Thursday, March 23, 2017

#BlogExodus and #Exodusgram 5777

Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first of the month of Nisan, is March 28, 2017.

Which means that Passover is JUST around the corner. While most people are busy making brisket and matzo balls, I'm over here busily setting up #blogExodus and #exodusgram!

This year's topics, like last year's, are based loosely on the steps of the Seder.

So what is this really about? #BlogExodus is really what you want to make of it. I've provided topics for the first 14 days of the month of Nisan. What you do with it is up to you -- write a blog post, tweet, Facebook, tumblr, or something that I haven't even thought of yet! Use the hashtag to share your post (I put it into the title of each post). It's a great way to kickstart a blog or rejuvenate your languishing blog or just get yourself ready for the holiday of Passover! I will be posting my #blogExodus posts here on this blog and I will tweet them out at @imabima. There aren't any rules, so maybe you don't like the order of the topics? Maybe you want to write on only a few of them? It doesn't matter. It is what you make of it.

#Exodusgram is a little more interpretive. While I love Instagram (I'm imabima, of course), I know some people don't. So maybe you want to share Exodus-themed photos via Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest or....whatever! My #Exodusgram posts will go up on Instagram and then be shared to my tumblr, Whatever you do, don't forget to tag with #Exodusgram so we can all share. (Note for some of my colleagues: this might make a fun teen project, maybe not done over the two weeks but instead over one class period...who's up for #SnapTheExodus?)

The themes are really up for your own interpretation. I was thinking broadly and openly about what makes Passover special and interesting to me. I hope it will translate into creative and inspirational posts from all of us!

Are you going to join in? Leave me a comment here or send me a tweet or just...jump in! I will try to retweet all the #BlogExodus and #Exodusgram posts through Twitter via @imabima. If I miss your posts, let me know so I can go back and be inspired by what YOU have to say!

*Yes, I know that I put the Shabbat dates there. I don't blog/tweet/Facebook on Shabbat but I will post on Fridays before Shabbat and on Saturdays after Shabbat is over. You can, of course, do it any way you like!

BlogExodus Topics 2017/5777
 1 Nisan - Launch 
 2 Nisan - Exalt 
 3 Nisan - Cleanse 
 4 Nisan - Rise 
 5 Nisan - Seek 
 6 Nisan - Retell 
 7 Nisan - Read 
 8 Nisan - Expand 
 9 Nisan - Perplex 
 10 Nisan - Join 
 11 Nisan - Celebrate 
 12 Nisan - Reveal 
 13 Nisan - Welcome
14 Nisan - Thank

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Dissent: Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner {Interview}

I am so excited to bring you this post as a part of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Book Tour sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries, and the official Sydney Taylor Book Awards. The full blog tour schedule will be posted on their website. 

Elizabeth Baddeley (l) and Debbie Levy (r)
I had the honor of interviewing both the author and illustrator of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leaves Her Mark. Both Debbie Levy (author) and Elizabeth Baddeley (illustrator) were so gracious and kind to answer my questions, and I was excited because they'd never been interviewed together. I've read a lot of author/illustrator interviews, and I usually try to find something new to ask beyond the usual "what inspired you to write this book." I think that you'll find this interview as interesting as I did!
My little reader (target audience, too)

The book is a telling of the life story of one of my own heroes, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I love the tagline of the book: "disagreeing does not make you disagreeable." It's gorgeous to look at, engaging to read, and really wonderful for kids and adults alike. Yael gave it two thumbs up, and I know she learned a lot because she asked questions and showed me some of the pictures as she was reading. It is noted for readers in grades 3-5, and I would agree with that - she really "got" some of the big ideas in a way that Solly (kindergarten) didn't.

Here's the interview:

The illustrations and the words flow so beautifully together. Was the whole book a collaboration? How did you come together to create the whole that is the book?

Debbie: We worked separately for most of the project, and that is par for the course in the picture book world. I wrote the words. Elizabeth created the art—including the bold and impactful hand lettering of important words like DISSENT, DISAGREE, PROTEST, OBJECT, RESIST, PERSIST, and so on. When you have excellent editors and art directors, as we did, this approach to book-making tends to work out nicely!

Elizabeth: I agree with what Debbie said. Many thanks to our art director, Chloe Foglia and editor, Kristin Ostby.
Isn't this gorgeous?
Have you met Justice Ginsburg? (Has she read the book?) What do you want to say to her? What do you hope she says to you?

