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48th Annual Association of Jewish Libraries Conference
June 16-19, 2013
Houston, TX


Posted in: Conferences

Austin Ratner

Barbara Krasner is a member of AJL's Sydney Taylor Book Award committee, and blogs at The Whole Megillah. She conducted this interview with author Austin Ratner about his new book, In the Land of the Living, the story of a Jewish family, "fathers, sons, and brothers - bound by love, divided by history."

Barbara Krasner (BK): On behalf of the Association of Jewish Libraries, hello and welcome, Austin. Thanks for joining me in this cyber discussion about your second novel, In the Land of the Living.

Austin Ratner (AR): I appreciate the opportunity for an interview and for your thoughtful questions. 

BK: What inspired the idea for this book?

AR: When I was in college, I consulted my creative writing teacher about a problem I imagined was unique to me: I had lost my father when I was so young I could not remember him, yet I had a recurring urge to write about him, his death, and how he lingered in my thoughts and feelings. I asked my teacher if he had any advice and I was surprised by his response. He told me that he too had lost his father in his earliest years and that everything he wrote related in some way to this loss, but he cautioned me against trying to write about it directly. As I get older and more experienced with the difficulties of writing and selling fiction, his advice seems only more sensible. Nonetheless, I could never quite exorcise the urge to write directly on this topic. That is what In the Land of the Living is about: a traumatic loss in early childhood and how it can dominate the thoughts of a person for the rest of his life.

BK: In what ways was writing In the Land of the Living different from writing The Jump Artist?

AR: While The Jump Artist also dealt with the lingering effects of emotional injury, it was in many ways a more straightforward story. It was about one discrete period of an adult man’s life. The premise of In the Land of the Living meant linking together two lives—a father and a son—that only intersected on earth for a few years. That posed technical challenges to me as a novelist.

BK: What was the greatest challenge? The greatest satisfaction?

AR: For all the lip-service paid to the importance of child development in our society, I do not find most people to be particularly psychologically literate about it or particularly interested in thinking about it. I view it as a personal victory that I was able to write directly and truthfully about the underserved theme of childhood loss and its residua, and to get it into print with a major publisher in both the U.S. and France. It’s the most civilized response I think I could mount against this particularly helpless experience. Several years ago, when I wrote about the theme more autobiographically in The New York Times Magazine, I heard from all kinds of people who felt as I did. I hope I speak for them as well as to them.

BK: What thought process did you use to set up Isidore as a knight (and the chapter headings)?

AR: Picaresque medieval romances like Le Morte D’Arthur use grandiose chapter titles that confer legendary significance upon everything the knights do. I used such titles in Part I of my novel in the same spirit that Cervantes uses them in Don Quixote: to satirize quixotic, heroic, romantic ideals—or at least to draw a contrast between them and the more sordid and brutal reality. Whereas Don Quixote often undermines the heroic ideal by comic failures, the brutal reality of what happens to Isidore undermines the heroic ideal in a particularly tragic way.

BK: The relationship between Leo and Mack fascinates me—how one event can shift the foundation of a relationship. How did this come about? Was it difficult or easy to write? What led to the choice of Leo as your protagonist?

AR: The relationship between the brothers I think is really important to help aerate the protagonist Leo’s internal warfare with his own past. With Mack in it, the narrative is not only about Leo and his past but about another person too, and Leo’s interactions with his brother are a narrative strategy for telling the story of Leo’s relation to his own past in a dynamic, living, present-tense sort of way. Brothers share a certain history, and so a brother can be a living representative of one’s own past, and a way of interacting with one’s own past in an external way. 

BK: One of the characteristics I’ve noticed about your writing is your specificity, for example, the scene in the New Haven Public Library: “But this library couldn’t save him, with its shabby little collections, its early closing time, its oblivious teenage librarian doing her homework, making fat redundant loops of blue ballpoint ink on some wide-ruled notebook paper.” Does this come naturally to you or do you insert these details strategically?

AR: We recently started reading Charlotte’s Web to my younger son. Its details create a persuasive fictional dream in a way that many other children’s stories don’t. Charlotte’s Web is of course by E.B. White, the master himself, co-author of Elements of Style. That classic writing primer says: “The greatest writers—Homer, Dante, Shakespeare—are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures.”

In the Land of the Living

BK: What do you want readers to take away from In the Land of the Living?

