Oct 18, 2012

Q&A with "Jumping Jenny" Author Ellen Bari

Get to know Ellen Bari, author of the recent Kar-Ben book Jumping Jenny, a playful and pointed story about the ways in which individualism can lead to global change.

In addition to penning books for Kar-Ben, Bari has worked with PBS, Sesame Workshop, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to create award-winning multimedia programs and exhibitions. She is also the co-founder of Momasphere, a New York based organization dedicated to creating original programs and events for moms. A former student of miming and clowning in London, Ellen has plenty of stories to share! To learn more about her projects and features, visit

Kar-Ben: What was your favorite book when you were a child?  EB: Pippi Longstocking
Kar-Ben: What’s your favorite line from a book?
rom George & Martha Encore : “The next day Martha had a terrible sunburn. She felt hot and itchy. But George never said 'I told you so.’ Because that’s not what friends are for. “

Kar-Ben: Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
EB: Patricia Polacco, James Marshal,  Roz Chast, Jon Scieszka
Kar-Ben: Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
EB: Children’s books are magic. In 32 pages, an entire universe is created…and they’re often enjoyed while sharing with someone. After years of producing interactive multimedia, with its large production teams, complicated process and individual use,  I wanted to create something for kids, that was simple to produce (relatively) and savored in that very special way. 
Kar-Ben: Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Just write (0r draw). Don’t edit along the way- not your thoughts, your grammar, your punctuation or your words. Don’t worry about how it will turn out. Just enjoy the process.

Where did you get the inspiration for your latest Kar-Ben book?
EB: The inspiration for Jumping Jenny came from a number of places. First of all, I never met a kid who didn’t like to jump and I myself was a jumper--in fact I could go up and down stairs on my pogo stick and once jumped a historic 1,000 jumps.  It was a big deal in my neighborhood and there are a few people from the ‘old neighborhood’ who still consider that my greatest accomplishment to date! The inspiration for the charity project came from my daughter’s wonderful Jewish day school which raises money for its sister school in Uganda. Overall, I wanted the message to be loud and clear: follow your passions- they will lead to something good.
Kar-Ben: How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
EB: Everyone, no matter how young or old, can do small acts that can make the world a better place- tikkun olam.  If you start young, it will become part of who you are for the rest of your life. 

-Max Edwards


Oct 9, 2012

Abracadabra! A Magical Jewish Connection

In Kar-Ben’s The Mitzvah Magician by Linda Elovitz Marshall, Gabriel the Great learns the power of mitzvoth through magic. While there might only be one Mitzvah Magician, many Jewish magicians have been part of the world of magic for quite some time.

Perhaps the most famous magician of all time, Harry Houdini, was born in Budapest as Erik Weisz, the son of Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz and Cecelia Weisz. When Harry was four, his family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin where his father led a Zion Reform Jewish Congregation in worship for nine years. Harry and his family then moved to New York City, where Harry began to cultivate and develop his skills as a magician. As a noted escape artist, Harry was world renown for his ability to escape any sort of obstacle or restraint. He died in 1926 and is buried in Machpelah Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Queens, New York.
If we then fast forward 30 years, almost to the exact day, illusionist David Seth Kotkin was born. Arguably, the most famous magician in the world, you might know him by his stage name, David Copperfield. Copperfield was born in Metuchen, New Jersey to Jewish parents Hyman and Rebecca Kotkin. Copperfield is known for his way of combining storytelling with illusion, earning him an astounding 21 Emmy awards!

What’s more? The famous adage “abracadabra” is of Jewish origin! The saying comes from Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Jews during the Second Temple Period (539 BCE - 70CE) and the main language in the Talmud. Similar to Hebrew, the word abra (אברא) in Aramaic means “I have created,” and the word cadabra (כדברא) means “by my speech.” Hence its use by magicians is meant to showcase their ability to create simply through their words.
-Max Edwards