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The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak, by Tomek Bogacki. Published 2009 by FSG Kids' Books. Hardcover.

The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak is alternately moving, sad and hopeful. Janusz Korczak, doctor, writer, activist and advocate for children, was born Henryk Goldzmit in 1878 in Poland. Although his own family was well-off, even as a child he felt a great deal of compassion and concern for those, especially children, without his comforts. He fantasized about sweeping in on a white horse to rescue poor children, and when he grew up he became a doctor and founded an orphanage for poor children where they would receive basic care. Importantly, they would also learn to take care of each other- and to care for each other. Over time he started another orphanage and even a newspaper run by the children.

When Polish Jews were forced into the Krochmalna Street ghetto, Korczak tried to maintain a sense of routine and safety for the children by organizing life the best he could and looking for anything and anyone to help them. Ultimately Korczak and his children perished in the Holocaust, but he left behind a legacy of hope and purpose in helping other and following one's dreams.

The book itself is beautifully illustrated and sweetly and simply told and shows how one person can make a difference in the lives of so many, simply by doing what is right. It's a wonderful book to share with children and adults.

Nonfiction Monday is a moving meme headquartered at Picture Book of the Day and hosted this week at Bookish Blather.
Maybe it's the early summer air, or ALA on the horizon, but there's lots going on on the web in the way of Jewish books, libraries and the like this week.

ResourceShelf directs our attention to a New Report from ACRL: Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians and to a panel from Toronto about the future of publishing and ebooks.

The Yiddish Book Center published a book club guide for Friendly Fire: A Duet, by A.B. Yehoshua, translated by Stuart Schoffman.

Erika Dreifus's book blog My Machberet published a guest post by Barbara Krasner entitled Writing Jewish-themed Children's Books: A Conference Dispatch including a mention of AJL librarian Lisa Silverman.

OCLC announced Three Gateway milestone records entered in May, one by the Society for the Preservation of Hebrew Books.

Jewish Delis: The History of the Nosh comes to us from the Jewish Publication Society's blog.

The Jewish Quarterly announced the winner of the 2010 Wingate Prize, the so-called "Jewish Booker," to My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, by Adina Hoffman.

The New Yorker did a Q&A with Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love and more, in its 20 under 40 series.

Tablet published Reflections on a Book Paradise, about the sale of the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C., and why it's a Jewish story.

As always I welcome feedback and suggestions for next week's roundup at mcloutier at Have a great week and if you're on your way to ALA, enjoy!
Posted in: Link Round-Up
Today I have the privilege of sharing an interview I recently conducted with author Carla Jablonski, who's written many books for teens and young adults. You can visit her website and find out more about her and her books at Her first graphic novel, Resistance: Book 1, has recently been published by First Second. What follows is a conversation we had about this book, which focuses on the French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II and in particular about the efforts of a French family to save French Jews.

  1. The narrative, while fictional, is based in historical fact and makes reference to several historical events and circumstances. The Velodrome d'Hiver roundup, the use the Paris sewers as hiding places and the significant presence of French Jews in the Resistance are all alluded to, and although it's not named explicitly, Paul and Marie's efforts to help Henri recall the activities of the Oeuvre de secours aux enfants (Children's Relief Efforts or OSE). When you were researching all this for the book, did you learn anything that surprised you about the Resistance or about France during the war, or anything else?

So much! As an American, what I learned in school was primarily about the American entrance into the war, or very specifically about the Jewish experience. I really didn’t know all that much about what it must have been like for ordinary French people during the war, their daily life, their struggles, and -- especially -- the ways life, although altered, still went on.

I admit I was shocked by the wide-spread and deep strain of anti-Semitism in France, resulting in an overwhelming amount of denunciations. I was also surprised by -- and then used as part of the story -- all of the conflicts within the Resistance itself.

The role of luck and coincidence in many of the successful -- or tragic -- events of the Resistance also was quite startling.

And of course, all the research got me asking the question: “What would I do if my country were occupied?”

  1. What was it about the Resistance that intrigued you? Why is it an important subject to learn about in the context of Holocaust studies for children?

The passion and commitment of people who became part of the Resistance was very compelling to me. How people made choices, what they were willing to risk, and conversely, what lines they weren’t willing to cross were all elements I wanted to explore. Also, the struggle for victory against enormous odds while suffering terrible difficulties is both dramatic and inspiring. I also find the idea of secrets a very appealing subject for fiction-- keeping them, having them, and the danger of them -- particularly as an element in a book for early teens.

For all those same reasons that I was drawn to the Resistance is why I think it’s an important subject for children to learn about. Children often feel helpless in the face of conflicts created by adults. These people took action -- in spite of so much being against them and the dire consequences of failure. Doing the right thing, even if that makes you the minority, is also an important lesson. Discovering that people can all want to do the right thing, yet not agree on how to go about it is also an important topic that can be discussed via the Resistance.

  1. One thing I enjoyed about the book from a reader's perspective was the way you built the suspense slowly and tell the story unflinchingly, sparing neither the horror nor trauma of war. Was it challenging to present these things in a way that's appropriate for children? What audience did you envision as you were writing?

I’ve written a lot for kids and teens, so I actually didn’t find that difficult. I guess I’ve somehow internalized those limits and so the story unfolds in an age-appropriate way without my consciously having to police it!

I think the ideal reader for this is probably about thirteen, though I hope it will appeal to those older (like Sylvie and Jacques) and to those who are younger, like Marie.

