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Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome Rabbi Jacobs!

One of the lovely benefits of sharing interviews on my blog is the opportunity I have to meet wonderful people from around the world. Rabbi Fishel Jacobs is the author of the Two Kings books for children. He lives with his family in Kfar Chabad, Israel, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Rabbi Jacobs has many talents. He has written seven adult non-fiction books, served in the Israeli army, and is an eight degree Black Belt!

I'm delighted that Rabbi Jacobs was able to join me for a blog interview.

Tell me about your Two Kings books.

The Two Kings book series actually evolved from a play we performed for many years in front of tens of thousands of youth in Israel. The play, as well as the books, feature a main character, David, 8. He is charged with performing some sort of daily activity, such as helping watch the baby sister, do homework, whatever. Through simple text and really marvelous brilliant colored pictures we "see" and "hear" an internal Bad King trying to influence David not to do what he's supposed to. Then we watch as the internal Good King responds with counter-arguments. Finally, we watch as David is torn and struggles to decide with which inner voice, inclination so to speak, he will go.

What inspired you to write books for children?
First, I've always loved children. I love to tell my own children stories at the Shabbat table, and before they go to bed at night. I personally have been influenced greatly by inspirational stories which I've been fortunate enough to have read or heard. Stories are an important of the human experience.

Second, I think this message of two little voices inside us is important to begin imbuing at an early age. When shall we begin, when someone is an adult?

So, I feel this series is an educational and social mission for me. When we publish a Two Kings book, I think about the little (and not so little) minds who will absorb this important lesson. By the way, the original concept was presented by King Solomon, "the wisest man who ever lived."

I think about the improvement it will make in their lives to realize they should always weigh their thoughts. That they should not always "just do what you feel." Think, even if for the moment, reconsider your actions. Am I acting out of raw impulse, or are my actions influenced at all by my thoughts.

I believe in this message for our youth, for our teens, and yes, I believe in it for ourselves as well.

How important were books to you when you were a child?
In terms of personal growth and maturity, books were extremely important to me as a child.The only problem was that I wasn't aware of it at the time. I never opened a book, never read. My dad always said, "Read a book. It will develop your mind." I was into competitive sports. Now, years later, I'm sorry I didn't take that advice more seriously. A mind is, indeed, a precious thing. The positive side is I'm repeating that advice to my own kids, and with some of them, thankfully, its sticking.

What are some fun facts about you?
Fun facts. Fun facts. Unfortunately, I'll really have to share a LOL with you on that one. I guess, you'd really need to rephrase that to get it down. Something more like, What are some non-fun facts about you? In kind of a nutshell, my whole life is fun.

The only thing I like more than to laugh, is when I get someone else to laugh. Our home is full, 24/7,with students and guests who come to meet up with the guy who wrote all those books, worked in a prison and has a black belt in karate. that;s fun.

My dear wife, of 28 very quickly passing years, Miriam, is a serious scholar who runs an entire department at the seminary here in Kfar Chabad. I even get her to laugh a lot. That's fun. Finally, our seven kids get us both to laugh a real lot -- that's the most fun of all.

Before signing off, I'd like to thank the publisher, Israel Book Shop, a great company for all their help and assistance.

Thank you, Rabbi Jacobs! To learn more about the Two Kings or other books by Rabbi Jacobs, please visit

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


My friend Barbara Jean Hicks is the author of Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli, recently released by Knopf. Monsters might not eat broccoli, but they do eat latkes! In honor of Hanukkah, Barbara Jean shares this terrific latke recipe borrowed from the recipe files of April Halprin Wayland. Happy Hanukkah!

Broccoli Latkes

1 pound broccoli, chopped into small pieces
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and cubed into small pieces
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cups water
½ teaspoon celery seed
salt and pepper to taste

Cook all the ingredients in a large covered pot over medium heat for 20 minutes. Drain mixture. Mash ingredients together.

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Form 10 pancakes. Fry 8 minutes on one side. Flip and fry for another 5 minutes on the other side. Serve warm.


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Linda Glaser is the author of many children’s books. Her latest is Hoppy Hanukkah, a delightful holiday celebration for young readers. Her other acclaimed books include The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes, Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah, and Bridge to America. I’m so happy to welcome Linda to the blog!

