Nov 30, 2011

Hanukkah and Olive Oil

Wonderfully unique, Harvest of Light is a Hanukkah book with no spinning driedels, no shiny presents and no glitzy parties, just the simple gift of olives from nature and the joy a young family experiences during the olive harvest. The book is newly available in paperback, and is a wonderful Hannukah gift (perhaps along with a bottle or two of olive oil) for any family.

Here is a hello from Harvest of Light author Allison Ofanansky from her home in Israel:
After a week of much-needed rain, the olives in the Galilee of northern Israel have turned plump and purple, full of oil.
Along with friends and neighbors, our family is busy harvesting the olives and taking them to the press. So far this year we have taken over 600 kilograms of olives to the press, from which we got about 180 liters of oil, and we aren't done yet!

Before I moved to Israel I never lit a hannukiah with oil, and did not know that hannukah is also a harvest holiday--the harvest of the olives for oil. In addition to lighting the hannukiah with our oil, we also love eating latkes fried in it!

How can you incorporate olive oil into your Hanukkah celebration?
Dip bread in olive oil at dinner
Bake olive oil cake
Have an olive oil tasting party
Make a facial scrub and moisturizer with olive oil and give it as a gift
Make flavored olive oils and give them as gifts
Buy or borrow a lamp that burns oil and use olive oil


Nov 29, 2011

Feliz Januca

In Mexico, the fesitval of lights is called "Januca."

Children play toma todo--a game of dreidel--but the highlight of the celebration is breaking a pinata shaped like a dreidel and collecting sweets and toys.

Learn more about Hanukkah, Latino-style, complete with recipes for bunuelos, or fried dough!

--from Hanukkah Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig

Nov 23, 2011

Great Gifts from Grandparents

Whether Grandma, Babba, Bubbe, Savta, Oma, Saba, Grandpa, Zeidy, Zayde, or Opa, as the line from the book A Grandma Like Yours reminds, whether you call them by their English, Yiddish, or Hebrew names, [grandparents] can be counted on to make each Jewish holiday a special occasion for their grandchildren.” 

One of the ways to make a holiday special is to make a memory together. Sharing a story is a fun way to do that, even if you are far away. You can read a story by telephone or Skype, or you can record yourself reading a book and send the recording and the book—a great help for beginning readers!

Great Gifts to Give this Hanukkah:

A whimsical collection of animal grandparents illustrate the characteristics of Jewish grandparents. Read about grandmas, bubbes and savtas from the front of the book, then flip it over to read about grandpas, zaydes and sabas from the other side.

Why can’t you be Jewish like me? Why can’t I be Christian like you? a young Jewish girl asks her non-Jewish grandfather.
In answer, her grandfather tells her the biblical story of Jethro, Moses’ non-Jewish father-in-law, whose relationship with his grandson Gershom is a model of love and respect.
With warm watercolor artwork and a gentle storyline, Papa Jethro sensitively looks at the issue of interfaith families and reminds us that the Bible has timely lessons for every generation.
Feivel the woodcarver leaves his family in the Old Country and comes to America to make a new life. As an apprentice to a carousel maker, he lovingly crafts a set of carousel horses in the spirit of his wife and children, dreaming of the day when they will be reunited in America. Based on the true story of Jewish immigrant woodcarvers whose carousel horses have delighted generations of children.
An elderly black grandmother passes on the story of the family’s Jewish origins to her young granddaughter, Carol Olivia. As family members flee the Spanish Inquisition, are kidnapped by pirates and eventually sail to America, one daughter in each generation is given the name Olivia, from the Hebrew Shulamit meaning “peace,” to honor the Jewish part of their ancestry.
In writing the Sammy Spider books, Rouss said she intends for Jewish children to “see the beauty of the Jewish holidays and appreciate our celebrations.” According to Rouss, Jewish people have to “look to ourselves and see what we have in our religion that we can cherish—our holidays.” Sammy Spider is “an outsider that wants to be a part of our holidays. Sammy sees the beauty of it.”

Rouss said Jewish people are “very lucky” because we have a yearly cycle of celebrations that serve to reaffirm our Jewishness almost every month. In writing books for Jewish children, she hopes to instill them with a sense of excitement about being Jewish. Wouldn't you love to share this with your grandchild?