AR: If I’ve emulated E.B. White’s use of detail, I couldn’t aspire to the beautiful simplicity of his story structure—and the reason perhaps goes back to the decision not to back away from a direct, realistic treatment of childhood loss despite this subject’s enormous psychological complexity. Literature has perhaps moved on from the deep introspection of modernism, but the emotional terrain of childhood loss requires such deep modernist introspection, wherein a persuasive fictional dream of inner life occupies the foreground and a diverting story the background. I hope readers enjoy the story and the humor in In the Land of the Living, but the more important thing to me is whether readers experience a persuasive fictional dream and feel they’ve encountered another real consciousness in the book. A persuasive fictional dream is always more diverting to me than a conventional story anyway.

BK: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you go from med school to the Iowa Workshop?

AR: This question always makes me think of Gonzo in The Muppet Movie. He tells Kermit and Fozzie he’s going to Bombay, India to become a movie star. They tell him: you don’t go to Bombay, India to become a movie star, you go to Hollywood, where we’re going. Gonzo says, sure, if you want to do it the easy way. I always wanted to be a writer, but I did not take a direct path. There are worse paths, though, than the one that leads through a medical career. Somerset Maugham said that medical school was the ideal preparation for any fiction writer.

BK: What’s your typical writing schedule? In other words, how do you write?

AR: When I am not crippled by self-doubt, I write automatically, like I eat and breathe and sleep. The trick for me is to combat the doubt. Then the words come and work gets done and something gets created.

BK: Thanks, Austin, for a great interview. I can’t wait to read your next work.

Posted in: Authors, Interview

48th Annual Association of Jewish Libraries Conference
June 16-19, 2013
Houston, TX
www.jewishlibraries.org

Posted in: Conferences

   In these difficult economic times, libraries are often on the line. Despite their inherent worth and their natural alignment with Jewish values, libraries within larger Jewish organizations may be seen as a "frill" when it comes time for budget-cutting.

   In order to prevent such a dire scenario, it's important to market library services and advocate for the library all year round. Library advocacy guides can help you do so without reinventing the wheel.

  There are many library advocacy guides available online, but until now there has not been one with a Jewish point of view. AJL has created the Jewish Library Advocacy Kit, which includes materials that can simply be handed to administrators, as well as documents to be adapted and recrafted for each library's individual situation.

   You can find the Jewish Library Advocacy Kit on the AJL website in the Resources section, or simply download the PDF here. We hope that you will find these materials useful, and that you will let us know of any suggestions for improvement.

The February/March 2013 issues of AJL News & Reviews have now been posted to the members-only section of the website, at http://www.jewishlibraries.org/main/Publications/NewsReviews.aspx. Please log in to read them. Older issues are freely available without login.


This issue of AJL News includes the rundown of Sydney Taylor Book Award winners, a recap of the Midwinter Council meeting, and information and registration form for the AJL Conference in Houston this June. AJL Reviews, as always, offers critical reviews of adult and children's books of Jewish interest.

 

On this final day of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, awards committee member Barbara Krasner hosts a roundtable wrap-up at her blog, The Whole Megillah. Read responses from various winners, as if they were participating in a panel presentation at a conference!

 

Thanks to all the winners for their participation in the blog tour, to all the bloggers for hosting, and to you, the readers, for your enthusiasm and attention!

Read an interview with Linda Leopold Strauss, author of The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale (Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category) at Pen and Prose! A highlight: "As I was writing the story, I kept hearing the cadence of my grandparents’ Yiddish-speaking voices in my head.  The repetition of phrases, the rhythms, the word combinations.  And I think their voices also very much informed the way I wrote the story."


Read an interview with Alexi Natchev, illustrator of The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale(Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category) at Madelyn Rosenberg's Virtual Living Room! A highlight: "In my artistic education, illustration was really not just for children. In my formative years, art was part of the idealogical system. We were living at that time on the other side of the Iron Curtain so everything was very ideological and politicized. But in the illustration field you could be a little more creative, not so rigidly following certain requirements of clichés and artistic concepts with which you didn’t necessarily always agree."

Read an interview with Sheri Sinykin, author of Zayde Comes to Live (Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category) at Read, Write, Repeat! A highlight: "My dearest wish is that Zayde will bring reassurance, peace, and completeness — shalom! — to children just discovering the circle of life they’ve heard sung about in the popular animated movie."


Read an interview with Kristina Swarner, illustrator of Zayde Comes to Live (Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category) at Writing and Illustrating! A highlight: "I really didn’t want to make the art too sad or pensive. The ideas evolved as I sketched, and the more I sketched, the more the tenderness and joyfulness of the story came out in the art."