  1. What themes or ideas were you trying to illustrate with the choices you made about how to tell the story?

I purposely chose to have three children at different ages so that I could explore the impact of the war at different levels of maturity. Because it’s a graphic novel, I decided to make Paul an artist to really exploit the visual medium. I came up with ideas for his drawings in his sketchbook to reveal what he’s feeling but wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing another way -- while also providing a believable skill that would make him valuable to the Resistance. It was also really important to me to not just be historically accurate (while also being entertaining) but to allow the kids to really be kids -- not little superheroes or overly noble. I worked hard on the dialogue so that it would have the feel of real conversation.

  1. This book is titled Resistance Book 1, suggesting that there may be a Book 2 in the works. Is there? What's it going to be about?

Actually there are two more! It’s a trilogy, following Marie, Paul, and Sylvie through to the liberation of Paris. Each book is set one year apart, and as the kids get older and more deeply involved, the conflicts get more intense and the stakes get higher. Their roles in the Resistance change, they uncover more secrets about people they know, and their relationships change -- with friends, with other Resistance members, with Germans, and even with each other -- sometimes quite dramatically!

Carla, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to AJL and best of luck with the trilogy!
For all those who will be attending the American Library Association Annual Conference in Washington, DC from next Thursday June 24-Tuesday, June 29, 2010 ­

You are very cordially invited to attend any or all of the following ALA Jewish Information Committee and AJL-related events (AJL is now an affiliate of ALA):

Sunday, June 27th: 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Washington Convention Center -147A
Judith Schaefer's 59-minute film, "So Long Are You Young: Samuel Ullman's Poems and Passion," tells the remarkable story of the serendipitous international influence of one poem. This inspiring
documentary highlights Ullman's life (1840-1924), community humanitarian work, and personal courage as an immigrant Jew in Birmingham, Alabama, and how his philosophy came to influence General Douglas MacArthur, postwar Japanese society, and world leaders like Robert and Ted Kennedy.  Ullman biographer and historian Margaret Armbrester will facilitate audience discussion following the screening.

Monday, June 29th: 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Washington Convention Center -147A
Overview of two millennia-long Jewish community in Romania including the Holocaust, Communist, and post-Communist periods; immigration and history of Jews in the USA and Canada; Romanian Holocaust survivors and righteous Gentiles; biographical sketches of noted Romanian Jews; library materials on North American Romanian Jewry including Multicultural Review; and a discussion of the publication, The Romanian Jews in America and Canada (1850-2010) are the main components of this program.  Speakers: Lyn Miller-Lachman, Multicultural Review, Editor-in-Chief; Vladimir Wertsman, EMIERT Publishing and Multicultural Materials Committee, Chair.

Monday, June 29th: 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Washington Convention Center -147A
Jewish Information Committee Meeting.
Please join us to discuss Jewish-related activities in ALA; to talk about how AJL's recent affiliation with ALA will impact the JIC; and to help us plan for the future in relation to programming at ALA's
upcoming Annual Conferences in New Orleans, June 23–28, 2011; Anaheim, CA: June 21–26, 2012; Chicago, June 27- July 2, 2013; and Las Vegas, June 26-July 1, 2014.  Full listing of upcoming ALA Midwinter Meetings and Annual (summer) Conferences through June 2017 can be found at

Monday, June 29th: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Eli's Restaurant
Kosher* dinner at popular Dupont Circle restaurant where we can continue the discussion in more relaxed surroundings and unwind from the intense activity of the world's oldest and largest professional
library association conference.  This is the same heymish/homey place we dined in 2007 as then co-ordinated by JIC immediate Past Chair Ellen Zyroff and current AJL/ALA Co-Liaison.

Directions, menus, and more information at

*Eli's menu and facility are strictly kosher under the supervision of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington

****PLEASE NOTE: If you are certain that you will be joining us for
dinner, please let me know as soon as possible, but no later than
next Wednesday, June 24th to insure your reservation by contacting me
directly (off list) at ****
Whether you're registered for the entire conference, a single day's full participation, or exhibits only, please come by the ALA Affiliates Exhibit Booth # 2533 in the Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, and say hello at the following times:

Sunday, June 27 from 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Monday, June 28 from 9:00-11:00 a.m.

Or volunteer to staff the booth for AJL at another time (please contact me for details).

Exhibit Hours:
Friday, June 25 -- Exhibits ribbon cutting 5:15 pm; Exhibits will open at 5:30 pm
Saturday, June 26 9:00am-5:00pm
Sunday, June 27 9:00am-5:00pm
Monday, June 28 9:00am-4:00pm

Hope to see you in Washington, DC at ALA and in Seattle, Washington State at AJL (July 4-7)!

Elliot H. Gertel
Irving M. Hermelin Curator of Judaica
Association of Jewish Libraries/American Library Association Co-Liaison
Chair, ALA EMIERT Jewish Information Committee
The University of Michigan
Near East Division, Area Programs
111-C Hatcher Graduate Library North
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1190

Posted in: Uncategorized
Howard Droker is a lawyer, a historian, an author, and a docent for the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. He will be leading a tour of Jewish Seattle for convention-goers on Wednesday, July 7.

Congregation Ohaveth Sholum

Howard, can you give us a little sneak peek into the kinds of things people will see on this tour?

Our tour's first stop will be in Pioneer Square, at the Gold Rush National Historic Park. We will briefly examine the role of Jewish merchants in outfitting the prospectors bound for Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. If participants are interested, we can take a 4 or 5-block walk to see the historic buildings that housed some of the Jewish merchants.

We'll then head east to Capitol Hill to visit Temple de Hirsch, the oldest Reform synagogue. The Schoenfeld Chapel houses some of the accoutrements of the 1907 building. And the Temple library is worth seeing. Then we'll drive around the neighborhood where the prosperous Central European founders and members of the Temple lived, south of Volunteer Park.

