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The Book of Life: Jewish Kidlit (Mostly)

Arts & Culture Podcasts

The Book of Life is an interview-format podcast about Jewish kidlit, mostly, with occasional coverage of Jewish YA/adult books, music, film and web, established in December 2005. Host: Heidi Rabinowitz Sponsors: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida & the Association of Jewish Libraries


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The Book of Life is an interview-format podcast about Jewish kidlit, mostly, with occasional coverage of Jewish YA/adult books, music, film and web, established in December 2005. Host: Heidi Rabinowitz Sponsors: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida & the Association of Jewish Libraries






Hanukkah Upside Down

SHOW NOTES: In September 2023, I zoomed with Elissa Brent Weissman from across the world, to record an interview about her new picture book, Hanukkah Upside Down. It's the story of a cousin in New York and a cousin in New Zealand, and how they connect during this wintertime AND summertime holiday. LEARN MORE: Read the transcriptBuyborrow Elissa Brent Weissman's website Illustrator Omer Hoffman's website BONUS HANUKKAH FUN: #JewishJoy posts Interview: The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming Hanukkah Book Bingo


Two Tribes

SHOW NOTES: Emily Bowen Cohen is a Jewish member of the Muscogee Nation. Her debut graphic novel, Two Tribes, explores the complexities that come with having a dual identity. I can't think of a better book to read in November, which is both Jewish Book Month and Native American Heritage Month. LEARN MORE: transcriptBuyborrowwebsite Instagram Be'chol Lashon Lon-Lon's Big Night Heartdrum Jewish Book Month Native American Heritage Month


We Need Israel Books

SHOW NOTES: Like so many of you, I am devastated by the suffering and loss of life in Israel and in Gaza, inflicted by the terrorism of Hamas, so I'm interrupting our regular schedule to bring you additional content related to the war in Israel and Gaza. This conversation with Yael Levy, Chava Pinchuck, and Marjorie Gann is about the need for children's literature related to Israel and the challenges that make it hard to get that literature published. A transcript can be found here. Please click on the SHOW NOTES to find extensive links for these topics: Learn More About Publishing and IsraelBooks Recommended by GuestsBooks NOT RecommendedBooks & Projects by GuestsOrganizations Accepting DonationsLearn More About the War


Am Yisrael Chai: Tammar Stein

SHOW NOTES: On October 7, 2023, the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, the terrorist group Hamas launched a brutal attack against Israel, murdering and kidnapping civilians young and old as well as striking military targets on multiple fronts. At the time of writing, Israel is at war. With Israel on my mind and in my heart, I went back and listened to Tammar Stein's 2017 interview on The Book of Life about her middle grade novel, The Six Day Hero, which is about the 1967 Six Day War. I thought you might like to hear it too. FYI, in 2020 Tammar published a companion book, Beni's War, about the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Both books are excellent. I left the original "tune in next time" teaser on the end of the recording because I found it moving. It was Fawzia Gilani-Williams, author of Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom Salaam, dedicating her episode to the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom because of their message of peace. There's a link to that interview in the show notes. For a tikkun olam moment of my own, I'm making a donation to Magen David Adom, the Israeli version of the Red Cross. I invite you to join me. Please see below for additional book recommendations and past podcasts about Israel-related youth literature. LEARN MORE: Tammar Stein's website The Six-Day War Beni's War AJL's Love Your Neighbor list #8: Israel Magen David Adom American Friends of Magen David Adom Transcript of this podcast SELECTED PAST BOOK OF LIFE EPISODES ABOUT ISRAEL Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom Salaam with guest Fawzia Gilani-Williams The Language of Angels with guest Richard Michelson The Nazi Hunters with guest Neal Bascome Unsettled: the Problem of Loving Israel with guest Marc Aronson Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel with guest Laura Gehl Shalom Sesame with guest Veronica Wulff Wherever You Go with guest Joan Leegant The Last Shepherd with guest actors Uri Lifshitz and Roni Weissman, writer Gai Bosco, and post production manager Dovi Shraga A Musical Israel @ 60 with guests Yuval Ron, Fran Manushkin, and Michael Dorf


E Train Talks

SHOW NOTES: E Train is the powerhouse 12-year-old behind the podcast, YouTube channel, and website E Train Talks, and he's recently formed his own nonprofit. This Jewish tween is a remarkable literacy advocate who's doing so much good in the world. TRANSCRIPT LEARN MORE: Website YouTube channel Instagram Facebook Twitter Podcast GoFundMe Book Fairies Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong A Double Helping of Babka Banned Books Week


Two New Years

SHOW NOTES: Happy New Year! Rosh Hashanah (which begins this year on September 15, 2023), is celebrated by Jewish folks each fall. The Lunar New Year (which will be celebrated next on February 10, 2024) is celebrated by Asian folks each spring. In the picture book Two New Years, Richard Ho explains and Lynn Scurfield beautifully illustrates the parallels between these two celebrations. The book is about a Chinese Jewish family and is a wonderful example of the increasingly diverse Jewish representation being published today. LEARN MORE: Richard Ho's website Lynn Scurfield's website Jewish/Asian intersectional kidlit list Look at the SHOW NOTES to find a transcript and more!