Read an interview with Linda Glaser, author of Hannah's Way (Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Younger Readers Category) at This Messy Life! A highlight: "This is a story about staying true to one’s traditions but still wanting to “belong.” It’s also a story about ordinary children who, through a simple act of kindness, become heroes. I hope that with the help of the Sydney Taylor Award, Hannah’s Way will reach many more kids and will do its small part to encourage tolerance, acceptance, and kindness."

 

Read an interview with Adam Gustavson, illustrator of Hannah's Way (Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Younger Readers Category) at Here in HP! A highlight: "I’ve always drawn; my mother was an artist when I was growing up, and my brothers and I drew like most other kids would play ball. It was a big part of how we played together. My father, an engineer, used to come home with art supplies he’d picked up for us on his way home from work. I grew up in the only household for miles and miles where a crisis consisted of my mother trying to find out just who took her kneaded eraser."

 

Read an interview with Louise Borden, author of His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg (Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Older Readers Category) at Randomly Reading! A highlight: "Young readers have much longer lives ahead of them.  I want them to be inspired by this man and by his character and actions.  I want kids to know that they too can make a positive difference in the world.  I want them to find their own heroes.  And I want readers to remember Raoul Wallenberg and to carry his story into their own futures.  We are all storytellers - kids will remember a great story and I hope they will tell others and use its power for good in their own lives."

 

Read an interview with Deborah Heiligman, author of Intentions (Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Teen Readers Category) at The Fourth Musketeer! A highlight: "I wanted to capture that moment in a teen's life when she realizes that someone she adores and even idolizes is flawed. That happened to me in a pretty spectacular way in my community growing up (though not quite as spectacularly as in the book!) and it was a truly painful time. That moment informs who you become I think--because how you deal with it can shape the rest of your life."

Read an interview with Ann Redisch Stampler, author of The Wooden Sword (Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category) at Shelf-Employed! A highlight: "as I researched the Afghani story, learning more about the culture of the Jews who lived with their Muslim neighbors in Afghanistan for a thousand years, I loved it. It was hilarious, but at the same time, its message was profound."

 

Read an interview with Carol Liddiment, illustrator of The Wooden Sword (Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category) at Ann Koffsky's Blog!  A highlight: "This is a warm story about the Shah’s desire to understand the poor man’s faith. It is a story about tolerance and understanding… I hope that message can be embraced by all."

 

Read an interview with Doreen Rappaport, author of Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust (Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category) at Bildungsroman! A highlight: "I feel I was privileged to learn about so many Jewish children, men and women, who exhibited extraordinary courage and foresight during the nightmare of the Holocaust.  I had the privilege of speaking directly with three survivors and forging a friendship with one of them.  My research led me into a world I knew nothing about and filled me with enormous pride about these courageous Jews."

 

 

Share this Blog Tour Poster

Here is a fun Blog Tour poster created at Pulp-O-Mizer! Feel free to repost it! 


The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be celebrating and showcasing its 2013 gold and silver medalists and a few selected Notables with a Blog Tour, February 11-15, 2013! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a wide variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. For those of you who have not yet experienced a Blog Tour, it’s basically a virtual book tour. Instead of going to a library or bookstore to see an author or illustrator speak, you go to a website on or after the advertised date to read an author’s or illustrator’s interview.

Below is the schedule for the 2013 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!

THE 2013 SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD BLOG TOUR


MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2013

Ann Redisch Stampler, author of The Wooden Sword
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older ReadersCategory
At Shelf-Employed 

Carol Liddiment, illustrator of The Wooden Sword
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older ReadersCategory
At Ann Koffsky’s Blog 

Doreen Rappaport, author of Beyond Courage: The Untold Storyof Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category
At Bildungsroman


TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2013

Linda Glaser, author of Hannah’s Way
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger ReadersCategory
At This Messy Life 

Adam Gustavson, illustrator of Hannah’s Way
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger ReadersCategory
At Here in HP 

Louise Borden, author of His Name was Raoul Wallenberg
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older ReadersCategory
At Randomly Reading 

Deborah Heiligman, author of Intentions
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At The Fourth Musketeer 


WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2013

Sheri Sinykin, author of Zayde Comes to Live
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Read, Write, Repeat 

Kristina Swarner, illustrator of Zayde Comes to Live
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Writing and Illustrating


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2013

Linda Leopold Strauss, author of The Elijah Door
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Pen and Prose 