Driving south, we'll see how the other half lived, the Yesler/Cherry neighborhood where the Eastern Europeans and Sephardim mostly settled. We'll see several former synagogues and the Talmud Torah that have been converted to other uses.

Finally, we'll visit the Seward Park area where three Orthodox (two Sephardic, one Ashkenazic) synagogues relocated from the Central Area between 1954 and 1968. I hope to make arrangements to see the sanctuaries of two or three of the synagogues.

Please give us a brief overview of the history of Jews in the Pacific Northwest.

Being a historian, I can't give you a brief overview! But I'm attaching a pdf of a relatively brief article (about 3 pages) called A Sketch of Seattle's Jewish History.

What’s one Jewish thing about Seattle that most people would be surprised to learn?

I think the most surprising thing about Jewish Seattle is the prominence of the Sephardic community. Seattle has had historically, and continues to have, by far the largest percentage of Sephardim of any city in the country. As a result, Sephardic traditions and culture have survived to a surprising degree.

Can you tell us about any Jewish books set in Seattle, or books about Jews in the area?

I co-authored Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State (University of Washington Press, 2004) with Molly Cone and Jacqueline Williams. The book draws on hundreds of newspaper accounts, articles, and oral histories to provide the first comprehensive account of Washington State's Jewish residents. You may recognize the name Molly Cone, as she is also a well-known and widely published author of books for Jewish children and teenagers.

What Seattle experience should visitors be sure not to miss?

Visitors should not miss the Pike Place Market on the western edge of downtown Seattle. Jews, especially the Sephardim, were prominent fish mongers and vegetable sellers in the market from almost the beginning in 1907. I think there is only one Jewish-owned business remaining, Pure Food Fish Market. The Market today is colorful and interesting, with farmers selling produce and flowers, craftsmen offering their wares, restaurants, and buskers. Plus the views of Elliott Bay from the Market are stunning.

Howard, thanks for the preview! We'll be seeing you on the tour!


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email to tell us what you did!

Posted in: Uncategorized
At the Seattle convention, on Monday July 5, Diane Romm and I will be presenting a session called AJL & Social Media. We’ll be addressing the finer points of AJL’s website, blog, podcast, etc., and also discussing other social media sites of Jewish literary interest.

If this is a topic that interests you, and you think you might attend our session, I’ve got a little preview for you. You may remember last convention’s social media session with podcaster Mark Blevis in 2009, which inspired me to expand upon the topic on my podcast, The Book of Life. I’d like to invite you to go back and listen to those episodes NOW, as they make great background material for what we’ll be discussing at our Seattle session!

Please visit The Book of Life and listen to the 4-part “Why Be Social?” series of episodes. You can find the audio for all four parts here: Or you can look at the four individual postings, which each include links to extra materials and sometimes bonus video as well. Listening to this short series will give you a good grounding in Jewish social media and why it’s important. It’s certainly not required for attending our session, but I think it would help you get more out of it.

Part 1: Why Be Social? Philosophy

Part 2: Why Be Social? Definitions

Part 3: Why Be Social? Suggestions

Part 4: Why Be Social? Create-Consume-Contribute

Looking forward to seeing you in Seattle!
Heidi Estrin
Posted in: Convention
Here are some great links about Jewish books, libraries and more that have hit the web this week.

Two great posts from the Jewish Publication Society blog- a summer reading roundup and a post on Online Jewish Ethics Resources.

Safranim's blog has launched. It's in Hebrew and covers Jewish libraries and books.

Yesterday posted A Very Jewish Bloomsday: everything you need to know for today.

ResourceShelf posted a great article for ebook patrons on sending full text ebooks directly to a Kindle.

An article on Translated Poetry by Avron Sutkever in Hayden's Ferry Review was posted by Erika at the My Machberet book blog.

Great Authors on the Big Jewcy appears at the Jewish Book Council blog.

Q&A with Miryam Kabakov: Editor of Anthology on Orthodox Lesbians is at the Jewish Womens' Archive Jewesses with Attitude blog.

Inter-Religious Dialogue posted their review of the new online YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Have feedback? A link  you'd like to share? Please email me at mcloutier at Have a great week!
Posted in: Link Round-Up
First Second, a comics imprint part of Macmillan, has two graphic novels out now that may be of interest to Judaic libraries that collect for children.

[caption id="attachment_313" align="alignleft" width="140" caption="City of Spies, by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan. Artwork by Pascal Dizin"][/caption]

City of Spies, by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, with artwork by Pascal Dizin. ISBN 978-1-59643-262-8.

In the comics Evelyn draws in secret, the heroic Zirconium Man and his loyal sidekick Scooter always beat the bad guys and save the day. But quiet, lonely Evelyn never imagined she could be a hero, too.

So Evelyn can hardly believe it when she and her new friend Tony uncover a deadly plot being carried out by Nazi spies, right in their neighborhood. Together, the two pals set out to save the day- and help win the war!

[caption id="attachment_314" align="alignright" width="140" caption="Resistance Book 1, by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis"][/caption]

Resistance Book 1, by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis. ISBN 978-1-59643-291-8.

World War II is raging across Europe, but life goes on in the small French village where Paul Tessier lives. With his father being held as a prisoner of war by the German army, it's up to Paul to be the man of the house. Paul has more to worry about than just his own family: his best friend, Henri Levy, is Jewish. When Henri's parents vanish, Paul and his sister Marie construct a plan to hide Henri from the Germans.

But soon their secret leaks the Resistance! This organization of loyal French women and men fights against the German occupiers in any way they can. Now Paul, Marie, and Henri are about to become the Resistance's youngest recruits.

