Feb 29, 2012

Haman's Shrinking Hat: A Purim Game!

This is a fun movement game that could be played at school or at home or at a Purim carnival!

You will need:
A very big paper or fabric triangle for each player (newspaper works best)
Purim music

Let's Play!
1. Leader plays Purim music and players march in a circle, holding their triangles. When the music stops, each player folds his/her triangle in half and stands on it. The last player to do so is out.

2. As the music starts and stops, the paper triangles get smaller and smaller and the number of players fewer and fewer. Keep playing until only one player is left.

Hamantaschen--which are triangle shaped--are reminders of Haman's three-cornered hat.

From Jewish Holiday Games for Little Hands by Ruth Esrig Brinn.

Feb 22, 2012

Meet Kelly Terwilliger, An Interview with the Author of Barnyard Purim

Kelly lives in Eugene, Oregon, which she says is kind of famous for rain. Luckily, she doesn’t mind rain too much, since she has a big red umbrella. She is a poet and a storyteller. In addition to writing, she works as an artist-in-residence in schools. She tells stories (from memory rather than reading them from books), and teaches story-writing, story-telling and poetry. She lives with her husband, two sons, and a flock of chickens. Her newest book, Barnyard Purim, is all about the hijinks that ensue when a group of barnyard animals decide to stage their own Purim shpiel. It is, of course, ridiculously fun. Let's ask Kelly some questions about her work, her inspirations and her newest book, Barnyard Purim.

What was your favorite book when you were a child? It is so hard to choose a favorite book! I loved lots of books as a child, and I still do: Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, The Phantom Tollbooth…and lots of others.

What’s your favorite line from a book? Hm. That’s a hard question! One that comes to mind is a quote from Commander Toad (by Jane Yolen): “Before you can be brave, you must first be very much afraid.” This is encouraging somehow, when I am not feeling especially brave.

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators? Elise Kleven, Tove Janssen, Arnold Lobel.

Why did you want to become an author?
I love playing with words and making up stories and poems. I’m not sure becoming a writer was something I decided to do. I just did it! But I did decide to send some stories to publishers, and that was because I thought it would be neat to be able to share them with lots of people, even ones I didn’t know.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
o what you love to do: write, draw, paint what delights you.
Where did you get the inspiration for Barnyard Purim?
I had two inspirations. One: I starting directing plays with a friend of mine and realized that lots of unexpected things happen when you put on plays! Two: I have a flock of chickens, some of whom have a LOT of personality. A chicken director seemed just right to me.
What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?I love the Purim story, with its unexpected heroes and its twists and turns. I think the world is full of unexpected heroes, and I’d like to cheer them on!
How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
I hope it will encourage lots of play, and plays! Who knows—puppet shows? Talking toys? Dressed-up furniture? Purim is a holiday that invites topsy-turvy imagination.

What are some fun facts about you?I tell stories in loads of classrooms and frequently when I go to the store or the library I will see kids I know. Frequently they will ask me to tell them a story. Right there! In the parking lot, or wherever! Often there isn’t time—they have to hurry on to the next errand. But I have told some pretty fun stories on sidewalks or in check-out lines! I also make crazy hats. I have a collection of favorite words I write in tiny books, and I have a cloud collection. Right now it is in the form of photographs. Probably it will stay that way, but who knows?

Buy the book
by Kelly Terwilliger
illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman
Purim is a topsy-turvy time, even on the farm. The animals decide to stage a Purim shpiel, and Chicken assigns the parts. Blushing Duck is Queen Esther, Silly Horse is Ahashuerus, and Bearded Goat is Mordechai. But when they try to transform Shy Little Sheep into mean-looking Haman, something unexpected happens.
Ages 5-9, Grades K-3
32 pages, 9 1/4 x 11

Feb 20, 2012

A Celebration of Women at Purim

My family is populated with strong Jewish women who are incredible cooks. Family gatherings are always centered on a feast whipped up according to the occasion.

This strong tradition our family holds for good food has created many wonderful recipes; one of my personal favorites is our Hamentashen recipe (I have yet to find a competitor). My family has passed this recipe down through several generations and along with it the traditional gathering of the women in our family to make Hamentaschen.

