Category Archives: My Reads

A love song to Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt

OrbitingJupiterOh, this book, this beautiful, heart-breaking book… There is so much I want to tell you about ORBITING JUPITER by Gary Schmidt, but the most important thing is that you must read it.

Gary Schmidt is one of my favorite authors because he understands young people so deeply. The thing I appreciate most about ORBITING JUPITER  is that Gary Schmidt honors the love between young people. It is so easy for adults to disregard a teen who says they have fallen in love. Oh, you don’t understand what that really means. You’re not old enough to know. As if, something about being young means that emotions don’t affect you the same way. I call bullshit on that. How can we as parents expect to have real and honest conversations with our children if we devalue their feelings? Gary Schmidt takes young people seriously and writes about them with such respect and empathy.

Another thing about this book: it was a reading experience like I used to have. I fell into this world, his characters are real to me, and all I wanted was for them to be okay.

One of the sad side effects of my life as a writer is that I no longer enjoy reading the way I used to. Most of the time, as I read, my mind whirs along analyzing what works and what doesn’t work about a book. If I read a hyped book and I don’t like it, I’m really mad. It is a rare book that can absorb me to such a degree that I am reading only to know what happens, only to live in the world of the book a little bit longer.

So this book… so much love.
Go read it!

GEORGE–an amazing book… You should read it!

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I stayed up way too late a few nights ago reading this book. I knew I should close the pages and go to sleep. I knew the alarm was going off early the next morning, but I kept reading.

Not because this is a suspenseful story.
Not because this is a story with a relentless pace.
Not because I couldn’t imagine how this story would end.

I read the entire book in one sitting because George is a character I have never, ever before seen on the page.

Think about that for a moment. Frodo, Harry, Lyra, Katniss… we know this kind of hero. And we know (and love) books like THE GIVER or BRIDGE TO TEREBINTHIA. I could list a hundred books I adore that have their seeds in other stories. That is how literature works.

But I have never read a heart-warming, sweet, gentle, aching book about a person like George. I love her and I wanted her to be okay. That is why I kept reading.

And we need George to remind us of our human capacity for empathy and understanding. I hope that you will buy a copy and read it in one sitting and then share it widely. George has a lot to tell you about being real.

Do you remember reading FOREVER by Judy Blume?

ForeverDo you remember reading FOREVER? If you, like me, were a teen in the 80s or 90s, Judy Blume’s depiction of teenage love and first time sex was monumentally important. We’d never read anything like it—realistic sex where nothing bad happened to the teens involved.

There is a lot more sexual content out there now, but teens, especially teen girls, are still turning to young adult novels for information. This is one of the reasons that my new anthology THE V-WORD includes a Q & A with teen librarian Kelly Jensen about portrayals of teen sexuality in media.

In a wide ranging conversation, we talk about the best depictions of arousal, body image, gender identity, female masturbation, queer sex, straight sex, rape culture, and enthusiastic consent. Throughout, Kelly recommends go-to titles for teens who want to know more about these issues.

In a recent review on NetGalley, Melanie P. wrote:

I also loved the Q&A after the seventeen essays in this book. Kelly Jensen’s answers are so amazing, and I aspire to be more like her. She is so strong, and such an amazing voice for every young woman out there. I can’t recommend this book enough, just for the Q&A session at the end alone. I truly do believe with all my heart that this is a book all young girls would benefit from reading, because this book explores what schools and other outside sources are not going to teach you.

If you want to know more, check out this great article in the Huffington Post called 8 Books That Don’t Sugarcoat Teen Sexuality and of course look for THE V-WORD at your nearest bookstore.

Add it to your Goodreads list
At Simon & SchusterBarnes & Noble, or Amazon

A #Readdukah Realization

I was planning on posting a Jewish book a day for all of Chanukkah as part of the #Readdukah celebration of Jewish themed books. You may have noticed that I flamed out after six. Mostly that was because days seven and eight fell on the weekend and I was busy having fun with my family, but also I realized that I have not read nearly enough Jewish children’s books!

So in lieu of days seven and eight, I’m adding an addendum to a New Year’s Resolution (look at how prompt I am with that!). My plan in the next year is to focus on reading books by and about marginalized voices. In addition to my list of books by authors of color, I plan to add more Jewish authors and also Muslim authors.

I firmly believe that books can bring us together across vast differences, and our world needs this more than ever right now. Let me leave you with a quote that I have returned to again and again for solace and encouragement. (I wish I knew who wrote it, but it has been attributed to multiple sources.)

I love these words because they remind me that our task really is a simple one:

Make gentle.

Find compassion.

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The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales – Day Six #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY SIX #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
THE BAREFOOT BOOK OF JEWISH TALES
By Shoshana Boyd Gelfand

barefoot

About this book:

This engaging collection includes eight delightful tales from the Jewish tradition. Each story has been chosen for its appeal to families and each has a simple — yet powerful — message. Written by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, herself a mother of three, this is a fantastic set of stories to share and to treasure. Includes two story CDs narrated by Debra Messing.