Stay tuned to the AJL blog for an interview with Carla Jablonski, coming soon!
Posted in: Children's Books

Wendy Marcus, the music director at Temple Beth Am in Seattle, has been hard at work on arrangements for the AJL Convention!

Wendy, you will be wearing several hats at the AJL convention, as a presenter and as a musician. Can you tell us a little about your various AJL activities?

Full disclosure: I am a daughter of a librarian.

I’m connected to NW AJL Chapter president Toby Harris through Temple Beth Am, in Seattle’s Jewishly happening North End, where I am music director and editor of Drash: Northwest Mosaic. Toby and Ronnie’s daughters were Bat Mitzvah students of mine!

I’ve scheduled musicians and presenters for the open-to-the-public afternoon on Sunday, July 4, and will serve as emcee. As well, on Tuesday, July 6 at 10:30am, I will gab about community building with the creation of an annual Jewish/Northwest literary journal, Drash: Northwest Mosaic – we’re releasing Volume IV! -- and about Drash readings in farflung corners of the region (fair number of ferries involved).

Your book, Polyglot, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Please tell us a little about the book!

Since 2004, I’ve been writing short stories, especially when inspired by unforgettable characters. I gathered those characters up into Polyglot: Stories of the West’s Wet Edge and won the 2009 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award from Georgia’s Snake Nation Press. Polyglot chronicles lives between Vancouver, BC, and Vancouver, Washington. The stories are linked by the advice of a gay Gypsy columnist (I am a former newspaper reporter), and there are sprinklings from ten different languages (hence the book’s title) – including the language of my heart,Yiddish. The Jewish Book Council kindly named Polyglot one of three finalists in its annual contest this spring. A sequel is in the works.

Studies have shown that Seattle is the most literate city in the nation. What makes Seattle such a great place for reading and libraries?

Between October and April, when skies are gray and sodden here, a good book and a hot cup of coffee keep serious depression at bay! While Seattleites love a good chat and at the slightest sun break leave work early to kayak, hike, bike, run, ski, or garden, we seek individual space, humbled by our dramatic natural elements. There’s a loner streak in us – we like to think, write, read, observe – alone; our external landscape mirrors our internal one.

Can you give us a recommendation for any recent Jewish books you enjoyed?

If you can overlook the typos, Borgo Press has come out with an edited version of short stories by Montague Glass (1877-1934), Potash and Perlmutter, about fictitious partners Abe Potash and Morris Perlmutter, and immigrant foibles in New York’s garment industry. While the dialog is dated and laced with wacky Yidddishisms and German-Jewishisms, the book is a valuable curio. It provides a lowbrow glimpse into the way people in the shmatte business really spoke and lived in the 1910s and 1920s. My grandfather, Louis Marcus, was in the ribbon business in NYC and the book allows me to imagine the kind of schmoozing that went on between him, competitors, buyers, salesmen, and social climbers.

The Seattle area is the home of both Amazon and Apple. What’s your preference, Kindle or iPad? What are your feelings on digital books?

Feh. I don’t even have a cell phone.

What Seattle experience should visitors be sure not to miss?

Take a round-trip ferry ride between downtown Seattle and Bainbridge Island (about 40 minutes one way). Horizon to horizon mountains, glorious fresh air and all these guys baring their chests in 50-degree sunshine!


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email to tell us what you did!

Posted in: Uncategorized
Here are some great articles, book reviews and news on Jewish books, publishing and libraries this week.

Book review: The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor at the Indiana University Press blog.

Lemon Cake Rising at

Library Blog Awards Announced at Points of Reference. Maybe AJL next year?

Not Your Father's Fiction Guide, a review of American Jewish Fiction, by Sanford Pinsker at

Happy 122nd Birthday, JPS! at

Israeli author scoops German literary peace prize, at

The Skala Yizkor Book at

Got a link you'd like to share? Email me at mcloutier at and I'll take a look.
Posted in: Uncategorized
This news item came to our attention thanks to Ya'akov Aronson.

Spring Study Day

Forty librarians from all over the country gathered at the National Library of Israel on 28 April to participate in the Spring Study Day of the Judaica Librarians' Group.  The event took place in the newly renovated lecture hall of the National Library's Music and Sound Archives Collection.

At a brief business meeting held before the lectures Haim Levi of the Hebrew Cataloging Department of the National Library of Israel (NLI) was chosen to serve as Chairman of the group.  The existing Steering
Committee of six members from five institutions will continue to assist the new Chairman.  It was also decided to hold the study days semiannually.

Opening the program was Gil Weissblei, Director of the Chaim Hazaz archive at NLI.  He talked about the ethical dilemma confronting an archivist when having to deal with an archive whose owner requested that all his papers be destroyed but his executor decided that the material was of such importance that it should be preserved.  Examples were drawn from the conflicts that arose concerning the archives of Chaim Hazaz and Franz Kafka.

Arnon Hershkovitz, Founder of the Internet Forum Family Roots, discussed resources for genealogical research available on the Internet as well in printed format.

Project Europeana Judaica, a part of the larger Europeana project to create a multi-lingual online collection of millions of digitized items from European museums, libraries, and archives, was described
by the Director of the Israeli section of the project, Dov Weiner. The Israel National Library has recently joined the project and will provide important items for the collection.

Closing the day Dr. Gila Flam, Director of the National Library's Music and Sound Archives Collection, discussed the unique challenges encountered in digitizing a music collection of over 30,000 hours recorded in many different formats over more than half a century.