Our annual Hamentaschen get-togethers has always been something I look forward to. My grandmother, aunts, and cousins all come together armed with massive amounts of cooking utensils, ingredients, and accessories. There’s always a quibble between the cousins over the best looking apron.
As a young child it was also the time where the youngest of the family (my sister and I) got to mingle with the adults and show off our baking skills; creating lumpy, misshapen triangles oozing with filling that were praised as glorious masterpieces.
We spend the day chatting about family history. My mother and her sister teasingly fill in the gaps on their childhood. The conversation always turns to their hopes for their children, my generation. It’s an oddly deep conversation to have while covered in flour and sticky dough, but it’s tradition.

Our tradition also signifies the coming of spring; a transition of sorts to mark the coming of warm sunshine, and change. It is a warm occasion that continues to this day despite alterations as cousins have moved away and the grand matriarch of the family, my grandmother, is now 97 and has passed the hamentashen mantle to her daughters.
Purim commemorates the bravery of Esther, a female defender of the Jewish people. It’s fitting that my memories of Purim are marked by my own strong Jewish women.

--Jennifer Bjork

What family traditions for Purim do you have and wish to pass on to your children?   

Check out Kar-Ben Publishing’s Heirloom Cookbook
Purim titles at www.karben.com

Feb 14, 2012

Contemplating Your Purim Costume?

photo by Tod Cohen from It's Purim Time!
Might we suggest some costumes inspired by books?

Everybody's Favorite Spider: Sammy Spider!
Tie dye a hoodie and sweatpants, along with enough white socks to become Sammy's legs.
Stitch the legs to the hoodie arms.
Attach fiber-filled fabric (colored socks would work) to the hood to make eyes.
Get Sammy Spider's First Purim.

The Ziz!

Kar-Ben's version of the mythical creature is more sweet and bumbling than terrifying, but it would be a unique costume. Orange leggings, a yellow hoodie with feathered maribou stitched to the arms and top of the hoodie, plus a construction paper beak would make a terrific Ziz costume. Yellow face paint with green eye make up would make the costume even more special. Of course, carry a copy of your favorite Ziz book!

This is one of many very clever ideas from the photo essay book It's Purim Time! all about the goings on in preparation for Purim in a preschool. This costume is a paper grocery bag cut in the shape of a hamentaschen and decorated with markers. Genius! Now in paperback, buy a copy of this book.

Feb 9, 2012

Virtual Visit: Author and Students Meet in Cyberspace

Studying writing and literature is more fun when you get to meet real authors and learn about writing from them!

Language Arts students at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul recently met with Kar-Ben Publishing author Tami Lehman-Wilzig through a virtual author visit. The school used Skype and a SMART BOARD to connect with Tami, who lives in Israel. The 8-hour time gap didn't matter for this live visit.

Able to ask questions and interact via webcam, students chatted with Tami about her creative process, asking what inspired her to write many of her stories. They were surprised to find out how life experiences often play a role in creating fiction, and they enjoyed hearing Tami talk about how she is inspired by her Jewish heritage. 
Tami offers a variety of programs for schools on many of her books, including: Green Bible Stories for Children, Zvuvi's Israel, Keeping the Promise, and Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles. Learn more at her website.

Get more information about inviting a Kar-Ben author to your school or organization.

Feb 3, 2012

Teaching, Trees, Tu B'Shevat and a Theater Exercise

Authors Peninnah Schram and Rachayl Eckstein Davis have created a wonderful free guide to their new book The Apple Tree's Discovery. The guide includes many topics relevant to Tu B'Shevat like the Jewish perspective on trees, plus many excellent activities for educators that provoke thought and excite the imagination.

Here is a sample Theater Exercise from the guide, which you can download here:

Teacher gives instructions and gets the children to act according to the instructions:

“Pretend you are a seed. Get as tiny as you can. Pretend you are snuggling deep into the ground. But now imagine the kind of seed you are and what kind of tree/flower/bush/plant you will become. What will you look like? What kind of colors will you have for your leaves and/or flowers? What kind of shape and size will you grow into?

