Dec 31, 2013

Kar-Ben Rings in 2014 with New Books!

We here at Kar-Ben are incredibly excited for our Spring 2014 titles. We have great new stories for all occasions, from Tu B'Shevat to Passover, from bagel-making to recycling. Here's a sneak peak at what 2014 will offer:

For Tu B'Shevat


A little girl and her plant grow up together, sharing many a Tu B'Shevat.
On Tu B’Sheva, little Netta, who lives in Israel, brings a plant home from preschool. She loves it. Netta grows and the plant grows, until it is time for both of them to find new homes and new friends. Netta and Her Plant tells the story of the changes Netta encounters as she grows  up, getting taller getting a new baby sister, and preparing for her first day of kindergarten at her new school, each stage of her life mirrored by her growing plant.


For Passover


The littlest Levine finally gets her chance to shine!
Hannah hates being the littlest Levine. She can’t ride the school bus like her sister and brother. During Sukkot, she needs help hanging her decorations in the Sukkah, and on Hanukkah she’s not allowed to light candles by herself. “Be patient,” her grandpa tells her, “soon you’ll be proud to be the littlest Levine.” Every evening in the weeks before Passover, she studies with her grandpa, and when the seder comes, it’s finally Hannah’s turn to shine!


Rabbi Jamie leads a unique seder in the desert of Moab, Utah.
Seder in the Desert invites you to join a group of families as they follow Rabbi Jamie into Moav, Utah to celebrate a most unusual Passover seder in the desert. As they hike through the sandstone and red rock desert, they learn important lessons about the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, such as the importance of helping one another. Together, the community hikes, learns, laughs, sings, debates, and enjoys the delicious Passover seder meal. The story is accompanied by photos of the celebration as well as stunning desert scenery by award-winning photographer Jeff Finkelstein.

For Yom HaShoah


A young girl helps accomplish an astonishing rescue in Nazi-occupied Denmark.
In The Whispering Town it is 1943 in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Anett and her parents are hiding a Jewish woman and her son, Carl, in their cellar until a fishing boat can take them across the sound to safety in neutral Sweden. With the help of the baker, the librarian, the farmer, and her neighbors, Anett keeps Carl and his mother safe even as Nazi soldiers search her street for hidden Jews. With the Nazis closing in, and worried about Carl’s safety, Anett thinks of a clever and unusual plan to get Carl and his mother safely to the harbor on a cloudy night without the moon to guide them. Based on a true story.

For Lag Ba'Omer


Sadie and Ori solve the mystery of Lag Ba'Omer!
“What is Lag Ba’Omer?” Sadie and Ori ask their grandfather in Sadie’s Lag Ba’Omer Mystery. He sends them off on a mission to solve the puzzle. After checking calendars and books and asking many different “holiday experts,” including the mailman, Aunt Katy, Uncle Danny, and their Grandmother, they learn the surprising history and tradition behind this less well- known Jewish holiday and invite their friends and family to a Lag Ba’Omer celebration!

Great Reads for Any Time of Year!


A Jewish boy with Native American roots celebrates his dual heritage on the Western frontier.

“Always remember, you are the son of two proud nations,” Elan’s parents tell him in Elan, Son of Two Peoples. After turning 13 and celebrating his Bar Mitzvah in San Francisco, Elan, with his Jewish father and Native American mother, travels to New Mexico to visit his Indian family. There, he reads the Torah on the open mesa during Shabbat, goes exploring with his cousin, and takes part in the Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man. Based on a true story.

A Torah scribe and his family rescue damaged Torahs in a story spanning four generations.
As a child, David watches his grandfather, a Torah scribe or sofer, finish a Torah scroll for the synagogue. “A Torah is not something to be thrown away,” his Grandfather explains in The Patchwork Torah. David’s grandfather  carefully stores the old Torah his new one has replaced in his cabinet, hoping to one day repair the letters so the Torah can be used again. David grows up and becomes a sofer just like his grandfather. Through the years, people bring him damaged Torahs they have saved from danger and disaster – one damaged by Nazi soldiers during World War II, one damaged in a fire in a synagogue, and one in flooding during Hurricane Katrina. David stores each of these precious Torahs in his cabinet, until his granddaughter Leah gives him the idea to make a recycled Torah from the salvaged Torah scrolls.

An inventive little boy comes up with a big idea!
In Ziggy’s Big Idea Ziggy loves coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, though, most of his inventions just don’t work out, like the  square “Ziggyball” or the “shulstilts” he makes for Rabbi Levi. Ziggy’s father sells  buns for Moishe the Baker, but Mrs. Schwartz always complains that the buns are undercooked at the center. That’s when Ziggy puts his creative mind to work, with  his idea for making the baker’s buns tastier and easier to carry, leading to the creation of one of the world’s  favorite treats – the bagel! Bagel recipe included.



Beginning in January, you can find these new titles at www.karben.com!
 

 



Nov 19, 2013

Eight Activities for Eight Nights!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and this year, that means Hanukkah is too! Here are eight fun and informative activities for you and your little ones to do together (for both holidays!) this year:

"Thankful Thoughts" Turkeys

For Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah, take a moment to appreciate what you have.