Got an event or group you'd like us to know about? Send an email to mcloutier at Thanks!
Posted in: Events
April Halprin Wayland won the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award for her picture book New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story. She will be speaking at the 2010 AJL Convention, and will also be an honored guest at the Tuesday night gala, where she will receive her award.

April, the first AJL convention you ever attended was in 2009 in Chicago. The very next year, you’re attending as an honored guest, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award! Please talk a little about that transformation.

Honestly, I attended the AJL convention because it was the week prior to ALA in the same Chicago hotel, I finally had a Jewish book coming out…and I had frequent flyer miles. Since I live in Southern California, this was a magic one-two punch—how could I NOT attend?

I didn’t know much about AJL but I’d known Susan Dubin for years in Los Angeles—in fact, she was one of the first readers of an early version of New Year at the Pier (and thank goodness for her terrific comments on that 2003 manuscript!)—but I had NO IDEA she was a mover and shaker in AJL until much later—silly me!

I’ve always loved the excitement of ALA and didn’t know what to expect at the AJL. The intimacy of this convention and the warm and welcoming hugs won me over. I enjoyed the Authors and Illustrators luncheon, loved attending sessions and gathering informally with attendees and other authors.

There was one amazing evening of pizza and camaraderie at certified “readiologist” Esmé Raji Codell’s Planet Esme Reading Room—a private, magical library which Esmé opens to speakers, writing groups, class field trips and gatherings like ours.

I was utterly star struck by you Heidi, by Barbara Beitz and others, including Mark Blevis of Just One More Book. I am still starstruck by you, Heidi!

Another favorite memory is when I nervously introduced myself to Natalie Blitt, program director of the PJ Library. I wanted to ask her how to submit my book for consideration by her organization. She looked at me a bit surprised…and then smiled. “New Year at the Pier is on our list. It’s being sent out in August.” ALREADY on their list? Already a special edition printed to be sent in August? I was over the moon!

Are you working on any new books, especially anything with Jewish content? Please tell us about your recent writing.

I am working on several books…one is a picture book with a Jewish theme. But I’ve learned that if I talk about an idea before it’s fully hatched, energy leaks out of it… It’s an idea I’ve been playing with for years. I recently wrote a poem incorporating this topic and that has helped me structure the book. Fingers crossed!

What else am I up to? I’ve been teaching a class on writing picture books for ten years through the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program. In addition to that one, I’ll be rolling out a new class this summer which I’m looking forward to.

And I took the Poem-A-Day Challenge for National Poetry Month, which was scary because it can take weeks for me to write one poem. Write a poem every single day and post it for all to read? But I did and I can actually say that it changed my life.You can read the poems at

Can you give us a recommendation for any recent Jewish books you enjoyed?

I am embarrassed to say that I’ve just discovered the 2006 book, Across the Alley by Richard Michelson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Putnam, 2006). Michelson wrote the wonderful As Good as Anybody, illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf, 2009), about Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel [which won the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award].

I bought both books at The AJL’s Western Regional Jewish Literature for Children Conference this year in Los Angeles.

The Seattle area is the home of both Amazon and Apple. What’s your preference, Kindle or iPad? What are your feelings on digital books, and the online world in general?

I love the size of my Kindle, which revolutionized my reading. But holding my Kindle as they introduce the iPad is like owning a black and white TV when they introduced color. Suddenly I am drooling over the newest thing. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? That, my friend, is the glory and the danger of how our appetites for new stuff are created. (See The Story of Stuff.)

As a poet and the author of a novel in poems and several picture books, I am waiting for the next generation of digital reader that allows us to increase the font size without messing with the alignment of each poem or the arrangement of text next to an illustration. It doesn’t work yet but it will…soon.

As I said, my Kindle, which my husband and son gave me as a surprise when New Year at the Pier was first published, has changed me as a reader. I can read effortlessly at night when my eyes are tired, of course.

But more than that: when my mother, a voracious reader, was in an auto accident on a Sunday and needed a book, the fact that I could download one instantly and teach this 87-year-old technophobe to use it in a few minutes was a game changer for us both.

And when we were in Kauai, Hawaii, looking for Makua Beach where the sea turtles hang out, I downloaded a copy of Hidden Kauai as we were driving! That made my husband a true believer.

What are you most looking forward to about visiting Seattle?

Seeing my cousins! Pike’s market and local thrift stores!

Okay, for a more erudite answer, I can’t wait to take in all the convention has to offer…especially after a year of presenting my first Jewish book at workshops, schools and synagogues.

Also, I’m crossing my fingers that Stéphane Jorisch, the illustrator of New Year at the Pier will be able to attend the convention. I’ve never met him but I adore the man from his kind emails and his extraordinary art.

April, as always, we love your enthusiasm! We can't wait to see you in Seattle!

Thanks, Heidi. And one final thing? Please listen to and then pass on: Circulate This: Stories from the School Library ( It’s a wonderful NPR-style audio magazine of interviews with teacher librarians, library staff, teachers, community members, parents, administrators, an author and most importantly, students…telling personal stories of the importance of school libraries and teacher librarians in their lives. (It’s about 47 min. long…I’m interviewed 20-24 minutes in.)


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email to tell us what you did!

Posted in: Uncategorized
The Man Who Flies with Birds, by Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem. Published 2009 by Kar-Ben Publishing. Hardcover.

Today's Nonfiction Monday features Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem's wonderful book, The Man Who Flies with Birds. The Man Who Flies with Birds is a profile of Yossi Leshem, an internationally recognized bird expert who has spent much of his life researching bird-migration problems over Israel so as to prevent injuries and deaths to both birds and humans by reducing the number and frequency of "bird strikes"- incidences where a bird or group of bird strikes a man-made aircraft, which causes numerous accidents every year.

