Finding blogs of interest can be a challenge, especially for those new to blogging and social networking. Introducing the chapter to blogs of interest, and the writers behind them, is the focus of this new feature of the AJL-GCC blog, Meet the Blogger. Our first featured blog, The Whole Megillah, is written by Barbara Krasner and is a resource for writers of Jewish books for children. An informative interview of Linda Silver about her new book, The Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens was recently posted. Mark your calendar for February 11th when The Whole Megillah will showcase a wrap-up roundtable of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour.
Aimee Lurie (AL) Your blog, The Whole Megillah, is a fantastic resource for writers of Jewish books. I love how your blog connects Jewish book writers, publishers, editors, and librarians. How did you get interested in Jewish books and publishing?
Barbara Krasner (BK)I suppose my interest was sparked years ago as a kid in my Hebrew School’s library. Like so many others, I fell in love with All-of-a-Kind Family as well as stories about the shtetl (Wise Men of Chelm) and biblical women. After I gave birth to my son in 1989, I was determined to find my roots and joined the Jewish Genealogical Society. That led to writing about genealogy and I became a contributing editor on Jewish genealogy to Heritage Quest magazine. I attended my first Jewish children’s writers conference in 2003. I was amazed at the line-up conference founder and organizer Anna Olswanger had put together. I brought with me the adult book I had written, Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors, and the Babaganewz editor at the time, Mark Levine (now with Behrman House), took a look at the book and gave me my first “Jewish” assignment for kids.
When I began pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College, I began reading Jewish books for children in earnest. Working with Anna and the 92nd St. Y librarian (now retired) Steve Siegel — two genealogists, I might add, like me — my interest grew.
I did not intend on building a blog about Jewish children’s books, but the idea came to me in early May last year and I wanted it to be service-oriented – sort of like an online conference. I mapped out an editorial calendar to include all constituencies involved in Jewish children’s lit. I’ve tried to get some educators involved, too, but so far that hasn’t worked well.
(AL) What is your biggest challenge blogging about Jewish books?
(BK) My biggest challenge is time. I have a full-time day job (for the moment). I started out blogging twice a week but couldn’t sustain that level of activity, so now I’m down to once a week.
(AL) Mazel tov on recently becoming a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee! What qualities do you look for when evaluating Jewish Books for young children? Do you have a different set of standards when evaluating books for teens and middle readers?
(BK) Thank you! It is truly an honor to be a member of this prestigious committee. I primarily look for good writing, a good story, and one that’s factually correct. I am probably particularly harsh on anything historical, because that’s my specialty. For picture books, I also look for congruence between text and illustration and use of elements and strategies I learned from Brian Seltzer and Eric Rohmann (for instance, illustration that leads to the page turn). For middle grade and teen readers, I look for characterization, flow, plot — and sometimes, whether I cried.
(AL) What books do you consider to be essential choices for any Jewish library or family home collection?
(BK) I could name a bunch of books — and I certainly have my favorites — but that would take up a lot of space on your blog! Let’s just say there should be a combination of classics, fiction and nonfiction, historical and contemporary, to give a full picture of Jewish life.
(AL) In addition to your blog what if any other social networking tools do you use to keep informed about the Jewish publishing world?
(BK)I subscribe to the AJL and Jewish Book Council blogs as well as Erika Dreifus’s My Machberet blogs. I try to get to Tablet. I’m also a member of SCBWI and scour publications for mention of anyone with Jewish names and/or with interest in anything Judaic. As a retired marketing executive, networking has always been one of my strong suits. I think organizing both the annual New York City conference for Jewish children’s writers and the workshop/retreat at the Highlights Foundation keeps me up to date on who’s doing what with whom.
Thank you Barbara for taking time out of your busy schedule to connect with our AJL chapter. Be sure to check out The Whole Megillah.