Alexi Natchev, illustrator of The Elijah Door
Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Younger Readers Category
At Madelyn Rosenberg’s Virtual Living Room 


FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2013

Blog Tour Wrap-Up at The Whole Megillah 



The Sydney TaylorBook Award Winner for Younger Readers:

Hannah’s Way by Linda Glaser with illustrations by Adam Gustavson

 (Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Older Readers:

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden

(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)

The Sydney Taylo rBook Award Winner for Teen Readers:

Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

(Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House)

Sydney Taylor Honor Books for Younger Readers:

Zayde Comes to Live by Sheri Sinykin with illustrationsby Kristina Swarner

(Peachtree Publishers)

The Elijah Door: APassover Tale by Linda Leopold Strauss with illustrations by Alexi Natchev

(Holiday House)

Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Older Readers:

The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan

 by Ann Redisch Stampler with illustrations by Carol Liddiment

(Albert Whitman & Company)

Sydney Taylor HonorBook for Teen Readers:

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

by Doreen Rappaport

(Candlewick Press)

Notable Books forYounger Readers:

Sadie and the Big Mountain by Jamie Korngold with illustrations by Julie Fortenberry

(Kar-Ben, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

The Schmutzy Family by Madelyn Rosenberg with illustrations by Paul Meisel

(Holiday House)

A Song for My Sister by Lesley Simpson with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

(Random House Books for Young Readers)

Speak Up, Tommy! By Jacqueline Dembar Greene with illustrations by Deborah Melmon

(Kar-Ben, an imprint of LernerPublishing Group)

A Sweet Passover by Lesléa Newman with illustrations by David Slonim

(Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Notable Books forOlder Readers:

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch

(Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams)

Looking for Me by Betsy R. Rosenthal

(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)

Sami’s Sleepaway Summer by Jenny Meyerhoff

(Scholastic Paperbacks)

Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

(Bloomsbury USA Children)

Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

(Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House)

 

Notable Books forTeens:

The Last Song by Eva Wiseman

(Tundra Books)

Now by Morris Gleitzman

(Henry Holt and Company)

Rachel’s Secret by Shelly Sanders

(Second Story Press)

Linda Glaser and Adam Gustavson, author and illustrator of Hannah’s Way, Louise Borden author of His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, and Deborah Heiligman, author of Intentions,are the 2013 winners of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award. The awards were announced at the Mid-Winter Meeting of the School, Synagogue and Community Center Division of the Association of Jewish Libraries.

The Sydney Taylor Book Award honorsnew books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standardswhile authentically portraying the Jewish experience. The award memorializesSydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. Thewinners will receive their awards at the Association of Jewish Libraries Conferencein Houston, Texas this June.

Glaser and Gustavson will receive the 2013 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor BookAward’s Younger Readers category for Hannah’s Way, published by Kar-Ben,an imprint of Lerner Publishing. When Hannah’s family relocates to ruralMinnesota after her father loses his job, she is the only Jewish student in herclass.  Hannah worries she will not beable to attend a Saturday class picnic when her teacher arranges a carpool. Herobservant family does not ride in cars on the Sabbath. In a delightful displayof acceptance and friendship, the entire class chooses to walk with Hannah soshe can attend the picnic. Barbara Krasner, a member of the Sydney Taylor BookAward Committee, said: "The Minnesota setting, the Depressiontimeframe, and a Jewish girl's dilemma all add up to a winning story. LindaGlaser's story and Adam Gustavson's illustrations, both meticulouslyresearched, make Hannah's Way a new classic for young readers." In 2011, Glaser received a Sydney Taylor Honor for herbook, Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty.

The award in the Older Readers category will be presented to Louise Borden for His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg,published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Written in verse, this biography of the Swedish humanitarian highlights his commitment to rescuingJewish people in Budapest during World War II for readers aged eight to twelve.Teeming with photographs, Wallenberg’s passion for helping others is dramatically portrayed. Committee Chair, Aimee Lurie commented: “His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg shows how the courageous actions of one person, despite tremendous obstacles,can make a difference. Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression.” In 2006, Borden’s The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margaret and H.A. Rey was a Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Younger Readers.