As it happens, Israel is an important part of worldwide bird migration and studying this problem has lead to a greater understanding of bird behavior. This detailed, beautifully written book gives an impressive overview of many elements of the problem- everything from the physics of bird flight to the effects of thermals, or so-called "elevators of the sky" on birds' flight paths and migratory habits.

One of Leshem's main goals has been to increase awareness of bird conservation and protection, as well as to save human lives. The success of his work has depended on cooperation from neighboring countries and now several countries in the region are in the early stages of building a regional warning system to alert each other of bird migrations and possible problems for aircraft.

The Man Who Flies with Birds is a wonderful book to share with children. Illustrated throughout with photographs as well as scientific illustrations, its complex information is accessible and easy to read. It's a fascinating, informative story of one man's work to make the skies a little safer and children will learn a little science along with a good message about caring for nature.

Nonfiction Monday is a moving meme headquartered at Picture Book of the Day and hosted this week at Charlotte's Library.
Here are some great links from this past week on Jewish books, libraries and learning.

Podcasts: Exclusive Lectures! Three Scholars and Jewish American Women in History, from the Lilith blog. interviews Aharon Appelfeld, from the Schocken Books blog.

The Model of a Modern Major Novelist, a profile of Joseph Skibell at the Jewish Book Council blog.

When the Hurricane Came to New Orleans, the latest post on The Book of Life podcast/blog.
Rosenbloom is the incoming AJL President and will take up his duties on July 1, 2010.

I am the Judaica Librarian at Brandeis University, where I have worked since 1976.  I am responsible for all subjects taught in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Dept., as well as Classics and Religion.  I am part of the Special Collections Dept., and recently mounted an exhibit from the collection of Prof. Benjamin Ravid on his father Simon Rawidowicz.  I also serve as a "lead" for the humanities librarians.  In AJL I was vice-president, and am currently president of the RAS Division.  I have also served on the RAS awards committee for a number of years, and I chair the RAS Digitization Committee.

Over the last couple of years, many of our AJL members have proposed and then implemented ways in which we can make the wider Jewish community aware of the  importance of our organization in the training and support of Judaica librarians in all  Jewish educational, social and religious organizations, as well in academic settings.  Increased visibility on the web, an improved website and a major increase in public relations outreach are only a few of the recent areas in which we have made major strides.  I look forward to supporting all outreach efforts.

We also need to make ourselves an important part of the professional lives of all those interested in Judaica librarianship.  I recently went as AJL representative to a major technology and library conference in Tel Aviv.  I met with a number of people there, as well as with librarians at the National Library and Yad Vashem, as well as  some professors to discuss ways in which librarians from Israel, America, Europe and other areas can coordinate efforts.  We can exchange ideas, and perhaps participate in projects together, especially in the realm of digitization.  We  have already been asked to contribute metadata for  a project called Judaica Europeana.
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If you are an author, editor, or publisher of Jewish books for children  or teens, please submit your 2010 titles for consideration. Click here for submission instructions, or e-mail for full details.
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The AJL Convention will take place at Seattle's Fairmont Olympic Hotel. We spoke to Conference Services Manager Sarah Carter to find out what's in store for convention attendees.

Sarah, please tell us a little about the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel was the original site of the University of Washington, dated all the way back to 1861. Once converted into the “Grand Dame” hotel that it is now considered, in 1924, the property began hosting some of the Pacific Northwest’s most celebrated events. The Olympic boasts 450 rooms including 219 Suites and 2 Presidential Suites; a full service health club including indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, work out arena and saunas; as well as over 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Olympic has hosted Kings and Queens of over a dozen countries, celebrities of every art form and 8 different U.S. Presidents.

What makes the Fairmont the perfect place for a Jewish library convention?

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel has a long standing tradition of catering events specifically to the customers needs and preferences. One of our proudest features is our Kosher kitchen and our Kosher Catering process that has been in place since 1984. Carving out an entire sector of our kitchen and dedicating it to Kosher preparation and ensuring all staff have undergone proper training and education has made The Olympic the only high-end Kosher Catering company in the Seattle area.

Can you give us any insider tips about the hotel? What should convention attendees be sure not to miss?

Guests of The Fairmont Olympic are entitled to a plethora of amenities on site to help make their stay most enjoyable. For the active guest, our full service health club is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, a full length indoor swimming pool, free weights and yoga balls. Be sure to check out to sign up for our Fairmont Presidents Club membership ( which is a free rewards program that grants you access to complimentary Addias sports attire rentals during your stay!

Happy hour is the best hour here at The Olympic. Both Shuckers and The Terrace Lounge have delicious small plates and drink specials that are sure to wet your appetite in the afternoon. Try the Halibut ‘n Chips or $1 oysters on the half-shell in Shuckers or the all-you-can-eat cheese platter for $12 in The Terrace. Bon appetit!

What’s a highlight of the neighborhood around the hotel?

The hotel is situated in the heart of downtown Seattle in what is known as the Financial District. Just a few short blocks from the famous landmark, Pike Place Market, guests of The Olympic and locals alike love strolling through its stalls browsing all the local farmers and crafts. The renowned 5th Avenue Musical Theatre is located across the street from the hotel, entertaining the masses with some of Broadway’s biggest hits. Guests enjoy shopping at Westlake Center and Pacific Place where entertainment, dining and fashionable boutiques collide. If its adventure you are looking for, Mount Rainer is a beautiful drive away for hiking and picnicking. South Lake Union, Lake Washington and Puget Sound all offer gorgeous views, pristine parks, boat tours and fishing escapes as well. There is truly something for everyone.

Be sure to stop by our Concierge Desk and chat with one of our agents to learn more about what Seattle has to offer you!

