Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Estie is now out in the world, and in honor of her week, I'm talking about other Jewish-themed children's books I've loved.

Last time I wrote about three funny folk tales that have stayed with me since childhood. Folk and fairy tales have been a rich genre for Jewish-themed picture books, so one post wasn't quite enough. Here's two more:

Elijah's Violin & Other Jewish Fairy Tales, retold by Howard Schwartz and illustrated by Linda Heller is the kind of book you go back to again and again, finding treasure each time. I owned this book as a child (and own it still), and perhaps the most amazing thing for me was that the source and place of origin of each tale is included at the end of the story. I was amazed at how varied the Jewish world was and longed to learn more about Jewish history. This is a great place to read stories that are not of European origin.

Then there was Deborah the Dybbuk by Marilyn Hirsch, a Jewish ghost story, published by Holiday House in 1978. Reading this book was definitely my first exposure to the idea of the dybbuk, a malevolent spirit that possesses the body of a living person and must be exorcised through the toe! This seems to be long out of print, and I can't find a cover image to show you. I'd love to find this again though -- there seem to be a number of used copies online and I'm sure it's in libraries.

Next time I'm moving on to a another rich category, historical fiction. And then I'll talk about some excellent brand new Jewish-themed picture books.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If you like Estie the Mensch, you might also like . . .

Estie week is here!

In honor of the Tuesday release of my debut picture book Estie the Mensch, this week I'll be showing off some Jewish-themed books by other authors. I'm starting with books that meant a lot to me as a child and then moving on to favorites I've read more recently.

The first book is The Tale of Meshka the Kvetch by Carol Chapman, illustrated by Arnold Lobel, published by Dutton in 1980. This book was a perpetual favorite in my Hebrew School library. Kids really loved those watermelons on Meshka's feet. Here's a link to the book on the website of the PJ Library, a non-profit that provides Jewish-themed books to Jewish families. They include a reading guide. Keep an eye on the PJ Library site -- I'm thrilled that Estie will also be there soon.

Sticking with the humorous Eastern European folk tale genre, as well as the theme of the power of
optimism, here's It Could Always Be Worse, retold and beautifully illustrated by Margot Zemach. I'm linking the title to the PJ library -- this one has a reading guide as well.

And finally, rounding out the hilarious Ashkenazi folk tales, The Children of Chelm by David A. Adler has three retellings of classic stories about the fools of Chelm -- a town over which the bag carrying fools broke when the world was being created. This book, published in 1979 by the Hebrew Publishing Company (for which my mother briefly worked when I was growing up) has traveled with my personal library since my childhood. In fifth grade I won a schoolwide storytelling competition with my dramatic rendition of "The Day It Snowed." Sadly this one is out of print, but you can find it used!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Are You a Mensch? Take the Mensch Challenge!

In Yiddish "mensch" literally means "person." But to be a "real mensch" is so much more . . .

In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten writes, "As a child, I often heard it said: 'The finest thing you can say about a man is that he is a mentsh!' Jewish children often heard this admonition: 'Behave like a mentsh,' or 'Be a mentsh!' . . . To be a mentsh has nothing to do with success, wealth, or status. The key to being 'a real mentsh' is nothing less than character: rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous."

Estie might prefer being a turtle or an octopus on the outside, but when it really counts, she finds her inner mensch.

What about you (or your favorite children)? Are you a mensches? Send me a short description of a way you've been a mensch and, if you have one, a photo, and you could be my Mensch of the Month! I'll feature you here and send you a signed copy of Estie the Mensch. You can post your entry in the comments here, on Twitter (include @janekohuth and #menschchallenge), or on my Facebook page. And make sure I have a way to get in touch with you! You just might win!

Goodreads ESTIE Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Estie the Mensch by Jane Kohuth

Giveaway ends September 02, 2011.

at Goodreads.

Estie will be available for sale in only three weeks! I've been busy getting ready, setting up events, which I'll be sure to post here. My book launch party will be at the fabulous Wellesley Books, where I am a sometime bookseller, on Saturday September 10th at 2 pm. I'll also be at Park Street Books in Medfield, MA on Saturday October 22nd at 2.

It looks like I'll also be traveling to Cape Cod, Brooklyn NY, and Northern NJ, as well as one or two more spots in New England -- more on that as soon as dates and times are definite. I'm very excited at the prospect of sharing Estie at the synagogue I attended as a child in NY. It will be a bit surreal, but also quite special for child Jane, who still lives not too far below the surface.

And I'm happy to announce that you have the chance to win a free copy of Estie the Mensch on Goodreads! Just click on the link to enter.