Delray Library event celebrates Jewish voices in children’s literature

Joni Klein-Higger sat in front of a piano in her red and white checkered apron, farm hat, menorah, and picture book about Hannukah and a Jewish grandmother (aka Bubbe).

She spoke into the microphone so that all 50 fans of Jewish books for young readers could hear her perform the next part of the song. The spectators applauded and sang as the author turned the front page of “Barnyard Bubbe’s Hanukkah”.

The ping of a piano key.

“Hannukah’s first night, what did Barnyard Bubbe see?” Klein-Higger sang. “A lunch bag. Oh my God, who left this to me?

Weeks before the Festival of Lights, the Jewish Kid Lit Festival at the Delray Beach Library in mid-November provided a fun afternoon for Jewish and non-Jewish families, children, tweens, teens and writers. to explore Jewish literature for young readers and meet seven Jewish authors from South Florida.

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“I loved having the chance to sit in the audience and listen to other picture book authors share their amazing stories,” said Lake Worth author Jill Nadler, who started the event by embodying Miss Understood in her book, Such a library.

With a chicken on his hat, a polka-dot dress and funny glasses, Nadler had the audience rehearse excerpts from the book.

“Howling monkeys, pages that turn, clicks of computer keys, honks,” repeated the audience, accompanied by gestures from Nadler.

After his performance, Nadler led the kids in a pop-up book arts and crafts activity at the back of the room.

Youth create pop-up books using scissors and pencils during the event at the Delray Beach Library.

Cori Walls, a television production teacher at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, attended the event with her two children, Samantha and Jacob. The most important part of the festival for them, Walls said, was the Holocaust-focused Jewish history exhibits located near the entrance to the library.

“My two children are interested in WWII and I love supporting local history exhibits.” said Walls, who also lives in Delray.

During a panel discussion titled “Life as a Jewish Kid Lit Writer: Looking at Middle Grade and Young Adult Books Through the Lens of Jewish Identity” intermediate level and for young adults through the lens of Jewish identity), intermediate and young adult authors Stacie Ramey, Debbie Reed Fischer, Jonathan Rosen and Debbie Zaken offered short readings from their books.

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Ramey, a young adult author who lives in Wellington, spoke of her childhood in Maryland at a large high school where she was one of five Jewish students.

“I always felt like I was outside of it all,” said Ramey, a young adult author who lives in Wellington, of her experiences growing up in Maryland and attending a big high school like the one of the five Jewish students. And that feeling has stayed with me throughout my books.

Fischer, from Boca Raton, spoke about her latest mid-level novel about a young girl with ADHD, This is not Abby’s show. Fischer wanted the public to know that in the modern movement for various books, Jewish voices are excluded.

“There is a rallying cry that representation matters, and it is,” Fisher said. “Many marginalized voices are now represented, supported and amplified by publishers, authors and educators – a wonderful change from where it was in the world of children’s books. And yet the characters (in the novels) who happen to be Jewish, characters who should be included in this “diverse voices / representation matters” movement, are being left out. “

Fischer, Ramey and Rosen are part of a group of Jewish authors working on an upcoming anthology by Albert Whitman, Adulthood: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories, slated for release in April 2022. Isabella Rowan, program coordinator at the Delray Beach Library, invites them to come back in the spring to discuss it.

“My story in the anthology is based in part on my real life, and I’m thrilled and grateful to be a part of ‘Coming of Age’,” Fisher said. “It’s an important collection, for a number of reasons. My dream is to get “Coming of Age” on playlists and in classrooms across the country. ”

“It is extremely important for Jews to be represented in literature, especially for children, for many reasons,” said Rosen, who shared an excerpt from her novel for high school students. The Night of the Cuddly Rabbits Alive. “Whether it’s the main character or the supporting characters. Jews need to see themselves represented on the page, and non-Jews need to see Jewish children like them. Take out a lot of preconceptions.

Spending time with other writers who faced issues she faced as a Jewish author has been a valuable experience, Rosen said.

“It’s good to know that you are not alone. You embolden yourself to speak up when you know other people see the same things you do.

Author Jill Nadler recites an excerpt from her book
Author Jill Nadler demonstrates how to build a pop-up book during the Arts and Crafts activity.

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