You'll need: construction paper, scissors, and colored pencils, crayons, or markers

 Draw and decorate a hand turkey (made by simply tracing your hand), and then write one thing you are thankful for on each of its feathers. Or you can make more colorful turkeys like these.


Make Your Own Menorah from Joyful Jewish

Let even the youngest children participate in the lighting of the menorah with this pretty homemade menorah with paper "flames" that kids can safely use!

You'll need: paint, construction paper, toilet paper or other cardboard tubes, and popsicle sticks

Follow the instructions here.


Learn about the Maccabees with these Activities

Help children learn and remember the story of Hanukkah with these fun coloring and maze activities from Kar-Ben!

You'll need: printed activity pages and colored pencils, crayons, or markers

Download the Maccabee color-by-number here, the Maccabee shield here, and the Torch Relay Maze here.


Homemade Hanukkah Cards from Scrumdilly-do

Help children learn the importance of showing they care with these sweet handmade Hanukkah cards, which are much more unique than store-bought cards.


You'll need: tinfoil, glue, cardboard, scissors, colored tissue paper, thread, and glitter

Follow the instructions here.

Decorate Your Home from Enchanted Learning and She Knows Parenting

Kids will love to help decorate with these unique tin and felt designs that they can make themselves!




Metal Star of David
You'll need: disposable pie plate or roasting pan, a marker, scissors, a nail, and string or yarn
Follow the instructions here.

Felt Dreidels
You'll need: assorted colors of felt, pen, scissors, glue, string, and tape
Follow the instructions here. The page also includes a popsicle stick Star of David craft.

Milk Carton Dreidel from Spoonful

Make recycling a part of your Hanukkah season with this nifty dreidel made from a milk carton!

You'll need: empty 8oz milk carton, craft knife, unsharpened pencil, blue masking tape, and a paint pen


Follow the instructions here.


Hanukkah Gelt Cookies from More Quiche, Please

Now you have your homemade dreidel and so much Hanukkah gelt you're not sure what to do with it all. Turns out they're a perfect way to dress up some holiday cookies!

You'll need: peanut butter, margarine, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda, vanilla, and 3 bags of Hanukkah gelt

Follow the instructions here.


Still looking for Hanukkah gifts? Check out the Kar-Ben website for great deals and new Hanukkah books, or get a great deal on a Kar-Ben audio eBook for your favorite device!

Nov 4, 2013

Meet Anna, the Star of "Don't Sneeze at the Wedding," and Her Author!

Anna is excited to be the flower girl at her aunt's wedding, but that morning she wakes up and . . . "AH-CHOO!" "Don't sneeze at the wedding!" everyone warns her, but will their remedies work?
See the book trailer here, and get the book on the Kar-Ben website!
 
In today's guest blog post, author Pamela Mayer talks about what inspired her to write Don't Sneeze at the Wedding and the joy of wedding celebrations:
 
     Tee-Hee! I love to laugh. One of my favorite childhood memories is of sitting in my bedroom with my best friend, the two of us so consumed with giggles that neither of us could talk. Perhaps that is why I always try to see the funny side of life in my books.
Don't Sneeze At the Wedding is a “what-if” story. What if you woke up with a big loud sneeze on the day you are going to be the flower girl at your aunt's wedding? Sneezing is a reflex. No one can help sneezing or anticipate exactly when a sneeze might happen! That's why a sneeze can make us laugh.
 
My husband has photographed weddings for many years. When I've assisted him, I've seen  all of the excitement which happens before the ceremony, with the arrival of hairdressers, florists, and family. I've seen the mishaps too, melted wedding cakes, ripped gowns and absent bridesmaids! It gave me plenty of first hand experience for my story.
 
Of course, weddings rarely go exactly as planned. When my daughter, Rebecca, was married last spring, the ceremony was to be outside, on a terrace overlooking the ocean. The day was so foggy and windy, we thought we would have to move it inside. However, just as the ceremony was due to begin the sun peeked through the clouds and shone brightly. The unexpected can be delightful too.
 
When I wrote Don't Sneeze At the Wedding, I wanted to write about a joyful event in the Jewish Life Cycle. Our history is filled with its share of struggle and difficult times, yet is it filled with joy too. Did you know that it is considered a mitzvah, a good deed, to make the bride and groom happy on their wedding day? Happiness and laughter seem to go together, just as love and marriage do!
Here is a riddle for you – When do you sneeze three times? 
Answer: When you can't help it!
 
A Q&A with Author Pamela Mayer
 
Why did you want to become an author?
I wanted to become an author because I loved to read so much as a child. From the time I read my first book on my own, I was hooked. I was about nine years old when I decided to become an author. Being one of the people who created stories like the ones I loved so well seemed the perfect future to me.
 
Do you have any advice for future authors?
Write the story only you can tell, the tale which is uniquely your own. Remember too that only your very best is good enough for children.
 
What is the most interesting thing you learned in the process of writing your book?
I learned many methods to stop a sneeze from happening!
 
How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
I wanted to write a contemporary story which I hope many children can identify with. I also hope they will learn and appreciate the beautiful customs of a Jewish wedding ceremony.
 
