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I’m a sucker for a good pun. And when that pun serves a holiday that I celebrate, well, I have to celebrate the pun, too! So author Laura Gehl is here today with her new book, HAPPY LLAMAKKAH!

Laura, what sparked your idea for HAPPY LLAMAKKAH?

This was one of those books where the title came first. What’s not to love about a llama/Hanukkah combination? Usually when a great title pops into my head, I discover a book with that title already exists. I was amazed to find that wasn’t the case with this one. My Internet search found plenty of ugly Happy Llamakkah sweaters (my entire family is getting matching ones for Hanukkah this year…shhhh!), but no books. Still, figuring out the right story to go with the title was harder.

So many to choose from! Who knew?

I started off in a completely different direction from where I ended up. My first draft involved a human family encountering a llama family while backpacking over Hanukkah. That draft included, among other Hanukkah/llama connections, using llama poop to start a fire to light the Hanukkah candles (based on my research, this is completely possible, and I recommend everyone try it). A few of my critique partners gently pointed out that the jaunty tone of the title didn’t quite match with the text, which actually had a fairly serious storyline despite poop playing a key role. They suggested perhaps a rhyming story aimed at younger readers, with Happy Llamakkah as a refrain, would work better. After that, the book came together quickly, with no humans and no poop—only llamas and latkes.

What a hilarious story! Now I gotta think of a follow-up question to that!

Do Llamas celebrate Hanukkah any differently than humans?   

Short answer—no! Longer answer: the Llama family in the book enjoys all the same Hanukkah activities as my own family…including lighting candles, playing dreidel, eating gelt and sufganiyot, and exchanging gifts. The only key differences are that the llamas in the book make a snow llama instead of a snowman (one of my very favorite illustrations by Lydia Nichols!) and that the Llama family gets to have friends come over to celebrate with them, since COVID is not a part of their world. Speaking of which, when you are finished looking up “ugly Happy Llamakah sweater,” you should look up “llama antibodies COVID-19.” A truly fascinating rabbit-hole into which to descend. You’re welcome.

Now we all know coal, carrots and a scarf make good snowman decorations. Do you have any tips for building snow llamas?

Why yes, Tara, indeed I do!

  1. Invite a real llama over to be your model.
  2. Build a llama body and head out of snow.
  3. Add ears and fur with hay and grasses. Take a photo quickly before Step #4.
  4. Watch the real llama eat all the hay and grasses off of the snow llama.
  5. Snuggle with the real llama while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and wearing your Happy Llamakah sweater.

But don’t forget the llatkes! (Did you see that clever spelling?)

Umm, sure.

And llighting the Menorah!

OK, Tara.

And spinning…wait for it…the driedellama!


Are we done here?

Yes! Thank you for stopping by and for offering a signed copy to one of our blog readers! (US only)

Please leave one comment below to enter.

A winner will be selected on December 1! Good luck!

And…if you order a copy of Happy Llamakkah by December 7 from any independent bookstore, send your receipt to Laura at to receive a personalized Hanukkah card, bookplate, and llama stickers.

Laura Gehl is the author of more than twenty picture books, board books, and early readers. Her 2020 releases included Baby Paleontologist, Judge Juliette, May Saves the Day, Cat Has a Plan, and The Ninja Club Sleepover. Laura loves to snuggle up with a llama while reading a good book. Or at least she would love to give it a try! Visit her online at

Now I know PiBoIdMo participants are awaiting a final post from me, your fearless leader.

Well, that is still to come, once I am feeling better. Perhaps tomorrow? Monday? It shall come soon, never fear, says Fearless Leader.

In the meantime, I have something to make YOU feel better.

Gifts for writers! And by gifts for writers, I mean gifts that you shall immediately place on your wish list. Why? They’re just THAT awesome.

I’ve put together this list of my 10 personal favorites, but I have a more than 100 other literary lovies to tickle your holiday fancy on my Pinterest board Things Writers Like. So hop on your sleigh and slip over there once you’ve perused this pile. (Geesh, enough with the corny alliteration, Tara.)

Let me know which gift is your favorite, and feel free to add to the list in the comments!


1. Modern Wooden Alphabet Necklace available via SevenSparrowGoods on

Men, don’t leave. I know this first gift is for the ladies. Don’t worry, I have plenty for you. See #2.



2. Famous Author Action Figures available via ebay.

Ka-pow! Bam! Zonk! NEVERMORE!



3. USB Typewriter available via

If you miss the satisfying click-clack of an old-fashioned manual typewriter, here’s the perfect solution for you. It remains modern with a USB link to your preferred device–a PC, Mac or iPad.


4. Notebook Paper bed linens available via

Can’t find a piece of paper in the middle of the night? Write on your pillow. Yep, this duvet set comes with washable markers. You won’t even get mad at the kids for drawing on them.



