Kayla and Kugel are here!

Introducing…Kayla & her lovable, adorable dog, Kugel!
Just click on the image below to  print to enjoy the coloring page.

And, read all about their adventures in the new Kayla and Kugel series here.

k&k(If you need it as a pdf, just click: k&k)










Shavuot Activity Page

Shavuot SinaiInvite your kids or students to add flowers to Har Sinai.

Just click on the image and print.


(And if you need it as a Pdf, click here: Shavuot Sinai)

This originally appeared in My Jewish Holiday Fun Book, now available through Behrman House.)

Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut!

Ahm Yisrael Chai!

Just click and print , or if you need it as a pdf, click: ahmstarahmstar


Froggie crafters!

Great job, Noam, Yair and Calev!  I LOVE your frogs!

(The boys made these using the template from my book, Frogs in the Bed)

Thanks to their awesome Bubbe, Joni Nathanson, for sharing these pics with me!





Frogs in the Bed Coloring Page

Yes, it’s time to face facts: Passover IS coming. Definitely time to make sure you have your copy of Frogs in the Bed:








And, of course, here’s the latest and greatest coloring page from yours truly. As always, just click on the image, and print. (And if you need it as a pdf, you can click here: red sea).

Double Life

(This article appeared in  Jewish Action Magazine over here.)

About a year ago, my life changed. Shockingly, my kids weren’t babies anymore, and I went back to work.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. I worked when I was home too—but it was freelance. I was an author/illustrator combined with stay-at-home mom. So my life was something like this: carpool, write, paint, make dinner, write, paint, grocery shop. Repeat.

Needless to say, my sink was often full of dirty dishes.

Now I work full-time. This new reality comes with many adjustments, from changing my wardrobe (no more sneakers and smocks) to grocery shopping only on Sundays. My lifestyle has definitely shifted.

But more than the wardrobe and the shopping is the mental shift: a line has been drawn. In my first life, I raised little kids, and painted on the side. Now, in my second life, I am an editor, and if I am very fortunate, my teenagers generously speak with me and tell me what’s going on in school.

There is still plenty of carpooling. But it feels like two very distinct chapters. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I’ve been blessed with a second life.

Just 150 years ago, people generally lived until age forty-five, with many women dying even younger in childbirth. So that meant one would get married, have kids. . . and that was that. That was life.

Today, lifespans typically reach well beyond forty-five. Men and women both now commonly have true arichat yamim and can reasonably expect to have twenty to thirty years of healthy living past retirement age. That means, in another twenty to thirty years, I (hopefully!) will have another transition to absorb, and will have to decide what to do with a third life.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I’ve been blessed with a second life.

In the Torah, Miriam also had multiple chapters in her life. She spent the first phase of her life in Egypt, the second as a freed woman who had witnessed redemption. Rabbi Eliyahu Yedid, author of Sheva Haneviot, points out a fascinating detail about her. Miriam is presented with nearly the exact same challenge in both chapters of her life: she has a close relative who separates from his wife. In the first instance, it’s her father, and Rashi tells us that Miriam’s response was to speak up and strongly advise her father to remarry her mother. Result: Moshe is born, and the Jewish people are ultimately freed.

In life two, Miriam is presented with a nearly identical situation. This time, it’s her baby brother who is separating from his wife. Her response? She speak ups. The result? Tzara’at.

What happened? Why did Miriam’s response work the first time and not the second?

Perhaps I can extend Rabbi Yedid’s insight, and suggest that Miriam made the mistake of thinking that both her lives were the same, and both situations were identical. But by definition they were not. One’s tafkid is different in each life, and even though we are the same person and situations can appear to be the same, they are in fact unique, and require different responses and actions.

It was right for me personally to be home in my first life. It is right for me to be working in my second life. For someone else, it might be an entirely different choice. That’s the whole point: we are all different, we all have unique roles and those roles shift over time. The trick, of course, is to be the best “you” in all the lives Hashem gives you.

Ann D. Koffsky is the author/illustrator of more than thirty books for kids, and an editor at Behrman House publishers. Her newest book, Kayla & Kugel, is about a girl and her dog preparing for Shabbat. It’s due out this fall.

And the winner is…

I am very pleased to announce that the winner of a copy of Shabbat Shalom Hey! is…(drumroll please)–Marnie!


Thanks so much to everyone else for entering, it is so nice to know that folks are out there actually reading my blog and enjoying my work. Running this kind of raffle is really grew because I get to hear from you–even if it’s just a short comment, it’s nice to know you are there!


And, if you didn’t win…stay tuned! I hope to do this again this Fall, for my next book Kayla &Kugel!

(Here’s a sneak peak:)

HEY! Win A Shabbat Shalom Hey!

Hey, I have a new book, Shabbat Shalom Hey! 

Hey, wanna win one? To enter, just leave any short comment below that starts with the word Hey! (Ex:  “Hey-I love Shabbat too!” or “Hey, chulent is the best”)
shabbat shalom hey











Hey, Want to enter twice? Visit my Facebook page and like and share the post of the same subject over there. Thanks for helping me spread the word!


Purim Coloring Page

Purim is on its way! Start getting ready with this happy clown reading the Purim megillah.

Also: I am raffling off a copy of my new book, “Shabbat Shalom, Hey!” Want to enter to win? Click here.

(if you need the page as a pdf, just click here: purim clown)

purim clown copy

Sydney Taylor Blog Tour: The Illustrator

Yael Bernhard is the marvelous illustrator of Never Say  A Mean Word Again by Jaqueline Jules, and she has graciously agreed to answer some of my curious questions.


