Tag Archives: Newbery

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!
by Lois Lowry

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


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!
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


When to say YES and when to say NO

I’m a little over-extended.

My normal duties are already intense: writing books, supporting local creatives, taking care of my family, driving the kids to soccer, volunteering at school, and helping with Hebrew homework.

Yet in the past few months I’ve said “yes” to things that added to that load.  I agreed to spear-head the creation of a class project for our school auction, which led to many late nights and much worry about whether it would turn out right.  I agreed to co-host the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival tomorrow, which involves a comedy skit and song (way way way out of my comfort zone).  I agreed to co-write and act, along with my kids, in a Purim play for our synagogue, which added writing sessions and rehearsals to evenings already jammed with soccer practices.

Do I regret it?  NO.  I chose to do these things because I wanted to do them.  I thought they were important and fun.  I want to support my kids’ school.  I want to spread the love for marvelous middle grade books any way possible (even if it means singing).  I want my kids to feel like they are part of a vibrant Jewish community above and beyond going to services.


Of course, there’s a but.  As these commitments wind down (Purim is on March 15th), I recognize that I’ll need to say NO for awhile.  I’ll need more downtime.  I’ll need to protect the space I need to write, to connect with my friends, and to take care of myself (sleeping, running, yoga, rock climbing).

I’ll also need to step-back and reassess my recurring commitments.  Have I struck the right balance between my writing, my volunteer work and my family?  Am I working on projects that further my professional goals?  Am I spending time with people who support me?  Are there ways that I can open up more space for the things that are most important to me?

I strive to put my time and energy into things that make me who I want to be.  The key to when to say YES and when to say NO is about knowing what I value not what others expect.

“We are our choices.”

I have horse on the brain

Last week, I took care of my neighbor’s horses while she was out of town.  I woke wondering if they were ready for breakfast.  I wrote in my office with one eye on the weather darting over the coast range.  I watched for sun breaks and the chance to ride.  For a week, I smelled like hay and stalls and horse sweat.  I pulled the rhythm of my days into that of snuffling breath and eager hooves.

My reading choice: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry.

Whenever the horseboys raced their horses beyond the city gates, Sham outran them all.  He outran the colts his own age and the seasoned running horses as well.  He seemed not to know that he was an earthy creature with four legs, like other horses.  He acted as if he were an airy thing, traveling on the wings of the wind.

Then I thought of this lovely poem by Allen Braden, which appears in his book A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood.

Detail of the Four Chambers to the Horse’s Heart (excerpt)

Listen. The last time I saw my father
alive, he spoke of horses, the brute geometry
of a broken team in motion. He tallied
the bushels of oats, gallons of water
down to the drop each task would cost.
How Belgians loved hardwood hames the most.
Give them the timber sled at logging camp
any day, the workable meadows in need
of leveling, tilling, harrowing, new seeding.
We could’ve been in our dark loafing shed,
cooling off between loads of chopping hay,
the way he carried on that last good day.
With the proper encouragement, he said,
they would work themselves to death.

I must confess that this horse-less week is much more crazy and much less full.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

I am on a mission to read all 89 winners of the Newbery medel.  The Whipping Boy was number 27.  It jumped to the top of the pile based on a recommendation by my nine-year-old son.  He is reading it in his third grade reading group and loving it.

And Peter Sis illustrated this edition.  Need I say more?  No, of course not, brilliance speaks for itself.

If we ever run away, we hope the heck it’s with Jemmy.


My Big Indie Bookstore – Powell’s in #PDX

Credit to librarything.com for the photo

As a teen, I used to spend hour upon hour sitting on the floor in the Blue Room reading books.  Now you’ll find me in the Rose Room haunting the children’s books.

The goal today was to buy The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman because my son came home from school saying, “Mom, you have to read this book.  It is the best!”

Other books that came home with us today:

Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson
I’m Not Sleepy! by Jonathan Allen
Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 by Eric Wight
Toot & Puddle The One and Only by Holly Hobbie
The Uninvited Guest by Nina Jaffe
Miriam’s Cup: A Passover Story by Fran Manushkin
Miriam in the Desert by Jacqueline Jules