5. Storymatic Game (Kids Version) available via

Maybe you’ve heard of Rory’s Story Cubes or Haikubes or even The Amazing Story Generator. Well, this is a writing prompt game with over 6 million possibilities.



6. Book Rest Lamp available via

Ah, there’s no place like home. Home for your latest read, that is. The soft glow of the lamp is enough to read by, plus you’ll never lose your page.



7. AquaNotes available via

No more great ideas down the drain! (And while you’re getting clean, may as well use “Wash Away Writer’s Block” soap.)




8. The 3Doodler available via

OK, so maybe you wouldn’t want to write a novel with this, but wouldn’t it be cool to give your fans your characters or signature in 3D?


9. Vintage-style custom bookplates available via oiseaux on

Every writer is a reader, and your books are cherished keepsakes. So treat them that way with gorgeous vintage-style bookplates. This shop offers over 100 other vintage styles.



10. Charlotte’s Web tee available via

A classic gift. Out of Print Clothing offers tees inspired by your literary favorites, from Goodnight Moon to Call of the Wild, from Charlotte’s Web to The Great Gatsby. You can never have too many books or too many book tees.



Happy shopping for that special writer in your life!

And remember to stop by my Pinterest board “Things Writers Like” for even more!


joni headshot 0709by Joni Sussman

As a children’s book publisher, I love the idea of PiBoIdMo! As a publisher of Jewish-themed children’s books, I love it even more. If you’re reading this post on the day it posted—Thanksgiving—you’re also reading it on the first of Hanukkah, an occurrence so unusual that it won’t happen again for another 77,798 years (yes, you read that right). So with the unusual situation of Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving this year, I’ve got Hanukkah—and Hanukkah books—on the brain as I write this. In particular I’m thinking of one of Kar-Ben’s new Fall 2013 titles “Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster” because it’s especially apropos to the PiBoIdMo theme: this book is all about having a gem of an idea and then writing a book around it.

Author Jane Sutton came up with a premise that, by itself, may have had nothing to do with Hanukkah: How about a funny story about the exact wrong gift one animal could purchase for another? A giant pair of socks for a tiny monkey? A jogging suit for a turtle? And then she wove this premise into a delightful Hanukkah story about Esther the Gorilla who goes off to buy Hanukkah gifts for her friends. Although this premise becomes a charming Hanukkah story including latkes and candles and dreidels, it’s really about a gorilla who—like most of the little kids who are going to read this story—usually means well but often misses the mark.

As Publishers Weekly said about this book, ”[Esther] happily chooses the gifts, but as she hands them out to her monkey, elephant, hyena, turtle, and zebra pals, Esther realizes that her gifts may not have been as perfectly thought-out as she had hoped. Esther’s innocent mistakes and her ingenious solution will prompt laughter.” Lots of laughter, as it turns out, because not only is the story funny, but the art by Andy Rowland is hilarious: the shopping list on Esther’s frig lists “bananas, bananas, bananas and bananas,” her bookshelf contains “Gorilla’s (instead of Gulliver’s) Travels” and ” Gorillas in the Mist,” the department store where she buys the gifts includes all sorts of sight gags that will likely be missed by kids but thoroughly enjoyed by parents. “Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster” is a great example of the germ of an idea that grows into a terrific little story.


At this time of year I always find myself thinking about the ongoing need for clever original Hanukkah stories that are not just about the Maccabees or lighting candles or eating latkes, and that are not a Jewish take on “The Night Before Christmas.” (You’d be surprised how many writers think that’s a new idea!) I’m always on the hunt for special/unique/unusual Hanukkah stories that are not only creative but that make kids revel in the fact that they’re Hanukkah celebrators in a world of Christmas celebrators.

So as authors, I give you this charge: no matter whether you’re writing for the religious or secular market: It’s all about having a gem of an idea and creating a story around it. The more gems, the more stories! Take advantage of PiBoIdMo and generate those ideas for titles, plotlines, subjects and/or characters. Put pen to paper (or finger to computer key) and get those ideas written down. Good luck and may the (creative) Force be with you. And if you come up with a Hanukkah or other Jewish-themed story to send me, I’d love to hear from you!


Joni Sussman is the Publisher at Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group. Kar-Ben’s concentration is Jewish content picture books for children, both fiction and non-fiction for preschool through approximately 4th grade, including holiday books, life-cycle stories, Bible tales, folktales, and board books. In particular, Kar-Ben seeks stories that reflect the wide cultural diversity of today’s American Jewish community. Joni invites PiBoIdMo participants with Jewish-themed manuscripts to submit to her—just contact Tara directly for the email address and subject line code.


Joni is donating a selection of Kar-Ben’s new Fall 2013 titles (including Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster) as a prize.

This prize pack will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post (as per Annette’s spine-tingling challenge).
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

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