Pamela Mayer was born and raised in San Francisco, California, and her family has lived there since the early 1900s. Writing children's stories is her favorite thing to do. When she's not writing, she works at the public library as a children's librarian. She's a fan of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, the San Francisco Ballet, and any and all circuses. She and her husband have two daughters and a very cute dog named Charlie.
 
 


Oct 24, 2013

A Guest Post from Author Jane Sutton (and a book trailer too!)

It's hard to pick the perfect gift, and Esther the Gorilla's choices seem all wrong at first. But it all gets sorted out when she invites her animal friends to a joyful Hanukkah party. For a sneak peek, check out the book trailer!


In today's guest blog post, author Jane Sutton talks about what it was like to have illustrator Andy Rowland bring her book to life:
 
"As a picture book author, when I turn my story over to the illustrator, I feel the way I did when I left my infant with a babysitter for the first time. Would the illustrator treat my story/my baby with care? What if the illustrator was careless and oblivious to the story’s charms? Or spoiled it with busy-ness? Or didn’t “get” the characters’ personalities?

Waiting to see the sketches can feel like sitting through a T-ball game prolonged by a series of rain delays.

But in the case of Esther's Hanukkah Disaster, the illustrator—Andy Rowland—treated my story about the shopping-challenged Esther’ the Gorilla with exquisite TLC. Every picture is adorable, with rich details that are wonderful to explore. To my delight, Andy didn’t just bring out the humor in the text, but added visual humor not in the text. One of Esther’s file folders is labeled “boring paperwork,” and the shopping list on her fridge lists bananas four times. Most important to me was that, like a good caretaker, the illustrator was sensitive to the main character’s emotions. When Esther is sad, she looks really sad. And when she’s happy because her Hanukkah party is so joyful, Andy has her long gorilla arms clapping over her head, an infectiously toothy grin spread across her face.

Yes, my story/my baby was definitely in good hands. I needn’t have worried…well, I guess I did need to, since worrying happens to be in my nature."
 
Q & A with Jane Sutton

Why did you want to become an author?

I've always enjoyed writing. In elementary school, I would turn an assignment to "write a paragraph using all the spelling words" into a three-act play. An essay I wrote in fifth grade is entitled "A Criticism of Humanity on Behalf of Ducks." In college, a sociology professor assigned us to "do something you always wanted to do and keep a journal on it." I wrote a series of children's stories, and that's when I knew I wanted to write children's books.

Do you have any advice for future authors?

Write, write, write. Keep a notebook with you at all times (well, maybe not in the shower) because you never know when you'll get an idea for a story.

Where did you get the inspiration for Esther's Hanukkah Disaster?

I used to tell my children a version of this story, and it gradually evolved into a book.

How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?

At first Esther purchases gifts because they appeal to her, not really thinking about the recipient. Her eventual understanding encourages the Jewish value of thinking about others - compassion and empathy. Also, the characters express clearly that the significance of Hanukkah is more important than the gifts. Finally, even though these are anthropomorphic animals, they enjoy rich Jewish traditions.

Anything else you would like to share with readers?

I didn't want to grow up. I figured being a kid was a good deal: I got free food and I didn't have to go to work. When I realized I did have to get older after all, I promised myself that I would always remember what it was like to be a child. Being a children's book author is a way of fulfilling that promise to myself.

Jane Sutton grew up in Roslyn, Long Island, where she began writing stories and poems at a young age. She graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Comparative Literature. In addition to writing books, Jane is a writing tutor and teaches a community education class for adults about how to write for kids. She, her husband, and grown children live in the Boston area.

You can get a copy of Esther's Hanukkah Disaster here!

Oct 2, 2013

Ryan Braun: Can He Ever Be a Role Model?

This fall, Kar-Ben released the second revised edition of Jewish Sports Stars: Athletic Heroes of the Past and Present. The book cover was originally set to feature Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and Major League Baseball slugger and 2011 MVP Ryan Braun.

On July 22, 2013, however, MLB suspended Braun for 65 games for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic, which was known to have provided illegal performance enhancing drugs to several MLB players, as well as for "conduct detrimental to baseball."

As a result, Kar-Ben chose to remove Braun from the book's cover. Said Kar-Ben publisher Joni Sussman, "While Ryan Braun is a very talented baseball player and we were originally excited to have a contemporary sports figure of his talent and stature with such a strong identification to his Jewish heritage on the cover, there was no question that, after the steroids scandal surfaced, his image was tarnished and he was no longer appropriate to serve as a role model for Jewish kids."

Braun's image has been replaced with a photo of Sandy Koufax, one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball history.

The revised cover
Although Braun's entry in the book remains, the following addendum was added inside the book's back cover: "Shortly after the publication of this book, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun (pages 6-8) was suspended for 65 games, the remainder of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy."

Considering his recent mistakes, can Ryan Braun ever become a suitable role model for Jewish children? What Jewish role models are the best for very athletically-minded youth?

Sep 23, 2013

Celebrating Simchat Torah with Reading - and Sammy Spider!