Tell me about your new book, Hoppy Hanukkah?

For years, I’ve had the complete joy of introducing preschoolers to Jewish holidays and values in religious school at our temple on Saturday mornings. I love that age group! After many years of holiday fun with young children, I wrote Hoppy Hanukkah to playfully introduce even more young ones to Hanukkah traditions. As I wrote it, I fantasized about reading it to my own grandchildren someday. Almost as gratifying, my older daughter gave Hoppy Hanukkah its “world premier” by reading it to her group of temple preschoolers in Minneapolis. She reported back that the children loved it and laughed in all the right places. That warmed my heart.

Several of your books have a Jewish theme. How much has Judaism shaped your writing?

More than anything else, belonging to a small yet vibrant temple community has shaped my Jewish themed writing. My first Jewish book, The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes, was inspired by the third graders at our temple. Seeing how much they still enjoyed picture books, I wrote the story with them in mind. My next book Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah was inspired by latke making with the preschoolers. I love getting messy with kids! My middle grade historical novel Bridge to America is based on the early life of a temple elder, Phil, who grew up in a shtetl. I tried to imbue the book with his lively, life-affirming spirit. When the book finally came out, our temple held a “book mitzvah.” Phil and I both signed copies--a most memorable book signing! I have another book coming out this spring called Emma’s Poem, The Voice of the Statue of Liberty. It’s based on the life of Emma Lazarus, an outspoken and accomplished Jewish writer and humanitarian. Even as a young girl, I found it awe-inspiring that a Jewish woman writer with her visionary poem had shaped the hearts and minds of the American people by giving the Statue of Liberty a powerful voice for immigrants.

What is the best part about being a writer?

I love writing. Having my writing published gives me a way to share what I love and feel passionate about with others.

What is your favorite holiday?

Do I have to pick just one? On Sukkot, I love decorating the sukkah. On Simchat Torah, I love dancing around temple with the Torah. On Hanukkah I love lighting candles and eating latkes. On Purim… well, you get the idea. I love all the Jewish holidays.

What are some fun facts about you?

Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a children’s book writer. For my 10th birthday, I asked for a fountain pen. Back then, I wrote lots of stories and poems—mostly with a regular ballpoint pen or a pencil. But once I got my fountain pen, whenever I wanted to really feel like a writer, I wrote with that pen. Now, I bring it on school visits to encourage children to hold onto their dreams.

Thanks, Linda! To learn more about Linda's books, please visit

Hoppy Hanukkah to all my readers!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Maggie Anton - Rashi's Daughters

Maggie Anton is the author of the very popular Rashi's Daughters Series. She has just released the Book III - Rachel. I am so thrilled that Maggie could take time out of her busy touring schedule to visit the blog.

Tell me about your Rachel, the subject of your third book in the Rashi's Daughter series:

Rachel is Rashi's youngest daughter, and the most beautiful. Being the only child to grow up when Rashi lived at home, she is spoiled and his favorite. She is the only one of his daughters to marry for love.

Your first book was adapted as a Young Adult novel. Will you do the same for the other books?

No. Their subject matter does not lend itself to YA readers.

How challenging was your research for your books?

It was more enjoyable than challenging; I love learning new things. Writing the novels was hard work; the research was fun.

What has been the most interesting part of your writer's journey?

That someone who was a chemist for over 30 years, who never took a writing class or wrote anything except letters to my husband in the army, could successfully write historical novels about some obscure 11th-century Jewish women.

What are some fun facts about you?

I am a Bubbi, with two grandsons - Nathan and Benjamin. I grew up in a secular socialist household & never attended High Holy Day services until after I was married. I am a total Los Angeles girl: born here, went to UCLA, married another LA native, both my children were born here, and I still live in the city. I have spoken about RASHI'S DAUGHTERS in 26 different states, plus DC.

Thanks, Maggie! For more information about Maggie Anton and her books, please visit

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interview with Sheyna Galyan of Yaldah Publishing

Here is the link to Writer's [Inner] Journey and a wonderful interview with Sheyna Galyan of Yaldah Publishing, home of Like a Maccabee.


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