For you, what’s the best thing about Seattle?

To me, the best thing about Seattle is the abundance of nature so close to the city. The amazing views of the Olympic mountain range, Cascade Mountain range, Mount Rainier, Lake Washington, the Puget Sound and its many islands all surround the city with such beauty! Boat cruise and hiking are among my favorite activities. My second favorite thing about Seattle is the friendliness. The people are friendly- they wave when you let their car merge into your lane, they say excuse me when they walk too close. Seattle with its natural beauty and friendliness is a place I am proud to call home!

Can you tell us about any of your own favorite books or authors?

One of my favorite writers is actually a husband & wife team that writes historical fiction. Their names are Bodie and Brocke Thoene and I believe they are actually Christian writers, but a few of their series have focused strongly on Jewish history during World War II and during the early years of Israel. The series I have read include: The Zion Chronicles, The Zion Legacy and The Zion Covenant, each with 5 or more books. These books are educational, as they are based on true events, yet they are also fun to read as they include adventure, romance and relationships that draw the reader in.

Sarah, thanks for giving us this taste of the The Olympic! We're all looking forward to staying with you.

We are so excited here at The Olympic to welcome AJL for the conference in July. We truly hope that each guest leaves with a wonderful memory of our hotel and great city!


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email to tell us what you did!

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Recently I had the opportunity to interview Booker-Prize winning author Yann Martel, author of the new novel Beatrice and Virgil. Beatrice and Virgil is a fascinating novel that takes an unconventional approach to one of the most challenging subjects available to literature- the Holocaust.

[caption id="attachment_225" align="alignleft" width="140" caption="Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel"][/caption]

I had the privilege of speaking to Mr. Martel during the second leg of his American tour to promote the book, which has been widely, and variously, reviewed.

Text Publishing offers a roundup of some of the reviews that have come in, and an analysis of the controversy surrounding this most unusual book.

Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 for Life of Pi. He is also the author of several other books as well as the blog What is Stephen Harper Reading, a document of his ongoing project to share his passion for literature with the Prime Minister of Canada.

The interview is approximately 30 minutes in length and is presented here in four parts.

Yann Martel Interview Part 1 of 4

Yann Martel Interview Part 2 of 4

Yann Martel Interview Part 3 of 4

Yann Martel Interview Part 4 of 4


Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) — just email to show us what you did!

[caption id="attachment_237" align="alignleft" width="140" caption="Ellis Island: Coming to the Land of Liberty, by Raymond Bial"]

Ellis Island: Coming to the Land of Liberty, by Raymond Bial. Published 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Ellis Island: Coming to the Land of Liberty is a fine, straightforward account of the history behind one of America's most famous landmarks, Ellis Island, and the many people from all over the world who passed through its gates.

Illustrated throughout by photographs of archival material and modern-day buildings, the book begins with the famous poem by Emma Lazarus (see last week's Nonfiction Monday for a lovely picture book about Lazarus) and takes the reader, immigrant's-eye style, through the process of entering the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Author Raymond Bial, a photographer and prolific author, covers such topics as the "buttonhook test" for disease and others in an authoritative yet accessible style.

Readers see passports used by immigrants, exhibits of clothing and personal effects- even a mattress slept on by children in steerage class. Bial also talks about the "nativist" anti-immigration movement and other trends in American politics that affected how immigrants were viewed and treated. In the end, Bial quotes Harry Truman's statements reinforcing the benefit to the nation of accepting people "from every race and from every quarter of the world.

Ellis Island is  inspiring and informative look at an important chapter in American history.

Nonfiction Monday is a moving meme headquartered at Picture Book of the Day and hosted this week at 100 Scope Notes.
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[caption id="attachment_217" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Maxim D. Shrayer"][/caption]

Maxim D. Shrayer ( is professor of Russian, English, and Jewish studies at Boston College. Among his books are Russian Poet/Soviet Jew and the literary memoir Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration. In 2007 Shrayer won the National Jewish Book Award for An Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature.

Author's photo by Aaron Washington.

Maxim D. Shrayer in conversation with Marie Cloutier about his new book, the collection of stories YOM KIPPUR IN AMSTERDAM.

7 May 2010

1. “Yom Kippur in Amsterdam” is a collection of eight short stories

[caption id="attachment_216" align="alignright" width="140" caption="Yom Kippur in Amsterdam: Stories by Maxim D. Shrayer"][/caption]

about a diverse group of characters, people at different points in their lives and different settings, many of them on the verge of one transition or another. Can you elaborate some of the themes the stories share? How do these eight stories form a whole?

MDS: This sounds both alluring and mysterious. Thank you, Marie, for reading the collection. You’re right that the eight stories in Yom Kippur in Amsterdam aren’t connected by narrative threads. At the same time, thematic ropes and tethers of identity hold the collection together. Seven of the eight stories are set—and the eighth is presumably remembered and told—in Russian America. All the protagonists except one are Russian immigrants or their children. In these stories, I trace various obsessions and aspirations of Russian (Soviet) immigrants in America. There is humor and tenderness in the stories, and also heartbreak and nostalgia. There are boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and culture that my characters desperately try yet often fail to cross. The identities of my characters are overloaded (Jewish, Russian, Soviet, almost or partly American) and therefore unstable, volatile. It’s not simple or easy to generalize about one’s own book or one’s beloved characters. I think my new book offers a collective portrait of Jews in America struggling to come to terms with ghosts of their Russian and Soviet pasts.

2. What was it about these themes that intrigued you? What were you trying to work through or think about as you were writing?