The season is winter and the ground turns cold and hard, but you are protected below the surface of the earth. Then the warmth of the spring sun begins to thaw the earth. The rains fall. The seed begins to push through the earth. It’s hard for a little seed to push through, but as it grows, it pushes harder and soon breaks through.
Now feel the sun; the wind; the rain; the wind. And the seed grows and grows. And soon it is a full size tree or flower or bush or plant. And now you celebrate because you have your leaves or flowers or fruit. Sway with the wind. Dance with the sun. Show your love of the world.”
illustration by Wendy W. Lee, from The Apple Tree's Discovery

Feb 1, 2012

It’s a Snow Day!

by Jennifer Bjork

illustration from Lights Outs Shabbat by Jeff Ebbeler
When kids cheer like they’ve won the Super Bowl during an awful winter day, it can only mean one thing. It’s a snow day. Here are a few ideas to keep your kids entertained while they’re stuck inside.

1.       Make Hot Chocolate
A snow day is the best excuse to give your kids liquefied sugar. There are tons possibilities for recipes, experiment a little and do some taste testing. Try it with a little cinnamon, peppermint, hazelnut or caramel. Add some marshmallows and/or whip cream on top. Yum!

2.       Build a Fort
Use some of that sugar high to your advantage and build a fort in the living room. Pretend that you’re all on a mission in the arctic and you need to find all the blankets and cushions in the house to build yourselves a fort to save yourself from the cold.

 3.       Read a Book
You now have a fabulously cozy spot to hang out. Take turns reading and come up with silly voices to use for different characters. Lights Out Shabbat, a new book that comes out on March 1, would be a great book for a snow day as the characters are having one too!

4.       Activity Books
Grab some pencils and crayons to work on activity books. Sammy Spider’s Shabbat Fun Book or Can You Imagine: Creative Drawing Adventures for the Jewish Holidays are great ways to pass the day.  

5.       Photo Fun
Take pictures reenacting favorite characters or scenes from the stories you’ve read. Or take pictures to create your own photo story. How many silly faces can you get in one story?

6.       Yoga
Still have some energy to burn? Grab a copy of Alef-Bet Yoga for Kids and hold a contest to see who can form the best Hebrew letter. This would be great for photos too!

Jewish Disability Awareness Month - Creating Inclusion Through Children's Literature

February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month (JDAM). This year Kar-ben has joined with several organizations to present JDAM Reads for Children!  JDAM Reads for Children! presents practical ideas for raising awareness of disabilities and encouraging tikkun olam using the picture books. 

Parents, teachers, community organizers, administrators: Join us on Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST for a free webinar on creating inclusion for children with special needs within Jewish communities.
Reserve your free webinar seat by registering here. Seats are limited, so don't delay!

The webinar will feature:
Linda Zimmerman, the Executive Director of The Amit Program, a central Jewish agency providing direct and in-direct educational services to families of children with special needs ages birth to twenty-one.

Shelly Christensen, Program Manager, Jewish Community Inclusion Program for People with Disabilities, JFCS Minneapolis. Shelly is co-founder of Jewish Disability Awareness Month.

Ellen Bari, author, educator and creator of award-winning multimedia, exhibits and programs for children and adults for clients including Sesame Workshop, PBS, Nickelodeon, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Harper-Collins. She is the author of Jumping Jenny, the story of a girl born to jump, but wholoses her buoyant bounce after her jumping gets her into trouble. 

From author Ellen Bari:
“When I wrote the book I did not realize there were so many ways it would be received, from helping ADD kids think about focusing their energy in a good way, to empowering girls, to getting kids excited about moving: like mannah in the desert, different flavors for everyone.”

With approximately one in three Americans having a disability, the challenges of  the story’s plucky heroine provide a take-away for anyone, like Jenny, who ever fought back tears, got teased, felt sad about how they were born, or had to call on their resilience. 

Reserve your free webinar seat by registering here. Seats are limited, so don't delay!