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

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.