.

My mother took my dvar Torah for his shloshim and read it out at a ladies' meeting she's been going to for years (like, 30 years or more).