Deborah Heiligman will receive the 2013 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers category for Intentions,published by Knopf Books for Young Readers an imprint of Random House,Inc. The loss of innocence Rachel Greenberg, 16, experiences when the adults inher life betray her trust and the relationship with her best friend crumbles is explored in this contemporary novel.  Rachel’s home life, once calm, has now become strained; her parents are constantly bickering and her beloved grandmother’s health has deteriorated.  Her uncertain home life, pales in comparison to her shattering discovery that her respected rabbi is an adulterer. Although she makes mistakes, Rachel eventually learns to cope with the revelation that no one -- including her parents, friends, and rabbi -- is perfect by relying on lessons learned from her Jewish education. Diane Rauchwerger, member of the Award Committee noted: “Rachel grows in her understanding and strength of character, while struggling with moral issues teens confront every day. Most importantly, she learns to forgive and to act with intention.” 

 

Four Sydney Taylor Honor Books werenamed for 2013: The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale by Linda Leopold Strauss with illustrations by Alexi Natchev(Holiday House) and Zayde Comes To Live written by Sheri Sinykinand illustrated by Kristina Swarner (Peachtree Publishers) are recognized inthe Younger Readers category. The Wooden Sword by Ann RedischStampler with illustrations by Carol Liddiment (Albert Whitman & Company)garnered recognition as an Honor Book for Older Readers. For Teen Readers, thehonor goes to Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During theHolocaust by Doreen Rappaport (Candlewick).

In addition to the medal-winners, theAward Committee designated thirteen Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2013.  More information about the Sydney Taylor BookAward can be found at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org.

# # #


We begin the New Year with a new batch of postings in the Jewish book blogosphere. I especially love seeing the year's prizes and "best of" lists for inspiration (and for mental arguments)

The Jewish Book Council announces their 2012 National Jewish Book Awards and posts their most anticipated 2013 spring titles from the Jewish Book Council.

Jonathan Kirsch reviewed The Rarest Blue by Baruch Sterman and Judy Taubes Sterman in The Jewish Journal, which bestowed its 2013 Jewish Journal Book Prize on the authors.

On MyMachberet, Erika Dreifus shares some thoughts about Karen E. Bender's new novel, A Town of Empty Rooms.

Leora Wenger reviews Jews in Gotham: New York Jews in a Changing City by Jeffrey S. Gurock, a professor of history at Yeshiva University. This volume is the last of the series City of Promises and encompasses the years 1920 to 2010.

 Ann Koffsky reviews three recent picture books about Israel.

 Lorri M. offers two reviews. In  Saving Monticello:  The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jefferson Built, by Marc Leepson, the author has given the reader an amazing overview of actual facts, data, events, timelines and the struggles that the Jewish Levy family endured, including the underlying antisemitism that was a product of the era.  Jewish Roots in Southern Soil:  A New History, by Marcie Ferris and Mark I. Greenberg, contains thirteen intellectual and fascinating essays, which defines factors that differentiate “southern Jews” from the general Jewish population.

The Whole Megillah | The Writer's Resource for Jewish Story blog - offers an interview with poet Matthew Lippman.

Needle in the Bookstacks searches for recipes to warm up the winter.





At the 2012 AJL Conference in Pasadena, CA, we tried, as usual, to record our sessions so that we could podcast them afterwards. We experienced extreme technical difficulties with our recordings. Most were lost; a few were saved but with the audio compromised. Of those few that were rescued, seven are now available on the AJL website, with more on the way. Please go to jewishlibraries.org/podcast to find the newest AJL podcast episodes. You’ll find recordings of conference sessions on e-books, archives, digitization, and children’s books in translation.

Thanks to the volunteers who have been editing these recordings to get them ready for you, and thanks to all of you for your patience. I hope that the high quality of the content in the podcasts will make up for the poor sound quality!

Heidi Estrin
President, AJL
Posted in: Convention
Library Snapshot Day 2012

The People of the Book have spoken---libraries make new stories as much as hold them!
In November 2012, during Jewish Book month, Judaic libraries in synagogues, community centers, historical institutions, and day schools across North America participated in Share the Library Love, a variation of the American Library Association's Library Snapshot Day. The event, sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries, was created to display the diversity of library services and programming throughout Jewish libraries. Each participating library shared a typical day in their facilities, recording patron and circulation statistics, their unique public programs, as well as patrons' personal reflections of their own libraries. Collectively, the participating libraries served 2,015 patrons and circulated 1,490 books throughout 33 libraries.