Ann: Yael there are lots of things I love about your artwork. One of them is the softness of your line, and color. It feels very smooth, and it has a sense of permanence, like you might find it on an ancient mural in an archeological dig somewhere.What is your technique, how do you  achieve that quality?


Yael: Never Say A Mean Word Again is the first book I’ve illustrated exclusively with acrylics.  The permanence and quick drying time of this paint enabled me to begin with an under-layer.  This under-layer was painted in brown, like a tonal brush drawing.  It established lights and darks, so that the colors on top could be treated as a transparent tint.  The effect of the under-layer is subtle – in some places it’s no longer visible at all – but it made a difference in my creative process. 
yaelAnn: You also seem to have some fantastic details, which really place the story in it’s environment. Wardrobe, architecture…What kind of research did you do to get a feeling for all those details?
Visual research is the most important part of my multicultural books.  From shoe buckles to chess pieces, everything in the story is researched.  (Did you know marbles in medieval times were made of clay?)  I begin by ordering a stack of books through the interlibrary loan system.  Books impart a more vivid and authentic sense of history than the internet, in my opinion.  In this case, I borrowed books on Spanish history, on Medieval illuminated manuscripts, on Moorish architecture, and on Sephardic Jews.  I keep these books open as I begin to work, and scan the most important images into my computer.  Then I peruse the internet, taking screenshots and sorting them into folders.  I combine the scanned images and the screenshots into themed collections – such as “Spanish architecture” – then open them on my computer screen and take another screenshot of the whole thing.  These special photo collages enable me to see multiple images simultaneously while I work. 
I also steeped myself in the world of Shmuel Hanagid – upon whom the story’s protagonist Samuel and his father are based – by reading about his life and listening to online lectures.  I read The Last Jew by Noah Gordon, about the Jews of 15th-century Spain – a superb historical novel.  The more I learned, the more I was amazed by the unique life led by Hanagid, and his singular accomplishments as military leader, poet, Hebrew scholar, rabbi, and royal vizier to the Muslim caliph of 11th-century Granada.  I was so inspired, I even wrote a dvar Torah about the life of Shmuel Hanagid, and how it related to the Torah portion Shlach Lecha.  I hope Never Say A Mean Word Again will rescue this great man from the sands of time.  He should be as well-known as Maimonides for what he accomplished.
Ann: I notice that you also seem to use lots of symbolism in your image—it’s not always just the story going on, there is other imagery included as well. Can you talk about that a little? Why did you add certain details, that went beyond the literal words of the story?

Yael: Pictures communicate just like words. I wanted this story to evoke the feeling of medieval Spain, and of the royal Muslim court in which the two main characters literally bump into each other.  How does one emulate the felt sense of an environment?  With imagery and symbols.  I allow the setting and architecture to determine the design of each spread, and to set the mood.  The details throughout the book are all the elements of the protagonists’ world “speaking” to the reader across the ages.  I draw a lot more of these details than I actually use.  Little pencil sketches get moved around on the layout until they look right – or discarded.  Those “certain details” almost beg to be included.  Sometimes I feel like an unseen hand is guiding my choices.  
Ann: Looking at your portfolio, you seem to have illustrated a number of books that take place in ancient times. What draws you to working on period pieces?
Yael: I’ve always been drawn to ancient and faraway cultures. As a child I was especially fascinated by Walt Disney’s album “It’s a Small World”.  As a young adult, I fell in love with African art, music, and dance (which I have studied for over thirty years).  I also explored Hindu art and mythology (thus picking up my pen name, Durga, along the way), and found a lot of inspiration in tribal art from Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.  The first children’s books I illustrated were Lakota, Inuit, and Huichol folktales, followed by my first multicultural book, A Ride On Mother’s Back, showing babies being carried through their daily life all over the world.  I try to show my readers how people live in other parts of the world – and under different economic circumstances.  I want to bring alive a piece of life in a faraway place that is both different and the same – for every culture is unique, yet we all have universally human traits.  “We’re all the same, in all different ways” was the theme of a residency I taught in one school about making multicultural books.  
 Ann: Is there anything else you would like to share about  your artwork, that you think folks would like to know more about?
Yael: Medieval times were an amazing paradox.  It was a time of widespread drought and disease, religious oppression and military conflict. Yet all of Europe was exploding with creativity, as if structure itself was rediscovered and exploited in new ways.  I could have filled several books with all the architectural motifs and decorative designs I found.  Yet all these magnificently ornate arches and spirals did not serve to liberate individual creativity.  Artists worked for the church, and people seemed imprisoned by what they created.  I tried to convey this paradox in the art by “locking” in designs that trapped the characters.  Yet I made these forms slightly clumsy, to convey a sense of play. One more thing I would share…  For me it placed a charm on this book that I was literally standing on Rehov Shmuel Hanagid (Samuel Hanagid Street) in Jerusalem the day I was offered the contract.  I was renting an apartment on the corner of Narkiss and Shmuel Hanagid.  I had rented this apartment before and walked on the street many times, but I never knew who Hanagid was until then.  I snapped a photo of the street sign and sent it to my new editor at Wisdom Tales Press, along with my official acceptance.  I get a kick out of this kind of synchronicity.  The book felt like it was destined to be born.
Ann: That’s so cool! It’s amazing when things like that happen, when the universe is almost winking at you.
Yael thanks again for answering my questions. You have made a beautiful book!
Multicultural books illustrated and/or written by Durga Yael Bernhard include A Ride On Mother’s Back: A Day of Baby-Carrying Around the World; Happy New Year!; While You Are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World; Around the World in One Shabbat, and forthcoming in April from Wisdom Tales Press: Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree: Exploring the Wonders of Trees Around the World.  To learn more about her children’s books, visit Yael’s website and picture book blog at http://dyaelbernhard.com.