Debbie: Yes, I have met her. But, you know, even if you don’t have the opportunity to meet Justice Ginsburg in person, there is an abundance of excellent video and audio for anyone to enjoy. I like this interview she gave to Katie Couric in 2016 (and not only because she talks about I Dissent at around minute 25:00!). Anyone can go to the Supreme Court website and hear audio of her questioning lawyers in oral arguments before the Court. Here is the 2013 Voting Rights Act case of Shelby County v. Holder, for example. I also really like this C-SPAN video of her visiting her Brooklyn elementary school in 1994, soon after she became the 107th Supreme Court justice.

Yes, she has read the book! She read the manuscript before we went to print and gave me some helpful notes on it. And, after the book was published, she read it aloud to a gathering of Jewish book lovers last fall, prefacing her reading by telling girls, and all of us, to “be brave . . . and not be put down.” Here is the video of that event, courtesy of PJ Library. I wasn’t present at that event, nor did I know a thing about it—so you can imagine my delight when it came to my attention!
Elizabeth: I have not been lucky enough to meet Justice Ginsburg but I did receive a really nice note from her (Debbie is just now learning this)! I sent her an original piece of art from the book—from the page where is arguing with her friend Justice Scalia. She immediately sent me a very kind note. She told me she was sending it down to the court carpenter shop to have it framed. I would have never guessed they have a court carpenter shop!

What was the hardest thing about writing/illustrating this book?

Debbie: The hardest thing was writing about law and court cases, and the work of judges and justices, in a manner that is accessible to young children and doesn’t bog down the story of Justice Ginsburg's life. This type of discussion arises in the second half of the book—once she is a lawyer, and then a judge, then a justice. I’ll just say that the manuscript went through many revisions!
Elizabeth: A difficult aspect of illustrating this book was capturing Ruth as a young girl. There are many photos of her as she is now and even when she was a young woman, but I only had one photo of her as a child—and she was only about 2 years old in that one! I gathered many photos of children I thought might look like her, looked at photos of her in her late teens and sort of pieced her look together from there.
How did you choose which parts of Justice Ginsburg's life to tell and which parts to leave out?

Debbie: That was probably the second hardest thing about writing this book. I had drafts of the manuscript that included details about the Jewish summer camp she attended, riding horseback and paddling canoes (and, when she was an older camper, leading services). Then there were these delectable little facts: Ruth played a princess in a school play called “The King’s Cream Puffs.” In high school, she was a member of the pep club for sports teams, the Go-Getters. And, going back to her very young life: Ruth Bader was actually born Joan Ruth Bader, but when her mother, Celia, registered her for kindergarten and found that there were two other Joan Ruths in the class—she decided that this Joan Ruth henceforth would be “Ruth.” (Also, she had the nickname Kiki as a girl!) And then, zooming ahead to her tenure as a justice, there’s the fact that Bubbe Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first justice ever to host a Supreme Court party with peanut-butter-and-jelly on the menu—for her granddaughter’s third birthday.

Great facts, aren’t they? But a picture book narrative is more than a collection of fun facts. Reluctantly, I had to let these and other tidbits go to construct a book that told the story of her life through the lens of her many disagreements, that did not have too many tangents (or too many words), and that focused on facts and events from her childhood that I considered most important in shaping the woman she became.

My favorite part was the way that you explained and illustrated Justice Ginsburg's friendship with Justice Scalia. What is your favorite part of the book?

Debbie: I favor that part of the book, too.

I also particularly like the page spread that has Ruth as a young lawyer considering the demeaning way the Supreme Court had treated women in its decisions, with two especially obnoxious quotes from Justice Joseph Bradley (“The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life”) and Justice David Brewer (“Woman has always been dependent upon man”) blown up in Elizabeth’s wonderful hand lettering, and on the opposite page a strong-looking RBG and more strong hand lettering: “Ruth really really DISAGREED with this!”
Elizabeth: The Scalia friendship is also one of my favorites, but I really love the spread of her in elementary school when she “protested” against having to write with her right hand. I am also a leftie and though I was very lucky to never have been forced with my right hand, I often experienced a wrist covered in chalk dust--a detail I’m guessing only other fellow lefties may have picked up on.
What was your favorite book as a child? What are you reading right now (for grownups or kids)?

Debbie: The All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor. Truly. I took them out over and over again from the Silver Spring, Maryland library when I was a girl. So to be a winner of the Sydney Taylor Award is more meaningful to me than I can say.

Right now, I just finished Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and am about to start Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am.
Elizabeth: Oh wow, too favorite childhood books to name! Picture books were a very large part of my childhood. I had a mother who took us to the library weekly and both parents read to us on a nightly basis. All of the Steven Kellogg books were in high rotation on our book shelves as well as the Berenstein Bears books (I’m clearly a child of the 80’s) I probably memorized every detail of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Pippi Longstocking, The Little House on the Prairie series and Harriet The Spy were often read aloud with the latter being one of my all time favorite books!