Friends for Levine Querido Online Auction

SHOW NOTES: We're squeezing in an extra episode this month to let you know about a special project inspired by our July 2023 interview with Arthur Levine of Levine Querido! After hearing the July interview, listeners Liza Wiemer and Debbi Lakrtiz were inspired to address the challenge of reduced sales that LQ is facing due to its mission of championing diverse voices. Levine Querido is a remarkable publisher with an important yet imperiled mission. In the few short years since they were founded, they've won over 150 awards for their devastatingly beautiful books, but the timing of the pandemic and the rise in book banning is a huge challenge for them. We need Levine Querido to succeed, not just because they are doing great work but because the publishing industry needs to see that diversity does sell. Liza and Debbi are organizing an online auction to help Levine Querido get past this difficult time. You are welcome to donate an item or service, AND of course to bid in the auction! Listen to this short episode to learn more, and please join me in buying LQ books, requesting them from the local library, and supporting Liza and Debbi's auction. LEARN MORE: Suggestions Fill out this form Auction website Buy Levine Querido books at Full interview Levine Querido website Look at the SHOW NOTES to find a transcript and more!


The Jake Show

SHOW NOTES: in Joshua S. Levy's middle grade novel, The Jake Show, TV-obsessed Jake sees life in terms of shows. His parents divorce is like his favorite show getting cancelled, and now he's stuck playing two roles, Yaakov for his religious mother and Jacob for his secular father. Jake has to concoct a web of lies to get to a summer camp where he can just be himself. Will that end well? Tune in to my conversation with Joshua Levy and find out! LEARN MORE: The Two Timer Date Look at the SHOW NOTES to find a transcript and more!


Levine Querido and the 100K Books Challenge

SHOW NOTES: Levine Querido is an independent publishing house founded by legendary editor Arthur Levine. He left his own imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books at Scholastic after 23 years, and he started Levine Querido in 2019 to showcase gorgeous diverse books by creators from underrepresented backgrounds - and he's been very successful, winning award after award. For a non-Jewish publisher, Levine Querido publishes a lot of Jewish books, so I've been wanting to chat with Arthur for a while. When he announced that Team LQ had set a goal to sell 100,000 books by September 1st of this year, I knew it was the right time to have him on the show. LEARN MORE: LQ's 100K Books Challenge Levine Querido website VOTE! Look at the SHOW NOTES to find a transcript and more!


Pride Month Special with A.J. Sass

SHOW NOTES: It's June and that means LGBTQ+ Pride Month, the perfect time to talk to author A.J. Sass. Andrew Sass is known for writing middle grade books featuring respectful portrayals of trans and nonbinary characters, with neurodivergent and casual Jewish representation included as well. I was excited to talk with them about a few books: debut novel Ana on the Edge from 2020, Ellen Outside the Lines, which was a 2023 Sydney Taylor Honor Book, and the new Camp QUILTBAG, co-written with Nicole Melleby. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these thoughtful, funny, and heartfelt books. Over half of the books currently being challenged by bigoted extremists are targeted for their LGBTQ+ content. In support of the queer Jewish community, for Pride Month I will post an LGBTQ+ Jewish kidlit title each day in June on The Book of Life's Facebook page at It should go without saying that gender identity and/or age appropriate sexual content does not automatically equal porn or obscenity. Children and teens are human beings who have bodies and experience age-appropriate sexual feelings, and sometimes they need books that will help them understand their bodies and feelings more fully. Queer books save lives, and I'll be proud to share with you excellent examples of queer Jewish representation all month long. LEARN MORE: A.J. Sass's websiteTwitterTikTokFacebookInstagramAna on the EdgeEllen Outside the LinesCamp QUILTBAGJust Shy of OrdinaryOn All Other NightsShabbat Is...Daily LGBTQ+ Jewish reading recommendations from The Book of Life, June 2023 ANDREW'S READING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BOOKS WITH NON-CISGENDER CHARACTERS Young Adult (these all have Jewish representation) A Million Quiet RevolutionsWhen the Angels Left the Old CountryJanuary 2023Camp Middle Grade (these mostly don't have Jewish representation) The Best Liars in RiverviewThe House That WhispersToo Bright to SeeDifferent Kinds of FruitKyle LukoffMoonflowerSir Callie and the Champions of HelstonLily and Dunkin Visit the SHOW NOTES to find a transcript and more!


