FJJ: Week 3

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FJJ: week 2

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Flatbush Jewish Journal: the letters, week 1

I have collected the dialogue that has been going back and forth in the letters column about Women and pictures in the Flatbush Journal.

(Please note that the articles appear small on screen, but if you click on them they should open larger so you can read them.)

It started with the FJJ reprinting my article that I had published for Jewish Action article as a letter in their 5/12 issue:

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Flowers for Shavuot

Add color to this graphic image, and you’ll have vivid flowers for Shavuot! Just click on the image, print and color.

Chag Sameach!flowersspringblack


(and here it is as a pdf: flowersspringblack)

Frogs in the Bed Coloring page

Frog’s were EVERYWHERE!

frogseverywhere frogseverywherefrogseverywherecolorpagebathbhJust click on the image below and print to have some frogs in your home, too.


(And here it is if you need it as a JPEG: frogs everywhere)






Of course, if you want more frog related Passover fun, check out Frogs in the Bed!



Esther P. wins!

Congratulations to Esther P. for winning the “Who knows 2?” Passover book raffle.
Happy Pesach to everyone!



Who knows two? GIVEAWAY!

Who knows Two? I know two! TWO are the tablets that Moses brought.

AND….Two are the books that are being given away in my latest GIVEAWAY!

Wanna win? To enter, just add any Passover related comment below. You can list your favorite Passover food, or, if you’d like to take the time to share a fun-for kids Passover idea, I’d love to hear about them.

Good luck!



Purim Megillah coloring page

This coloring page has a twist: Invite kids to  add their own picture of the Esther story into the center! purim megillah
Just click on the image and print. (And if you need it as a pdf, click here: purim megillah)


(PS: If your kids do make some megillah art–feel free to  email it over to to share it with me! I would LOVE to see their creations–and of course I will share it here in my blog, too!)

BLOG TOUR: Amy June Bates

As I just typed in my last post…I  am very pleased to be a stop on the Sydney Taylor Blog Tour!

I got to e-chat with the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners in the Younger Readers Category, the creators of Ketzel the Cat who ComposedAuthor Lesléa Newman and illustrator Amy June Bates.

Ketzel book jacket

Come have a listen:

Hi, Amy.

Tell me about your art style. What media do you work in? 

I work in watercolor, gouache, and pencil.  I love the expression and freedom that I get in  just drawing. Watercolor is an extension of that, but it offers me interesting textures and a fluidity that expresses my reality in a way that resonates, pleases and surprises me.
I notice that you have the composer in a timeless, almost old fashioned wardrobe. And  the book and the illustrations have an old-world feel to them, with lots of browns and sepia.  Was that a conscious decision on your part? 
Each book I do has a different palette and basically it is motivated by the text.  I have an old-fashioned style. I use an old fashioned equipment- paintbrush and paint. You will not find bright pink or computer genorated color schemes in my work.  Beyond that, in this particular book Moshe’s character seemed to be unconcerned with modern life or the whirl of the city, but in a musical world of his own, so I wanted to set him apart. The city and the pedestrians and the backgrounds are a 1990’s city.
How did you decide what the main character should look like? Is he based on the real -life composer’s looks, or did you imagine someone totally new?
 This book isn’t a strict biography. I believe Moshe had a wife and children- although they were not included in the text obviously. Why? because it makes a better and simpler picture book probably. I based the character loosely on what Moshe looked like in real life, but I chose to soften him I guess you could say.
Your illustrations of Ketzel the cat are so charming. How is illustrating a cat character different or similar to illustrating a human? 
I like drawing people. We are infinitely interesting in variety and expression. I find people fascinating, right down to the choice of keychain that they carry.  Animals are so close to humans in construction. Arms, legs, spine, nose, eyes- they have them too.  It is impossible for me not to anthropomorphize  those features when I draw- possibly because I do books for children. However, animals do not carry keychains.
Thanks, Amy! 
Liked that? Read my chat with author Leslea Newman over here.

BLOG TOUR: Lesléa Newman

I am very pleased to be a stop on the Sydney Taylor Blog Tour!

I got to e-chat with the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners in the Younger Readers Category:

The creators of Ketzel the Cat who Composed: Author Lesléa Newman, illustrator Amy June Bates.

Ketzel book jacket

Come have a listen:


Hi, Leslea.

Thanks for jointing me here on my blog, and agreeing to answer a couple of my questions!

Looking over your more than 70 (! wow) books, I notice that you have a number of Jewish books, and a bunch of cat books too! What about Judaism inspires you to create stories? What about cats? 


Being Jewish is such a core part of my identity. I was very close with both my grandmothers who came to America from “the old country” and whose first language was Yiddish. I learned basic Jewish values from them such as be kind, take care of those less fortunate than you, respect your elders, protect your loved ones, don’t only think of yourself, do your best to repair the world. I also learned about Jewish culture, holidays, and customs from my grandmothers, including the best chicken soup with matzo balls recipe ever. So naturally, when I started writing, these experiences influenced my subject matter and voice. It’s just who I am. I feel that every book I write is Jewish, even if it has no overt Jewish content, because it is informed by my being a Jew and carrying that identity with me wherever I go.


To answer the second part of your question, I have always been an animal lover, and have co-habitated with cats since I graduated from college. (I don’t say that I have owned cats because as all cat-lovers know, the human is owned by the cat, not the other way around). Since I spend so much time in the company of cats, it is natural for me to write about them. They are an endless source of amusement and joy; every cat I’ve ever known has given me the gift of unconditional love. I have written a funny book, called “Cats, Cats, Cats!”  which is about a woman who lives with sixty cats, a sad book called “The Best Cat in the World” which is about a boy named Victor whose cat Charlie dies, and what I hope is an inspiring book, Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed.


Are there any connections for you between cats and Jewish tradition?
What an interesting question! I think cats force us to be in the moment, and Judaism also asks us to be in the moment, to be aware, be present, be joyful and grateful to be alive. That’s where the two intersect.
I loved hearing that this story was actually based on a real life, “cat who composed”. How did you first hear about that real cat? 
I was having a nonproductive writing day, and to distract myself from the blank page, I picked up my synagogue’s newsletter. The rabbi’s column mentioned Ketzel’s New York Times obituary and spoke about Moshe Cotel and how he lived his life with kavanah (intention). Mr. Cotel was open to the beauty and magic of ordinary moments that are actually extraordinary moments, and which are all around us, including his cat’s stroll across his piano keyboard. I was completely charmed by this story and knew it was a children’s book waiting to happen. Like Mr. Cotel, I also seized the moment, and started doing some research immediately. I never know where a story idea will come from. I feel like Ketzel chose me, not the other way around, just as various other cats have wandered into my life and worked their way into my heart. 
 Lesléa and Sheba
What about that true story spoke to you and made you want to retell it and share it with children?
I just loved that a composition composed by a cat had received an honorable mention in a contest. I usually start a writing project with a question, and my question was: why, on this particular day, did Ketzel stroll down Mr. Cotel’s keyboard? I don’t know the answer to that question (only Ketzel knows!) so that’s where the fiction writer in me gets to work. And I decided to have Ketzel stroll down the keyboard out of kindness. In my book, Mr. Cotel is unhappy because he can’t compose a short piano solo for a contest. Ketzel decides that if she destroys the letter about the contest (the source of Mr. Cotel’s unhappiness), he will feel better. So she dashes down the keyboard out of love.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the book, or your writing?
I’m just so thrilled that Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed has been recognized in this way and I am grateful to the Association for Jewish Libraries for this wonderful honor.

Liked that? Check out my chat with Ketzel’s illustrator, Amy over here.