Reading to children has some amazing benefits. Stories introduce new words and ideas to children, and can help them learn about complex concepts and develop their own imagination. Strong readers are able to participate fully in class, and as a result can develop more confidence as well. Reading is relaxing and a wonderful way for a child to spend quiet time alone or to have one-on-one time with a parent. On Simchat Torah we finish reading the Torah - the Jewish people's favorite story! - and begin again. Just as your little one may have a favorite story that s/he wants you to read over, the Torah plays that role for Jewish people.

What better time to help a child discover their favorite book than during Simchat Torah? If you're looking for a new book, try the Children's Books Guide list of the Top 100 Children's Books of All Time.

Looking for a book for Simchat Torah? Read Sammy Spider's First Simchat Torah!

Sammy Spider crawls down his web to inspect the candy apple Josh has attached to his Simchat Torah flag. When Josh leaves for synagogue, he doesn't notice the spider stuck to his apple! Atop Josh's flag, Sammy joins the Simchat Torah parade, dances with the Torah, and learns about this very special holiday in the Jewish year. Yound readers will learn how Simchat Torah is celebrated, as Jews finish reading their "favorite book," the Torah, and start all over again, just as Josh loves to do with his own books! 

Celebrate Simhat Torah with Josh and Sammy!

From his miniature Torah scroll to making candy apples with his mother, Josh celebrates Simchat Torah many ways. As you read along, you can participate as well!

Make a Miniature Torah Scroll

You will need: rolls of Smarties, colorful paper, ribbon

Cut paper into 4 1/2 x 2 inch strips. Roll two packs of Smarties into the paper and tie with ribbon.

Candy Apples

You will need:
10 small red apples
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup water
8 drops red food coloring
10 small wooder dowels or popsicle sticks
1 sheet of wax paper

Wash and dry apples. Insert dowels or sticks. Mix sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan (deep enough to dip the apples) and bring to a boil. Add food coloring, and boil for 20 minutes. Do not stir. Remove pan from stove. Dip the apples one at a time and place on wax paper to cool.

Color the Israeli Flag

Printable flag available here.

Sep 17, 2013

Thinking of Engineer Ari in Jerusalem

Kar-Ben friend and Engineer Ari fan Kathe recently wrote us about the newly renovated Jerusalem train station. She said it made her think of the Engineer Ari books, and it certainly reminded us of them as well!


The History
On August 27, 1892, the first train steamed into Jerusalem from Jaffa, carrying passengers and cargo. A month later, during the High Holidays, the railway officially opened. The train shortened the trip between the Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem from 3 days to 3 1/2 hours. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, who lived in Jerusalem at the time, coined the word rakevet (train) from the Biblical word for "chariot."

The railway began as a modest operation with three train built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia. It was rumored that the trains were originally intended for the first Panama Canal project. When this project failed, the trains were shipped to Jaffa instead. The railway was 55 miles long, made 6 stops between Jaffa and Jerusalem, and rose nearly 2500 feet as it curved up through the Judean mountains.

In 1998, the Jerusalem-Jaffa railway and the Jerusalem Railway Station were closed, and the station lay neglected for many years.


In May 2013, however, the Jerusalem train station was newly renovated, incorporating modern shops, restaurants, and other attractions into the historic site, making the old station into a hub of activity as a cultural and entertainment center.

Engineer Ari
Enigineer Ari has had many different adventures on the railway, but Enigneer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride highlights a particular moment in history - the opening of the railway from Jaffa to Jerusalem - and this particular train station.

In Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride, Engineer Ari has been chosen to drive the very first train from Jaffa to Jerusalem - what an honor! But after boasting to his fellow engineers, he forgets to say good-bye. As he journeys up and down the hills wishing everyone a Happy New Year, he remembers that Rosh Hashanah is a time for turning around and saying you're sorry.

Other Engineer Ari titles include Engineer Ari and the Hanukkah Mishap and Engineer Ari and the Sukkah Express, available at www.karben.com.

Thank you for the photos, Kathe!

Sep 10, 2013

Helping Young Children Say "I'm Sorry" - Especially on Yom Kipppur

Saying "I'm sorry" can be one of the most difficult lessons to learn. Even as adults, we sometimes struggle with those two simple words, so it's reasonable for this to be just as tough as children, if not more so.

Children should learn to acknowledge when they've done something they shouldn't have or hurt someone, whether it was an accident or on purpose. Yom Kippur is a wonderful time to introduce the idea of saying "I'm sorry" to children; when children are not yet old enough to observe fasting on Yom Kippur, there are still ways to include them in observance of the holiday, such as focusing on the idea of repentance.

Books can be an easy and gentle way to begin a conversation with your child and provide kid-friendly examples of when and how to apologize. These stories explore saying "I'm sorry," and the characters in these books each have a different imeptus for needing to apologize - one is an accident, one comes from misbehaving, and one as a result of thoughtlessly hurting a friend's feelings.

For more about teaching children the importance of a genuine "I'm sorry," see this article from Kveller, which also highlights Tashlich at Turtle Rock.


Tashlich at Turtle Rock
by Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman, illustrated by Alex Steele-Morgan

Annie is excited about the Tashlich ceremony on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, when her family will walk to Turtle Rock Creek and throw crumbs into the water, as symbols of mistakes made the past year. As Annie leads her family through the woods stopping at favorite rocks, bridges, and waterfalls in her family's own Tashlich ritual, they think about the good and bad things that happened during the past year, and make plans for a sweeter new year.