A Sky Full of Song

SHOW NOTES: When I read Susan Lynn Meyer's middle grade novel, A Sky Full of Song, I was swept away by her descriptions of the North Dakota prairie and really touched by the characters' struggles with prejudice, assimilation, and identity. This story is one of those in which the specific is also the universal. It showcases a quintessential American experience and at he same time, a very Jewish experience. I thought it would be a perfect interview to bring to you this May for Jewish American Heritage Month. Click on SHOW NOTES above to find a transcript and more. LEARN MORE: Susan Lynn Meyer's website A Sky Full of Song American Prairie Jewish American Heritage Month resourceShe's a Mensch


A Walk on the Jewish Side

SHOW NOTES: Jewish identity can be complicated, especially for people who come from a mixed background. We are starting to see this reality acknowledged in middle grade and young adult fiction, with characters who are working to figure out what being Jewish means to them, or who are trying to better integrate the different parts of their heritage, who don't feel like they are enough. For this episode, I've called together three authors whose novels explore this topic: Primrose Madayag Knazan, author of the YA novel Lesson in Fusion, and middle grade authors Aimee Lucido, who wrote Recipe for Disaster, and Amanda Panitch, who wrote The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor. Join us for a virtual panel discussion about identity, a walk on the Jewish side. See SHOW NOTES for links to the authors' websites, books, recipes, and tikkun olam suggestions as well as a transcript.


Shoham's Bangle

SHOW NOTES: Sarah Sassoon's debut picture book Shoham's Bangle (Kar-Ben) was named a 2023 Sydney Taylor Notable Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Based on Sarah's family history, it's the story of a Jewish family's escape from Iraq to Israel, and a rare example of Mizrahi representation in kidlit. See SHOW NOTES for links to Sarah's website, a transcript, and more.


The 2023 Sydney Taylor Book Awards, Revealed!

SHOW NOTES: The winners of the 2023 Sydney Taylor Book Awards, recognizing the best Jewish children's and young adult literature of the year, were announced on January 30, 2023 at the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards event. Martha Seif Simpson is the current chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee, and she joined us to discuss the 2023 winners of the award. Please click on SHOW NOTES above to see the full list of winners and find links to more info about the award.


When the Angels Left the Old Country

SHOW NOTES: When the Angels Left the Old Country is Sacha Lamb's debut novel. It's a young adult historical queer fairy tale about an angel and a demon who immigrate together through Ellis Island to the Lower East Side of New York. From labor unions to dybbuks to a heist, this extremely Jewish tale has everything you need for a thoroughly satisfying adventure. Sacha is a 2018 Lambda Literary Fellow in YA fiction, a graduate in Library and Information Science and History from Simmons, and a reviewer for the Jewish Book Council. They are also a part-time stepparent to a small flock of miniature goats. See SHOW NOTES for links to Sacha's website, the book, reading recommendations, and to read Sacha's short stories online.


It's Always a Party with a Sephardi

SHOW NOTES: TRANSCRIPT: Sarah Aroeste is a singer/songwriter of Ladino music, a leader of Sephardic travel tours, and an author of board books featuring Sephardic culture and Ladino vocabulary. Bridget Hodder is a Sephardic author of middle grade and picture books, who frequently collaborates with Muslim author Fawzia Gilani-Williams (past Book of Life guest, 2017) on stories about interfaith friendship. We recorded this episode live and in person at the Highlights Foundation's Symposium for Jewish Creatives. See the SHOW NOTES for links to their websites and books. TREATS FOR YOU: Peddler's Gift GRATITUDE: Dianne Siekmann


Orthodox Excellence

SHOW NOTES: Representation of Orthodox Judaism has been virtually non-existent in traditionally published contemporary young adult fiction, but that is starting to change. In this episode, I spoke with Leah Scheier, author of The Last Words We Said published by Simon & Schuster, and Isaac Blum, author of The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. These two young adult novels offer layered and insightful portraits of well-rounded Orthodox characters in books aimed well beyond an Orthodox readership. TRANSCRIPT:


The Very Best Sukkah by Shoshana Nambi

SHOW NOTES: The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda is Shoshana Nambi's debut picture book. She is a member of the Abayudaya, the Jewish community of Uganda, and is in the U.S. studying at Hebrew Union College to become the country's first female rabbi. This delightful story, rich with authentic detail, was named to the Association of Jewish Libraries' Holiday Highlights Fall 2022 Holiday Highlights list. TRANSCRIPT:


Some Kind of Hate

SHOW NOTES: Sarah Darer Littman does not shy away from tough topics. Her middle grade and young adult novels address religious identity, internet predation, eating disorders, and online bullying. Her new YA novel, Some Kind of Hate, addresses radicalization and antisemitism. It's an important and all too timely book that helps readers understand how ordinary people can become radicalized extremists. LEARN MORE: Buy Some Kind of HateSarah Darer Littman's websiteEducational resources for Some Kind of Hate White Right: Meeting the Enemy"What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right" 2006Confessions of a Closet Catholic2011Life, After Justice


Detour Ahead

SHOW NOTES: Detour Ahead is a contemporary middle grade novel about Gila and Guillermo and the way the H4 bus in Washington DC brings them together. Pamela Ehrenberg wrote the part of Gila, a neurodivergent white Jewish girl who loves breakdancing, and Tracy Lopez wrote Guillermo, a boy from a Salvadoran immigrant family who writes poetry. I was impressed by how well the two distinct voices wove together and how real the characters felt to me. It's a quiet story but cuts right to the heart. I especially enjoyed the nuanced depiction of b'nai mitzvah: Gila doesn't just want to get through the big day, she really wants to understand what it means to be an adult. LEARN MORE: Buy Detour Ahead Pamela Ehrenberg's website Tracy López's website Detour Ahead playlist