MDS: As you know, there are about 750,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union living in North America, and about a million in Israel. It’s difficult to imagine the fabric of our communities without ex-Soviet Jews. And yet, our stories (or is it our story?) are only now entering the cultural mainstream. Several years ago, in my memoir Waiting for America, I wrote about Soviet Jews waiting in transit, in Austria and Italy, to become Americans. As I worked on the stories in Yom Kippur in Amsterdam, I kept asking myself: Why is it that in America Soviet Jews and their children have been so successful professionally (think, for instance, of the inventor of Google), and yet have not been fully integrated or acculturated as either Jews or Americans? In creating my characters, I wanted to get to the bottom of what it feels like to be constantly wrestling with the mix of prosperity, professional pride, cultural loneliness, and insecurity that defines the lives of many ex-Soviet Jews.

3. A the end of the title story, Jake, the protagonist, has what struck me as a near-mystical experience, this moment of "piercing clarity." What was this clarity? Does it come from within him, or from an external source? What prepares him (and us) for the change about to overtake him?

MDS: You’re absolutely correct that Jake Glaz undergoes a mystical experience while attending the Yom Kippur service at Amsterdam’s Portuguese synagogue. We should also remember that Glaz comes to Amsterdam in the aftermath of having broken up with his Catholic girlfriend Erin, who wouldn’t convert (he still has strong feelings for her). And let’s also keep in mind that upon arriving in Amsterdam (he stops there on the way home from Nice so as to avoid having to atone in flight), Jake Glaz visits the Red Light district and finds some answers to his dilemma of marriage and identity in a paid-for conversation with a part-German, part-Jewish prostitute. Since the experience Jake undergoes during the Yom Kippur service is a metaphysical one, his “clarity” is quite beyond words—either in his native Russian or his acquired English. It would be presumptuous for me to overinterpret in discursive terms what I have related in the story though a combination of metaphors and a lyrical digression.

I will tell you this much: Jake’s realization relieves him of some of his doubts about his own identity. Allow me to offer a brief quote from the scene (this is on p. 141 of the book): “Jake was no longer thinking of Yom Kippur, of Erin, of Jewishness and Christianity. Those matters he had already understood, if not fully resolved in his heart, and this knowledge comforted him. He arrived at a plan—in the streets of Amsterdam: he would return to Baltimore, where after seventeen years his immigrant family had rooted themselves; they had even brought back from Moscow and reburied the remains of his father's parents. In four years, when Jake turned forty, he would have lived in America for half his life. Leaving Russia at nineteen, he had carried with him on the plane baggage so heavy that it took him years to unload it and so lofty that there were still times he couldn't stand solidly on American ground. That first flight over the Atlantic was also a flight from all the demons, monsters, and sirens a Jew can never seem to escape.”

4. How does your book fit into the growing, and fascinating, body of fiction emerging from the post-Soviet landscape?

MDS: That’s certainly not for me to judge, Marie. Take a look at this very amusing flyer (attached). A colleague of mine found it in a blog devoted to things Russian, American and literary. As you can see, this list of younger writers (how young is younger—in the Soviet Union it was 35, sometimes even 40), includes 5 authors born in the former USSR and writing in English, 1 author born in the USSR and writing in both English and Russian, 1 American-born author of Turkish descent with Russian literary interests, and 1 American-born author (whose origins I honestly don’t know) who writes fictions about Russian characters. What do you make of such a category of writers “on notice”? I certainly agree that the Russian-American literary landscape is beginning to expand again. But people sometimes forget that the Russian presence in Anglo-American letters goes back to the 1800s, and also that we have yet to climb peak Lolita or to descend to the bottom of canyon Fountainhead.

5. Tapping your expertise as a scholar of Soviet and Jewish literature, what are some recent Jewish/Russian fiction and nonfiction that Judaica librarians might consider adding to their collections?

MDS: Volume 2 of Antony Polonsky’s The Jews in Poland and Russia is a must (it was just released), along with the previously published volume 1. It would also make me very happy if Judaica librarians got to know my Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature.

6. Would you be willing to share a personal memory about a library that helped shape you as a scholar and a writer?

MDS: In the spring of 1993 I spent almost two months in Prague gathering materials for what would eventually become my first book, The World of Nabokov’s Stories. I was renting a section in the house of Viktor Faktor, a vintage ’68 Czech dissident. Every morning I would have breakfast in an overflowing cherry orchard and then take a tram to the center of town. I would walk across the Charles Bridge and then disappear in the cloisters of the Slavonic Library. I was researching aspects of Russian émigré culture in then the recently opened holdings of what had remained of the Russian Historical Archive Abroad. Dr. Milena Klímová, at the time director of the Slavonic Library, introduced me to a saintly archivist by the name of Helena Musátova.

A Prague-born daughter of Russian émigrés, Ms. Musátova was herself a living legacy of the great interwar émigré culture which had been destroyed and dispersed by the fires of World War 2 and the Holocaust. With Ms. Musátova’s help, I was able to read though the complete runs of dozens of émigré newspapers and magazines. I made small discoveries. To the librarians at the Slavonic Library—and to other dedicated librarians with whom I’ve had the good fortune of working—I owe a debt of gratitude. So imagine, I would spend the day perusing the time-yellowed émigré publications, and then I would wander around Prague, coming onto vestiges of its Jewish and Russian past—now Kafka’s grave, now a cottage where Tsvetaeva had stayed in the 1920s. That “Prague spring” of research and discovery has influenced me profoundly, and I have yet to cast these impressions and memories into creative prose.

It’s a pleasure to talk to you, Marie. Good luck.

7 May 2010.

Maxim D. Shrayer’s answers copyright © Maxim D. Shrayer.

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