The Hardest Word
by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

The Ziz, a wonderful bird who lived long ago, is so big and clumsy he can't keep from bumping into things. When a tree he knocks over destroys the children's garden, he seeks God's help to fix things. "Bring me the hardest word," God intructs him, and the Ziz flies off to search. He brings back words like rhinocerous, rock, and Rumplestiltskin, but none is acceptable, until he makes an important discovery.



I'm Sorry, Grover: A Rosh Hashanah Tale
By Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer, illustrated by Tom Leigh

Brosh can't find his blue cap, and suspects one of his friends has taken it. When Grover returns the lost item, Brosh is glad that the High Holidays offer him a chance to say "I'm sorry."





Sammy Spider's First Yom Kippur
by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn

When Josh breaks the rules and plays ball indoors, he finds himself apologizing not only to his parents, but to Sammy Spider as well.

Aug 27, 2013

A Guest Post from "What a Way to Start a New Year!" Author Jacqueline Jules


Beginning the New Year in a new city isn't easy, and it definitely isn't starting out very well for Dina and her family! But when they're welcomed by warm and generous hosts in their new community it becomes a very happy New Year for all!


In today's guest blog post, author Jacqueline Jules tells us a little bit about the inspiration for her new Rosh Hashanah book, What a Way to Start a New Year!:


"I grew up in a small town in southern Virginia. There was only one synagogue in the surrounding area with a community of around 100 families. New faces didn’t walk through the door without being noticed, especially by my father. He made a point of introducing himself and making sure any newcomers had plans for holiday dinner. When Daddy brought new friends home unexpectedly, Momma would smile and set an extra place. My mom was an excellent cook, known for her homemade apple pies and tender brisket. We made many wonderful new friends at our holiday table.

As a child, watching my parents observe the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim—welcoming guests—I never imagined that I would one day move to a new community at the High Holidays myself. My first Rosh Hashanah as a newlywed was spent with generous hosts in Pittsburgh who realized a young couple would prefer brisket and honey cake in a warm home, rather than a motel efficiency. In my adult life, I have moved several times to new cities. Each time, visiting a synagogue, where I heard familiar tunes and prayers, helped me to adjust to new surroundings.  

In What a Way to Start a New Year, Dina and Harry fear that moving will ruin their Rosh Hashanah holiday. They want to go back to Greenville. “In Greenville we had friends,” Dina says. “In Greenville we didn’t get lost on the way to the grocery store.” But their plans are ruined by car troubles and the family returns to packing boxes and leftover pizza. “No brisket? No honey cake?” the kids complain. “What a way to start a new year!” Happily, Dad suggests that the family attends services at a nearby synagogue, where new friends welcome them just as my parents welcomed newcomers many years ago." 
 
For a sneak peak at What a Way to Start a New Year! check out the book trailer!
 
Q & A with Jacqueline Jules
 
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
 
My favorite book was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I adored the idea of little people under the floorboards swiping all the things I could never find. I still think there must be little people in my house, borrowing all the items I can't locate when I need them.
 
What's your favorite line from a book?
 
"Maybe, if you aren't unhappy sometimes, you don't know how to be happy." - from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
 
Why did you want to become an author?
 
I became an author because I love to play with words. Words give us the means to communicate with others. We speak them, we write them, and we read them. My love of words began with my love of reading. As a child, I sat for hours - sometimes in the crook of an apple tree, sometimes in an easy chair - lost in absorbing mysteries, fantasies, biographies, and realistic or historical fiction. I didn't have much preference, and still don't for a particular genre. I am just an enthusiastic fan of a good story with compelling characters.
 
Do you have any advice for future authors?
 
Remember that it takes a very long time to become skilled at any art form. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers says it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to excel at something. I totally agree. I've been practicing my craft for over 30 years, and it still takes many revisions before I get a story right. Writing is hard work. You need to have the patience and persistence to write and re-write.
 
How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
 
I hope children will empathize with the difficulties of feeling comfortable in a new place. I hope it will motivate them to reach out to newcomers.
 
What are some fun facts about you?
 
I love the color purple. My bedroom, my winter coat, and too many of my clothes and earring are purple. I also love puppets and have a huge collection of them. I love to sing for fun, especially at story time.
 
Anything else you would like to share with readers?
 
READ! READ! READ! Nothing expends your world and your mind like reading.
 
 
Jacqueline Jules is an award-winning author and poet. Her many children's books include The Hardest Word (National Jewish Book Award finalist), Sydney Taylor Honor Award Winners Sarah Laughs and Benjamin and the Silver Goblet, the Ziz adventure series, and Once Upon a Shabbos. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and enjoys walking, reading, singing, and attending the theater. To learn more about her, please visit www.jacquelinejules.com.
 
 

Aug 9, 2013

Meet Author Tamar Fox (and get a sneak peek at her new book)!


As the end of summer approaches, it's time to welcome children home from camp and celebrate the last weeks before school together. As Tamar Fox shows us in her new book No Baths at Camp, coming home from summer camp can sometimes get a little tricky!