Nov 7, 2011

Guest Blogger: About Avi

Picture books may have relatively few words but they can convey big ideas. A manuscript goes through many rounds of revision and editing, and many people can be part of that process. In preparing Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles for publication, we showed the manuscript to a wide variety of readers, from preschool teachers to families with special needs children. We were especially interested in feedback from siblings of special needs kids, who we thought would have a very important point of view for us to consider. Rebecca Goldsteen, now a high school senior, is one of the siblings we approached during the editing process. She shared an important perspective on what it is like to have an older brother with autism. Rebecca provided us with important notes on the realism at the heart of the story—what a relationship is like between siblings, or with a friend who does not understand autism. We thank Rebecca for allowing us to share the following piece of her writing about her brother, which she developed as her college essay:

Being human means being imperfect. Being human means having flaws. Being human means being independent and original. But most of all, being human means interacting with the world around us, including the way we treat others.

When people realize my brother is autistic, whether or not they are aware if it, they immediately treat him and speak to him differently. This has made me very aware of the way I treat others, based on what I think I know about them.  Many people with autism are very skilled in something, whether it is related to school, sports, or hobbies. My brother, Avi, has the most impressive memory of anyone that I have ever encountered. Those who know this about him tend to associate it with his autism and categorize it as “the thing he’s good at." To those who know him well, however, it is easy to see that this aspect of him comes nowhere close to defining him as a person.

If anyone who knows him well were to be asked to describe him, some adjectives they might use include caring, sweet, funny, loving, smart, confident and creative. It is understandable that these words have been used an infinite number of times to describe countless individuals but they truly shine through Avi’s personality, specifically, through the way in which he treats his peers. Avi has taught me to treat everyone fairly, no matter what. Even if he doesn’t know someone, or has heard bad things about him or her, he talks to them respectfully, as if he or she is a close friend of his.

Most people don't really think about the importance of family until they are grown up. Avi never forgets to tell our immediate family, as well as our entire extended family, how much he loves and appreciates all of us. If not for him, I doubt I would think about how happy I am to have the family that I have, even though we have many flaws.

One day when my brothers and I were home, I was frustrated about something too small for me to be able to recall. Avi noticed my frustration and asked what was wrong. I explained to him why I was aggravated and he responded by asking, “Why?” This puzzled me. I tried once more to explain the reason and how there was nothing I could do about it. He shrugged, put one hand on his hip and scratched his head with the other, smiled, and asked if I wanted something to eat. I was amazed at how, although he understood my frustration; he couldn’t understand why I was focused on something so small and unimportant when I could be enjoying myself.

My friends have always been impressed with how difficult it is for me to become angry. I can’t say that it is because I have a high tolerance, because that is untrue. The reason I can easily disregard things that irritate most people is because I have learned to put myself in Avi’s shoes and see the way that he would perceive the situation and think; “Is this really worth getting mad about?” If the answer to this question is no, which it usually is, I simply forget my aggravation and move on.

Avi does not hold grudges. He truly understands the meaning of second chances. He wakes up every morning with the attitude that yesterday is history and that the present is full of possibilities. I have seen the way people treat other people, and I have seen the way that Avi treats other people. I strive to be like my big brother: to judge as little as possible, to ignore the little things that frustrate me, to make every experience as enjoyable as possible, to treat others the way that I want to be treated, to do things not because I am supposed to but because I want to, to make every day better than the day before, to love with all my heart and most importantly, to be happy.

--Rebecca Goldsteen

Nov 2, 2011

How Will You Teach About Kristallnacht?

Kristallnacht was November 9, 1938. Though it occurred seventy-three years ago, Kristallnacht remains an important historical event about which children should learn. Named a School Library Journal Best Book of 2010, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass is a picture book that thoughtfully and carefully introduces young readers to the Holocaust through the eyes of a cat.

Benno was the neighborhood's favorite cat. During the week, he napped in a sunny corner of Mitzi Stein's dress shop, and begged scraps from Moshe the Butcher. He spent Shabbat evenings with Sophie Adler's family in Apartment 3B. But one night the Nazis came to Berlin. Windows were shattered, books were burned, and Benno's Jewish friends disappeared. Life would never be the same.

Praise for Benno and the Night of Broken Glass:

"[W]hat truly distinguishes this book is the striking multimedia artwork composed of paper, fabric, and drawn images in hues of olive, brown, and red. Interesting angles, textures, and patterns add to the visual effect throughout. . . . [T]he message of terror and sadness that marks the beginning of the Holocaust is transmitted in a way that is both meaningful and comprehensible."
School Library Journal

"It is not easy to tell young kids the horrifying truth about the Holocaust, but this picture book is a good place to start."