Why I think you should read it:

I love all of the titles in the Barefoot Books line up. Our family has most of them (Princesses, Knights, Pirates, Horses, Animals, Grandmothers, and of course Jewish Tales). We love to listen to them in the car. Perfect for those trips around town. The readers are always great and the stories are fascinating.

Happy Hanukkah

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With a Mighty Hand – Day Five #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY FIVE #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
WITH A MIGHTY HAND
Adapted by Amy Ehrlich

Mighty Hand
About this book:

Amy Ehrlich retains the beauty, drama, and mystery of the Torah in this unique adaptation, gorgeously illustrated with paintings by Daniel Nevins. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. It tells the story of the beginning of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. From Adam and Eve to the first patriarch, Abraham, to Moses, who led his people to the promised land, the stories in the Torah have been studied and revered since it was first written down nearly 3,000 years ago. Now in this glorious volume, Amy Ehrlich crafts an authentic, lyrical adaptation that is presented as a continuous narrative, one that honors the complexities of the original text. Daniel Nevins’s richly hued paintings bring the ancient wonders of the Torah to resonant life, making this truly a gift to savor, share, and treasure.

Why I think you should read it:

This is not your typical “children’s bible.” It does not attempt to simplify the stories of the Torah into easily-digested moral parables. Instead it captures all the thought-provoking, weirdness of the Torah in a way that leads to excellent family conversations.

Happy Hanukkah

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Number the Stars – Day Four #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY FOUR #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
NUMBER THE STARS
by Lois Lowry

Number
About this book:

As the German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family. Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we watch as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.

Why I think you should read it:

History is powerful–if we remember, if we pay attention, if we act. The time to act against the intolerance, ignorance, and demonization that lead to genocide is now. Read this book to remember how people can reach across different faiths and love each other. Read this book to remember that we must speak out against the anti-Muslim sentiments sweeping this country. Please…

Happy Hanukkah

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The Wednesday Wars – Day Three #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY THREE #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
THE WEDNESDAY WARS
by Gary Schmidt

 

WednesdayAbout this book:

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Hollinghe’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivationthe Big Min the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

Why I think you should read it:

This is not a specifically Jewish book, but there is a wonderful subplot that involves a bar mitzvah. The scene in which Holling Hoodhood’s friend Danny is called to the Torah is a fabulous, warm depiction of what happens during this important ceremony. My kids were so excited to see this part of their lives portrayed in a book. (My son’s bar mitzvah was in February. My daughter’s bat mitzvah is coming up.)

Happy Hanukkah

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Hereville – Day Two #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY TWO #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
HEREVILLE
by Barry Deutsch

Hereville

About this book:

Welcome to Hereville, home of the first-ever wisecracking, adventure-loving, sword-wielding Orthodox Jewish heroine. A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, this fun, quirky graphic novel series will captivate middle-school readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine.Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she “does” want: to fight dragons!Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find–and outwit–the giant troll who’s got it!

Why I think you should read it:

It captures a slice of Jewish life that is rarely depicted in so-called Jewish books. Mirka is a fun and funny heroine. Barry Deutsch is a master of the graphic novel format. This book wins in all ways!

*You will love this book and will want more. You are in luck since Barry has written two more books in the Hereville Series!

Happy Hanukkah

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Blue Thread – Day One #Readukkah Challenge

This year I’m participating in the 2015 #Readukkah Challenge hosted by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The goal is to spread the word about wonderful Jewish books during the eight days of Hanukkah. So here they are: eight days of good reads on Jewish themes. Enjoy!
DAY ONE #READUKKAH CHALLENGE:
BLUE THREAD
by Ruth Tenzer Feldman

Blue thread

About this book:

The women’s suffrage movement is in full swing in 1912 Portland, Oregon—the last holdout state on the West Coast. Miriam desperately wants to work at her father’s printing shop, but when he refuses she decides to dedicate herself to the suffrage movement, demanding rights for women and a different life for herself. Amidst the uncertainty of her future, Miriam’s attention is diverted by the mysterious Serakh, whose sudden, unexplained appearances and insistent questions lead Miriam to her grandmother’s Jewish prayer shawl—and to her destiny. With this shawl, Miriam is taken back in time to inspire the Daughters of Zelophehad, the first women in Biblical history to own land. Miriam brings the strength and courage of these women with her forward in time, emboldening her own struggles and illuminating what it means to be an independent woman.

Why I think you should read it:

It is not about the Holocaust. Books about WWII are important, and I never want to forget that period in Jewish history, but too often it feels like the ONLY Jewish stories are horror stories. BLUE THREAD connects the experiences of Jews in two other important historical periods – the early 1900s during the suffrage movement and Biblical times. Miriam is a wonderful heroine with a distinctly modern voice. Also there is time-travel!!!

*The companion novel to BLUE THREAD is called THE NINTH DAY and it is also an excellent read.

 

Happy Hanukkah

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