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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Welcome Leah Subar, author of COPYCAT!

Leah Subar’s book, COPYCAT, introduces readers to Tzipora Stein. Tzipora longs to fit it. When the girl who has teased her in the past invites her to join the “in” crowd, Tzipora is thrilled, but there is a price to pay. Leah says, “I hope this book will help readers in some way when they need to decide between being ‘popular’ and doing what they think is right.”

Leah is a native of Denver, Colorado, lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She and her husband, “Uncle Reuven,” wrote and produced the popular children’s music series, “Uncle Reuven and the Simcha Train.” Leah’s articles about motherhood and family life appear in numerous publications, including Mishpacha Magazine and Mishpacha Junior. Her plays are produced in the United States, England, and Israel. She is currently working on an anthology of children’s stories, tentatively titled “Impact for Kids” (Targum Press).

Tell me about Copycat?
Copycat is the story of an eleven year-old girl who desperately wants to be part of the ‘in’ crowd. But she needs to decide how far she is willing to follow the crowd in order to be part of it. This question pervades the entire story, climaxing with a face-off between her and the school bully,where she is forced to make a choice: Will she stand up for what she believes in,even though doing so will cost her all of her friends and embarrass her in front of the entire school?

It’s a book that makes you think twice about who you want to be friends with!

What was the inspiration for the book?
When I was eleven,I was called Freckle Face and Shorty pie, just like my protagonist. I,too,struggled to belong.

The villain in my book is quite evil, too evil for a book nice Jewish kids are going to read! Or so I thought, until I spoke to the principal of a major Jewish girls school in New York: she told me that all the students in her school are required to sign a “Bully Contract!” This contract defines “bullying” and the punishment for first-time and repeat offenders. The school offers support to help “victims” learn how to cope and to stand up for themselves.

Before I heard that, I was tempted to tone down my villain, to make her more ‘pareve.’ But when I heard how prevalent the problem of bullying really is, I realized that my book has a timely and important message.

How did you become a children’s writer?
By writing. My Yiddish-speaking friends call it zitz fleishe. In English, it’s called ‘hard work’ — waking each morning and sitting at the desk to write. As a busy wife and mother of a large family, it’s hard to make the time. But even 200 words a day adds up to a book eventually. Mine did.

Why do you write specifically for children?

I’m not sure, but a few years ago, just for fun, my husband and I produced a music CD for kids called “Uncle Reuven and the Simcha Train.” It became a #1 Best-Seller! (Country Yossi Family Magazine Feb 2005)It started out as songs I made up when putting my children to sleep. I feel completely natural composing music for a young audience, and with writing it’s the same thing.

What interesting thing did you learn in the process of writing this book?
Great question, because whenever we set out to write something, we don’t realize how deeply we ourselves may be affected in the process. At least I did not think about it during my book’s beginning stages. Instead, it was all about how my readers will internalize my message, how they will be affected.

But somewhere deep into the process, as my protagonist struggled with her enemy, I discovered that I, too, struggled with the memories of my own pre-adolescent years. I had not fully gotten over being called “Four Eyes.” I’m still figuring out how to say with confidence and grace:“This is who I am.” Writing my book has taught me that no matter how much we consider ourselves “all grown up,” we still have far to go.

What is your favorite holiday?
My husband’s grandfather used to say when asked what his favorite food was: “The one I’m eating now.” My favorite holiday? The one I’m celebrating today! The Jewish calendar is so rich! I love sitting in our sukkah, eating matzah, bursting out in tears as the final shofar blasts at the end of Yom Kippur, and we all say:Next Year in Jerusalem!

Shabbat is really the center of everything that goes on in my home. I bake challah, make gefilte fish, matzah balls, potato kugel…the works! It’s so delicious! I’m not bragging, because Shabbat itself is the fabulous secret ingredient that makes all the food so yummy. We sing songs around the table — everybody is home, even the teenagers. Nobody is talking on the phone. We’re together. We talk. We’re family.

Leah, thank you for such thoughtful, inspirational responses! Best of luck with COPYCAT!

Listen to Leah's music at

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