For a sneak peek at Max's troubles in No Baths at Camp, see the book trailer!


With that in mind, here are five tips for welcoming your child home from summer camp:

1. Remember, hopefully camp was a great and your child will be missing camp activities.

2. Your child will be missing his or her camp friends. If you're able, set up opportunities for them to meet up in person (if they live nearby) or on Skype.

3. Camp often provides lots of opportunities for children to sing together. Encourage your child to teach you one of their camp songs.

4. You child learned some new skills, perhaps a new swim stroke or how to play tennis. Create opportunities to practice these new skills.

5. Remember that Jewish summer camp is about creating Jewish memories - make time during the year to create as many Jewish memories with your family as you can.


A Q&A with author Tamar Fox!

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The Bungling Ballerinas by Ellen Shire

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Marjorie Priceman, MM Kaye, Marc Simont

Why did you want to become an author?

I love to tell stories, and to find out what stories live in other people's brains!

What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?

I'm excited to talk about all the fun things kids can do at camp, and outside with their friends, and all the fun ways that families can celebrate Shabbat together.

How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?

I hope families will get excited about the ways that they can celebrate Shabbat, and the kids will get excited about the camping possibilities in their future.

What are you working on now?

Another children's book, this one about Purim. And an adult book about moving.

What are some fun facts about you?

I love polka dots and baking and reading out loud. I can name all 53 countries in Africa and stand on my head.

Find No Baths at Camp on the Kar-Ben website. Audio eBook available for your favorite device wherever eBooks are sold.




Jul 26, 2013

Happy 20th Birthday, Sammy!






Sammy Spider and the Shapiro family have been teaching children about Jewish holidays and values for 20 years!

 
 
 
 

Throw a birthday party for your favorite spider (or a Sammy-themed birthday for your child)! Then, spend the whole year celebrating with Sammy-related activities!

 
 
 Check out the Kar-Ben website for fun birthday printables like invitations, party hats, coloring pages and a pin-the-legs-on-Sammy game!
 
 
 
 
 
You can also find activities, recipes, and crafts for every month and many holidays! Make your own afikomen cover for Passover, a Sammy Spider grogger for Purim, or try Mrs. Shapiro's challah and blintz recipes!
 
 
 
 
 

Hear from author Sylvia A. Rouss and illustrator Katherine Janus Kahn about the creation of Sammy Spider in this video from Kar-Ben eBook partner Open Road Media!

 


 
 

In celebration of Sammy's birthday, Kar-Ben introduces the 19th and 20th books in the Sammy Spider series!

 
Sammy Spider's First Book of Jewish Holidays is a book of Jewish holidays for very young children, with one simple holiday fact per page and illustrated with iconic Sammy Spider art.
 
Sammy Spider's First Yom Kippur is a story about saying "I'm sorry." When Josh breaks the rules and plays ball indoors, he finds himself apologizing not only to his parents, but to Sammy Spider as well.

Jul 22, 2013

Prevent the "Summer Slide" with Reading Comprehension!

"Summer slide" is used to refer to the skills or knowledge that students lose when they're not in school during the summer months. The summer slide can be particularly problematic for young readers, as they need to practice their reading and comprehension skills consistently to maintain them.

One of the easiest ways to help combat the summer slide is to set aside a few minutes each day to read with your child, whether they're reading to you or you to them. Asking a few reading comprehension questions will help make sure your child is understanding the reading.

Help prevent the summer slide with these reading comprehension questions for The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street:



1. Why did Mr. Modiano never come inside for tea when Mrs. Spiegal invited him?

2. What does Mrs. Spiegal do with the fish Mr. Modiano brings her? Does Mr. Modiano know? What makes you think that?

3. What does Mrs. Spiegal like about Ketzie?

4. Where do Ketzie and Gatito always wait for Mrs. Spiegal?

5. How does Mrs. Spiegal feel when she can't find Ketzie?

6. Why does Mr. Modiano adopt Gatito?

7. How did Mr. Modiano's feelings about cats change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story? How do you know?

You can find The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street on the Kar-Ben website, along with other fun summer titles!

Jul 12, 2013

A Simple and Delicious Summery Shabbat Treat!

July means berry season, and what better way to use this tasty summer produce than by making a sweet treat for Shabbat?

No-Bake Berry Cheesecake

1 lb. cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
8 oz. whipped topping
1 graham cracker crust
blueberries, strawberry halves

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice until well blended. Stir in two cups of the whipped topping. Refridgerate for several hours. Before serving spread remaining topping over the cake and decorate with fresh berries!


Enjoy this recipe? Kar-Ben's "My Very Own Jewish Calendar" is filled with fun facts, recipes, activities, and more!

Jul 2, 2013

Looking for Fun Summer Activities? Kar-Ben has a Few Ideas!

If you're stuck on ideas for what to do with the beautiful weather and extra time that summer offers, take some inspiration from the characters in these books!

Tikkun Olam Ted
 

Ted spends his days working to make the world a better, kinder place by doing good deeds. Taking a lesson from Ted means participating in summer activities that are both fun and helpful!

