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Monday, December 10, 2007

Welcoming Betsy Rosenthal

I first met Betsy at a Jewish book event where we were both speakers. She was warm and friendly and I was charmed by her presentation. Betsy worked as a lawyer for many years before she became a children’s author. She has written two picture books, MY HOUSE IS SINGING, and IT’S NOT WORTH MAKING A TZIMMES OVER. Betsy lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. She says they are all “worth making a tzimmes over.” I’m so pleased to bring you this interview with my local colleague, Betsy Rosenthal.

Tell me a little bit about your latest book. Why you were drawn to write about a Jewish theme or character?

It's called, It's Not Worth Making a Tzimmes Over! It's a romp about a girl and her grandmother (her bubbe) who make a shabbat challah together. After Sara makes a mistake when she's adding the ingredients, the challah dough grows and grows until it's flowing through the town. They find a way to solve the problem and the whole community benefits from the yummy challah.

The story was based on a real life situation in which my son (when he was in a preschool temple program) mistakenly added his cup of orange juice to the mix instead of the eggs. It got me thinking.... In the book I even have a recipe for Challah a l'Orange courtesy of my son.

When I was growing up, my parents occasionally used Yiddish so that my brother and I wouldn't understand what they were saying. Hearing Yiddish brings back memories and gives me a warm feeling that I tried to replicate in my book by sprinkling in Yiddish words through the grandmother. I also have a Yiddish glossary in the back of the book.

What type of research was involved?

I did a little research on the old horror movie, The Blob. Also I used a couple of books to check the English spelling of the Yiddish words. And lastly, I tested out the challah recipe - it was yummy.

How did you become a children’s writer?

I used to practice law, up until I had my second child. At that time I stayed home with my children and spent many hours on the rocking chair, reading children's books to them. Since I had always loved to write stories and poems, I tried my hand at books for children. Now my children are beyond the age that I write for, but they still inspire me with their antics and give me fresh ideas I can incorporate into my writing.

What are you working on now?

I'm trying to interest a publisher in my novel in verse about my mother's childhood, growing up in a super large Jewish family (she was one of 12 children) in Baltimore during the depression.

What are a few fun facts about you?

In my Tzimmes book, Sara and her grandma play badminton because I play badminton. I just launched my website -- that has some biographical stuff about me.

I've been to Israel 8 times and I lived there for a little over a year.

What is your favorite holiday?

Definitely Passover-- the food, oh the food!

Betsy, thanks for sharing about the life experiences that inspire you!

To learn more about Betsy, please visit her web site at

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