Public Programming and Community Efforts 

From Jewish hubs like Flushing, NY to smaller Jewish communities in Tulsa, OK, from historical centers to elementary schools, Jewish libraries held author visits, book sales, storytimes, craft projects, book clubs, children's creative writing clubs, movie premieres, Holocaust survivor support groups, Righteous Gentile programs, teacher Holocaust education programs, adult school, knitting clubs for charity, religious services, homework help, Student Advisory Board meetings, information literacy classes, library tours and a mock student presidential Election Day. Other community efforts included Sefer Mitzvah Magic a book program encouraging patrons to donate a book in honor or in memory of someone they love; and a weekly cyber newsletter featuring new titles, personal reflections, and announcements of library events.

Patron Responses

Patrons had overwhelmingly positive feedback about their libraries. Patrons praised the up-to-date collections, wealth of quality resources, computer clusters, wi-fi, the helpful and nice librarians, the DVD collections, Yiddish archives, and poster and realia collections in their libraries. In addition, patrons expressed gratitude for their libraries' patron-driven purchases, flexible pick-up and book-drop hours, teacher resources, short waiting periods for popular titles, free coffee, the convenience (between dropping the kids off at Hebrew school and looking for both Jewish and secular resources, it helps when they are all in one place!), and book cart programs for surrounding schools. Additionally, patrons noted the atmosphere of their libraries, saying it has "a warm feeling" and leaves "warm memories." One patron explained "it is usually the only place I can get work done on Sunday." Other libraries were appreciated for their bean bag chairs, comfy pillows and the Yiddish Vinkl.

The Librarians

When asked what they love most about their own libraries, the librarians had diverse and colorful answers. Some librarians embraced their historical collections and others the architecture of their facilities. At the Temple De Hirsch Sinai Library in Seattle, Washington, the librarian shared that the library is "a very large, beautiful and historical reading room with lots of dark wood...anyone who walks in and especially those who grew up at our Temple adore this room!" Other librarians responded enthusiastically to both the challenges and successes in their libraries, such as in redesigning the facilities and assisting in helping teachers pick classroom resources. One librarian in Indianapolis, IN praised her library for "providing members with a link to their Judaism." Another librarian in Boca Raton said, "I love watching the wheels turn in the children's brains when they are really taking in a story and asking intelligent questions about it."

The Snapshots on YouTube

In addition to sharing their library love and community programming, librarians and patrons captured the images of their library which can be seen in our slideshow video: tinyurl.com/AJLlove.
Posted in: Announcements

The Association of Jewish Libraries has created "Hanukkah Read Up!," a list of Hanukkah books for children recommended by the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee. The colorful, detailed 2-page flyer is available on the AJL website at http://tinyurl.com/AJLhanukkah.

Each of the 29 titles includes a brief summary and age recommendation. All the books on the list have been recognized by the award committee as gold or silver medalists or as "Notable Books." In addition, AJL devotes a special section of the list to the Hanukkah works of prolific author Eric A. Kimmel, a past Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award winner.

The "Hanukkah Read Up!" list will be useful to families seeking great Hanukkah gift books and seasonal stories for their children, and will serve as guidance to librarians and booksellers who wish to stock holiday titles. Libraries, booksellers and other literary groups are welcome to distribute the list, digitally or printed out, to their own users.

The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries to the best in Jewish children's and teen literature each year. A committee of children's librarians and other children's literature experts evaluates over one hundred books to find the best of the best. Read more about the award (and non-Hanukkah books that have won medals) at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org.

Erika Dreifus is our Facebook Writer-in-Residence during the month of December. Erika is the author of QUIET AMERICANS: STORIES, which is a 2012 ALA Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title. The stories in QUIET AMERICANS are based largely on the histories and experiences of Erika's paternal grandparents, German Jews who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s; Erika is donating portions of book-sale proceeds to The Blue Card, which supports U.S.-based survivors of Nazi persecution. Additionally, Erika—whose first paying job was serving as a library assistant at her middle school—is a prolific book reviewer and blogger and a passionate advocate for Jewish literature. A regular participant in AJL's Jewish Book Carnival, Erika will also host the Carnival in December on My Machberet, her blog on matters of Jewish literary and cultural interest. She anticipates an exciting month in discussion with AJL's Facebook community and welcomes any early questions or suggestions you may have. Please visit her online at www.erikadreifus.com.
Dear AJL Members,

I'm sure that many of you were affected by Hurricane Sandy. The AJL Council has asked me to let you know that we are thinking of you. We hope that you are your loved ones are safe and that you avoided major damage at home and at your libraries.

Be well,
Heidi Estrin
President, Association of Jewish Libraries
and the entire AJL Council

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