1. Spend some quality time with your pets, or volunteer at an animal shelter. Animals appreciate the attention and the chance to get outside, and make great friends for a summer afternoon. Taking care of animals also helps children practice responsibility.

2. Use recycled materials to create unique new art projects. Keep some of those useful scraps out of the trash and use them for art projects instead of buying brand-new materials. Reusing what we can is as valuable to the environment as recycling.

3. Work in the garden - if you don't have one, help out a neighbor or volunteer at a community garden. Gardening is a great productive way to spend time outside, and watching the plants they care for grow is a great way for children to see the results of their hard work.

Thank You, Trees!


Children and adults celebrate Tu B'Shevat in this book, but you don't have to wait until January to try some of the activities they enjoy!

4. Go on a picnic. It can be as simple as taking lunch out into the backyard, or you and your child can plan an outing, complete with baskets and blankets.

5. Have an outdoors sing-a-long or dance with your friends. Children may be familiar with the same songs from school or family, and outside is a perfect place to be loud, dance out some extra energy, and celebrate.

No Baths at Camp


"There are no baths at camp!" says Max when his mother starts filling the tub. But as he recounts his week's activities, he realizes that there were many fun ways he got clean at summer camp. Whether it's at camp or at home, Max and his friends have some great ideas about how to enjoy their summer!

6. Stage an outdoor play. It can be a play, or try finding a reader's theater script for one of your favorite books! Reading a script will also help your child practice their literacy skills during summer break.

7. Build a fire and make s'mores. A campfire is also a fun time to tell stories and spend time relaxing after a long summer day.

8. Have a water balloon fight. Want to cool off, but can't make it to the pool? Have a water balloon fight instead!

9. Go for a nature hike. Find a park nearby - even the neighborhood park you go to all the time can provide interesting new things to observe, if you look hard enough. Try out a state park for even more adventure.

To learn more or to purchase Tikkun Olam Ted, Thank You, Trees! or No Baths at Camp, visit the Kar-Ben website!

Jun 24, 2013

Summertime Fun with Picnic at Camp Shalom!


In today's guest blog post, author Jacqueline Jules tells us a little bit about her book Picnic at Camp Shalom.
 
Summer camp is an opportunity to make new friends in a busy environment of swimming, boating, and creative activities. It’s also a place where Jewish children can leave behind the isolation they sometimes feel at home. Many Jewish children go to schools where they are a distinct minority. Summer camp can be a place of community and acceptance they do not experience elsewhere.

In Picnic at Camp Shalom, Carly meets Sara—a girl who shares her love of music and her fashion taste. On the first day of camp, they are surprised to see that they are both wearing the same blue bathing suit with white stars. “Twins!” They giggle. At night in their cabin, they talk by flashlight way past “lights out.” But trouble brews when Carly learns that they are far more alike than Sara realizes. They both have endured teasing at home for a last name that appears strange to children with short, plain names like “Jones” or “Walker.” Sara misunderstands Carly’s delight over finding out her new camp friend’s last name is “Frankfurter! Like the hotdog.” When Carly finally reveals her own last name, they discover that they are the perfect pair for Camp Shalom’s Sunday picnic.
 
Click below for a sneak preview of this story of summer camp friendship.



Buy the book here, and visit www.jacquelinejules.com to learn more about the author.

Jun 13, 2013

Two Unique Books Help Families Cope With the Loss of a Loved One

 
Loss is never easy, and it can be especially difficult for children to comprehend. Within Kar-Ben Publishing's large library of titles are books that can help children understand concepts on a wide variety of topics, like the loss of a loved one, by offering stories told with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

A little boy and his family gather at the cemetery for the unveiling of his beloved grandpa’s gravestone, bringing stones to place on the grave, as is the Jewish tradition. They tell stories that help the boy deal with his loss, reminding him of the wonderful memories he has of his grandpa.

In this touching narrative, young children ask, "Where do people go when they die?" Each child asks an adult that they trust--a father, a mother, a grandfather, an aunt, a teacher--and, although the reassuring answers they receive are all different, each leads back to the same simple truth: when people die, "They go to God. Who is everywhere." With an afterward and helpful suggestions about how to explain death to children, readers will find insight into one of the emotional issues we all struggle with.
To identify Kar-Ben books exemplifying Jewish values, please use the Valuesfinder tool created by the Association of Jewish Libraries.


Apr 29, 2013

What Does a Gorilla Gift at Hanukkah? Ask Author Jane Sutton!

Being funny is hard work. Not all writers have a wellspring of humor to tap into or the patience to refine an idea until it goes from potentially humorous to side-splitting. Jane Sutton, elected class comedienne in high school, gives young readers everywhere the gift of giggles as they read her new Hanukkah book about a gift mix-up, Esther's Hanukkah Disaster (available September 2013).


Esther's Hanukkah Disaster
It’s hard to pick the perfect gift, and Esther the Gorilla’s choices seem all wrong at first. But it all gets sorted out when she invites her animal friends to a joyful Hanukkah party.
 
Jane Sutton grew up in Roslyn, Long Island, where she began writing stories and poems at a young age. She graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Comparative Literature. In addition to writing books, Jane is a writing tutor and teaches a community education class for adults about how to write for kids. She, her husband, and grown children live in the Boston area.

