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“I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn.”

~ Anne Frank

Much has been written about Anne Frank, the courageous girl who revealed her life in hiding from the Nazis via her beloved diary, Kitty. Anne’s ability to relate to young people has taught generations about the Holocaust, but more importantly, it has demonstrated the power of empathy and kindness, especially through the actions of Miep Gies.

Miep Gies was on Otto Frank’s staff. She agreed to help hide the Frank family and friends in a small space attached to Frank’s office. Barbara Lowell’s new book, BEHIND THE BOOKCASE, tells Anne’s tale for the young from Miep’s unique perspective.

Why did Miep agree to do such a dangerous thing? Well, this book taught me that Miep had escaped World War I as a young child. Her parents sent her away from Austria, were there was little food or resources, and she was adopted by a loving Dutch family. This life-saving experience serves as the foundation for BEHIND THE BOOKCASE.

Barbara, how did you discover this unique angle?

As I looked at photographs of Miep Gies in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, I felt a connection to her. I wanted to know more about her and why she risked her life in an attempt to save the lives of Anne Frank, her family and friends. After I read Miep’s autobiography, Remembering Anne Frank: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family, I knew I wanted to tell her story for children. I thought that the horror of the Holocaust and Anne’s death could be shared in a more accessible way for young children if it was told through Miep’s point of view.

What do you want children to take away from this retelling?

I want kids to know that good people tried to save the lives of many Jewish people during the Holocaust. Just as Anne Frank is the face of victims of the Holocaust for many children, Miep Gies can be the face of those who tried to help them. My hope is that what happened in the Holocaust will never be forgotten and writing the book is my contribution.

BEHIND THE BOOKCASE is an introduction to the Holocaust for elementary age children. As an introduction, I hope it spurs their interest as they grow to read more complex books on Anne Frank, the Holocaust and World War II. I hope too that they will read Anne’s diary and remember Miep Gies, the woman who saved the diary first for Anne…and then for the world.

Barbara, thank you for writing this book. I think the lessons of empathy and kindness are especially salient for today.

Blog readers, would you like a copy of BEHIND THE BOOKCASE? It’s available now from Kar-Ben Publishing, but I am also giving away a copy.

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be chosen at the end of the month.

Good luck!

 


Barbara Lowell is the author of the picture books: BEHIND THE BOOKCASE: Miep Gies, Anne Frank and the Hiding Place; MY MASTODON; SPARKY & SPIKE: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever; and more books for children. She is an active member of SCBWI and SCBWI Oklahoma and loves to travel. She lives in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma with her husband and two terrific cats. You can visit her at barbaralowell.com.

 

barbarakrasnerby Barbara Krasner

In a million years I’d never have thought my first children’s book would be a picture book. While I was working mostly on YA historical novels during my MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a friend teased and said picture books would be my future.

I write picture book biographies. Well, no, that’s not quite right. I write picture book historical fiction, because I invent dialogue based on real-life stories. And I did the unthinkable in my picture book, Goldie Takes a Stand! Golda Meir’s First Crusade—I wrote it in first person. The version I submitted to publisher Kar-Ben, the Jewish imprint of Lerner Publishing, was 1400 words (don’t worry, it got slashed).

There was no other way to write about Golda than in first person, because her voice was so strong. I had many other picture book drafts, but I knew I had something special with Golda. It all began when I was attending two weeks of retreat at the Highlights Foundation. Between the two weeks I had to attend an event at the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island. I perused the shelves at the Highlights farmhouse and saw Golda’s autobiography, My Life (which I learned recently she didn’t write). Over the weekend, I read it and found a snippet about how as a child, Golda staged a fundraising event in Milwaukee, where she and her family had settled as immigrants from Russia, to buy schoolbooks for classmates. She mentioned a newspaper article had appeared about the event. Back home, I contacted the Jewish Historical Society of Milwaukee and the archivist knew exactly which article I was talking about. He sent it to me.

I wrote the draft on a Saturday night. Initially, I wrote it in third person, but that didn’t seem quite right. When I changed to first, the voice and story fell into place. I interpreted a true event but had to fill in the gaps to present the problem Golda and her friends faced. I invented dialogue. But the event itself was true and documented.

Goldie Takes a Stand (2)

I drafted the story in October 2011. I took it to workshops. I submitted the manuscript to Kar-Ben the following April and received an offer in June 2012. The book was published in August 2014.

I had been researching the story of the MS St. Louis since 2010, when I interviewed eight survivors of the ill-fated voyage. In 1939, this ship of nearly 1,000 German-Jewish refugees left Germany for safe haven from Nazism in Cuba. But when it arrived there, the passengers weren’t allowed to disembark. Denied refuge, the ship roamed the Atlantic until a philanthropic organization negotiated landing in Antwerp and distribution of the passengers to England, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

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One of the women I interviewed, Liesl Joseph Loeb, was the daughter of the head of the passenger committee. I wrote a middle-grade narrative, but the story was difficult to tell, because so much happened that children on board wouldn’t have known about. Then it dawned on me to focus on Liesl in a picture book. That became Liesl’s Ocean Rescue, coming out very soon from Gihon River Press, a specialized Holocaust publisher. Again, I took dramatic license with Liesl’s story, but it is based on her interview and true events.

 What I learned is absolutely true:

  1. Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel quite right, change it.
  2. Make a weakness a strength. Some publishers rejected my manuscript, because it was in first person. I decided to make that my story’s strength.
  3. Keep trying. I graduated from VCFA in 2006. Eight years later my first children’s book appeared. I still have those YA historical novels under the bed. Maybe they’ll make it out some day, but for right now, my focus is on picture book biographies.
  4. Get your manuscript vetted. Even though my picture books are fictionalized, they are based on true events. I needed to find subject matter experts who could vet the manuscripts.
  5. Write a biography only if the subject wrote an autobiography. Since these two picture books, I’ve drafted a few biographies, now with my agent. But these stories are true—and are in first person.

guestbloggerbio2014

Barbara Krasner holds an M.B.A. in Marketing from Rutgers University and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). She is currently an adjunct professor in the English department at William Paterson University, teaching introductory and advanced creative writing, fiction writing, and children’s literature. GOLDIE TAKES A STAND: GOLDA MEIR’S FIRST CRUSADE, released in 2014 with Kar-Ben Publishers, is her debut picture book. LIESEL’S OCEAN RESCUE is due from Gihon River Press this December.

You can connect with her at BarbaraKrasner.com and read her blog about Jewish-themed writing, The Whole Megillah. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraKrasner.

prizedetails2014

Barbara is giving away a copy of GOLDIE TAKES A STAND!

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

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

Good luck, everyone!

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.

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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!

guestbio

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.

prizeinfo

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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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

BLOOP!
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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