I think I Dissent must have kicked off a non-fiction streak in my current reading. I’m reading At Home by Bill Bryson and recently read River of Doubt by Candice Millard which is so rich in imagery, the books the littered with dog ears of pages I’d love to illustrate some day. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks while I work and have just started The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Thank you, Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley, and to the Association of Jewish Libraries for extending me this great opportunity!

*The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) since 1968, the Award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. Here is the list of all 2017 Award, Honor, and Notable Books.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books Read in 2016

This was a great year for books, and here's the list of all that I read. I started to put stars next to the ones that I would recommend, but then I found myself starring a lot of them so I skipped that plan. A lot of good books here...(a few that I would probably skip, so you can privately message me if you want to know which ones to skip - I hate to malign an author publicly.)

  1. You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt
  2. The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff
  3. Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews
  4. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
  5. Come Away with Me by Karma Brown
  6. Zoo Station by David Downing
  7. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert
  8. The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
  9. Euphoria by Lily King
  10. Nurture the Wow by Danya Ruttenberg
  11. The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday
  12. The Road to Character by David Brooks
  13. How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
  14. The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
  15. Untwine by Edwidge Danticat
  16. The Quality of Mercy by Faye Kellerman
  17. Armada by Ernest Cline
  18. The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb
  19. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  20. A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
  21. The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz
  22. Duet in Beirut by Mishka Ben-David
  23. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
  24. The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
  25. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  26. About the Night by Anat Talshir
  27. Luck, Love, and Lemon Pie by Amy Reichert
  28. The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
  29. The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio
  30. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  31. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelley
  32. No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige
  33. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  34. Invisible City by Julia Dahl
  35. The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
  36. The Black Widow by Daniel Silva
  37. Saving Abby by Steena Holmes
  38. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany
  39. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehad
  40. The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levy
  41. The Swarm by Orson Scott Card
  42. Short Stories from Hogwarts #1 by J. K. Rowling
  43. Short Stories from Hogwarts #2 by J. K. Rowling
  44. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling
  45. Washing the Dead by Michelle Brafman
  46. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  47. The Book of Esther by Emily Barton
  48. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
  49. The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
  50. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Barker
  51. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  52. After Abel and Other Stories by Michal Lemberger
  53. The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
  54. The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  55. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
  56. Faithful by Alice Hoffman
  57. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  58. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  59. One Thousand White Women by by Jim Fergus
  60. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
So many great books this year. I rarely re-read any books any more (there are so many more that I want to get to!) but I'm considering re-reading When Breath Becomes Air, so I know that was my top book of the year. If you haven't read it, grab a box of tissues and plan to stay up all night reading. I also really liked the little series of books I read between 54-58 -- this was my winter break attempt to get to 60 books (nailed it with a day to spare!) and it was a really good run of book-in-a-day books. 

Books that are on my "to read" list (some inspired by this great feature in the New York Times)
  • Moonglow by Michael Chabon
  • Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  • It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond
  • Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
What else do you think I should read in 2017?
What are you going to read? What was the best book you read in 2016?

I keep track of my books on Goodreads - follow me there.

And previous years' book lists are here:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fusible Bead Sukkah Decorations

Back in the dark ages before Pinterest,
(let's not even begin to discuss the REAL dark ages, before the internet)
those of us in the Jewish blogging community worked hard to share our project ideas and such.

I read this blog post from Carolyn and was enchanted with the idea of using fusible beads to decorate our sukkah! (check it out, hers are amazing!)

We've been doing this kind of decorating since then, but this year the kids have been very into these beads, so we were a little more ambitious:

The "Sukkot" sign is from a previous year!

We hang them with zip-ties. 

Want to see more Sukkot decoration ideas? You CAN go to Pinterest!

Bring on the Sukkah Building

Putting up a sukkah has always been a family project.
Even when we weren't all available to help.
Even when it was hard. And when it was harder.
We've only really missed one year.

The sukkah is fragile.
It's meant to be that way.
Life is fragile. And yet we keep building.

I love the simplicity of the reminder to go outside.
To breathe the fresh air.
To live...

And so we build....

Yes, he's showing that he's almost as tall as the sukkah

Sammy always in our hearts...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

#BlogElul 5: Accept

Acceptance seems like a good idea.
Until it's not.

There are some things I just can't accept.

And I won't.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with prayers of forgiveness, but I like to think of it as a whole-person preparation activity. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at and on Instagram @imabima. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.