We interviewed Jane about being a cut-up and having the guts to cut (as in revision) and about Esther's Hanukkah Disaster:
 
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Horton Hatches an Egg by Dr. Seuss

What’s your favorite line from a book?
From George and Martha by James Marshall: “How do you expect to walk home with your loafers full of split pea soup?” she asked George.

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
James Marshall, Arnold Lobel, Virginia Lee Burton

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
I have always enjoyed writing. In elementary school, I would turn an assignment to "write a paragraph using all the spelling words" into a three-act play. An essay I wrote in fifth grade is entitled "A Criticism of Humanity on Behalf of the Ducks." In college (Brandeis University), a sociology professor assigned us to "do something you always wanted to do and keep a journal on it." I wrote a series of children's stories, and that’s when I knew I wanted to write children’s books.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Write, write, write. Keep a notebook with you at all times (well, maybe not in the shower) because you never know when you’ll get an idea for a story.

Where did you get the inspiration for your latest or upcoming Kar-Ben book?
I used to tell my children a version of this story, and it gradually evolved into a book.

What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?
The book carries a lesson about the importance of putting oneself in another’s place, but it does so subtly, without hitting the reader over the head, and it’s lots of fun. I think the book lends itself to re-reading because young listeners will know from the beginning how inappropriate Esther’s gift choices are and, I hope, giggle with anticipation of the consequences.

What is the most interesting thing you learned in the process of writing your book?
I learned that my revisions were more effective when I put the book aside for a few days and then returned to it. The time and distance made me see that certain parts could be improved or even cut.

How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
At first Esther (the main character) purchases gifts because they appeal to her, not really thinking about the recipient. Her eventual understanding encourages the Jewish value of thinking about others—compassion and empathy. Also, the characters express clearly that the significance of the holiday of Hanukkah is more important than the gifts. And finally, even though these are anthropomorphic animals, they enjoy rich Jewish traditions.

Anything else you would like to share with readers?
I didn’t want to grow up. I figured being a child was a good deal: I got free food and I didn’t have to go to work. When I realized I did have to get older after all, I promised myself that I would always remember what it was like to be a child. Being a children’s book author is a way of fulfilling that promise to myself.

Apr 26, 2013

Have You Met Sadie (and the Author Who Created Her)?

Wonderfully preciocious and charmingly sweet, to know Sadie is to love her. She worries all week long when she learns that her class will be climbing a mountain to celebrate Shavuot, relieved that it just turns out to be a hill behind her school. She solves the problem of inviting guests to dine in the family's sukkah at an early hour by inviting her stuffed animals as breakfast guests. In the newest book in the series--number 3 of 6 planned so far--Sadie artistic expressions in clay smash to bits by accident, yet she finds a way to salvage the pieces and make a new family tradition. Sadie's Sukkah Breakfast and Sadie and the Big Mountain have been embraced by readers who are looking forward to a new release this fall, Sadie's Almost Marvelous Menorah.

Sadie is the brainchild of Jamie Korngold, who is the mom of two girls Sadie and Ori. Jamie is the spiritual leader of the Adventure Rabbi Program. She received her ordination from Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. She has served as a congregational rabbi in the U.S. and Canada, a street musician in Japan, a cook on a boat in Alaska helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill clean-up, and an Outward Bound guide. She is the author of the Sadie series, the best-selling God in the Wilderness (Doubleday) and The God Upgrade (Jewish Lights). She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Let's get to know author Jamie Korngold:


Jamie appears as a character in Sadie and the Big Mountain
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish pictures by Fritz Siebel

What’s your favorite line from a book?
“The night is keen and cold.”  – Lauren Thompson Polar Bear Night

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
Amy Hest (the Friday Night’s of Nana)
Jane Dyer
Dr. Seuss

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
I love to tell stories!

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Read and listen to lots and lots of books. Notice the words that make up the story. Words are so much fun. I love of words. When you discover a word that is fun to say (for example I love to say, “bumble bee and pumpernickel”) make up a story using those words. The secret ingredient for making a fabulous book is to use words that paint pictures in the reader’s mind. The order of the words is also important, but getting the right words is the key!

This is my favorite word game. Invite your family or friends to pick the characters or objects to put in your story.  For example, yesterday my daughters asked for a story with, princesses, a warthog, and pumpernickel bagels.  Then you get to make up a story using those words.

Where did you get the inspiration for your latest or upcoming Kar-Ben book?
Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah is a true story, except it happened to me and the menorah was light blue. I was about 5-years old. I can still remember how broken hearted I was when I dropped the menorah and it shattered. My mom was ingenious for coming up with the idea of Super Shammus.  What a great mom. We still have Super Shammus!

What are you most excited about promoting in your new book?
I admire how the mother takes a child’s perceived catastrophe and turns it into a celebration.  There is a lot of great parenting in that moment!

The theme of all my children’s books is that we have to make Judaism our own for it make our lives more meaningful.

How do you hope your book will impact the Jewish life of a child?
I hope this book reminds  kids that there is always  a place at the Jewish table for them. In this story the broken menorah gets to be the star. You don’t have to be perfect to have a place at the Jewish table.