If the Hanukkah story reminds us of the power of resistance, then Russell Freedman’s We Will Not Be Silent fits with the #Readukkah! spirit of the Association of Jewish Libraries and with perhaps our own thoughts this season. This nonfiction book nominally for older children (but with a topic suited for teens and adults) follows the White Rose student resistance movement in Nazi Germany from its rise through the execution of its leaders shortly before the fall of the Third Reich.

The “we” in We Will Not Be Silent began with a handful of high school and college students, led in part by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, both former members of the Hitler youth movement. They and others wrote, mimeographed, and distributed leaflets denouncing their nation’s treatment of Jewish citizens and other “undesirables.”

The leaflets soon flooded all parts of Germany and called for the overthrow of the Nazi regime. […]

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This first week in May brings to mind the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of World War II. The Nazis had exterminated an estimated 11 million people because of political or religious affiliations, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disabilities.

Six million of these people were Jews.

Some were members of my family.

I have yet to write about those Holocaust years, although The Ninth Day (companion novel to Blue Thread and the forthcoming Seven Stitches) spirals between the free speech protestors in 1964 Berkeley and the Jewish granddaughter of Rashi in 1099 Paris, in the aftermath of the Crusader attack on the Jews of Mainz. The story touches on survival and guilt, on speaking up, and on the power of song.

The main character in The Ninth Day speaks up as little as possible to avoid stuttering.  She would have admired Aaron, the boy who stutters in Anna Olswanger’s Greenhorn. […]

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Writers read. It’s one of the perks of this particular calling. I get to stack an armload of books by my comfy chair and sample another author’s fare without the slight twinge of guilt because this is, after all, “work.” Included in my recent “work” was reading Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish as part of the #Readukkah reviews for the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Tonight, when I light the Hanukkah candles on a 1970s birch-log menorah, I will reread How Mirka Caught a Fish just for fun. This comic/graphic novel is third in the series about Mirka, who is “yet another 11-year-old time-traveling Orthodox Jewish babysitter,” according to the cover. For those of you unfamiliar with the Hereville series, click here. You’ll know in short order that Barry is a master at writing and illustrating a whopping good tale.

The story combines universal themes of adventure and sibling rivalry with the sort of Old World monsters that my grandmother told me about, the kind that I figure also frightened and fascinated her when she was little. […]

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Welcome to another stop on the blog tour for the Sydney Taylor Book Awards, presented annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Pull up a chair and let’s hear from author Loïc Dauvallier, illustrator Marc Lizano, and colorist Greg Salsedo about Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, the gold medal winner in the Older Readers category. Originally published in 2012 by Le Lombard in French as L’Enfant Cachée, the book was translated by Alexis Siegel and published in the U.S. in 2014 by First Second. Hidden is a graphic novel about a grandmother who shares her memories of 1942 Paris in a story she’s hidden for decades. It’s a recent collaboration between Loïc and Marc, whose previous projects include La Petite Famille, a story about grief and the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, and Hugo et Cagoule, a humorous comic without words. This is their first collaboration with Greg. […]

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I wonder what’s going on beneath those huge tarps on the Janey II. Surely they are not there just to keep the construction dry. What else is happening?

As you know from the last post, I’ve wrapped up the first rough draft of Book Three, and given all 69,000 words to a book editing class at Portland State University.  Meanwhile, I’m doing four writerly projects:

critiquing submissions from the other Viva Scrivas; honing my revising skills by reading Elizabeth George’s Write Away; rereading my own draft of Book Three (yikes!); and hosting a stop on the Sydney Taylor Book Awards blog tour which  is Feb. 8 – 13.

My blog  tour stop is February 10, when I’ll post an interview with the three young French guys whose children’s book took top honors in the older (child) readers category. Cyber-corresponding with three young French guys? What could be bad? See you on the 10th! […]

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Look! A new floor! The Janey II construction crew has covered up the foundation and basement areas and taken the building to a whole new level. Of course not everything is perfect below decks. There’s still lots to fill in. But it was time to move on.

My sentiments exactly! I’ve spent months laying the foundation for Book Three and drafted and revised the first main chunk of the story. There’s about 15,000 words on Portland in 2059. For two weeks our main character, who is eM Zarfati in this draft, languished in action limbo between leaving her house in Portland and landing 500 years earlier in Istanbul. Finally, she’s where she’s supposed to be in the story.

What was it like in Istanbul in 1559? I mean really. The history writer in me needs to get this part as accurate as possible, to balance off time travel and fictional characters. […]

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Welcome to Day 4 of the blog tour for the Sydney Taylor Book Awards, presented annually by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Kudos to everyone on the list. As you can see from my last post, I took a “snow day” from my own writing to read Leon Leyson’s memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box, which is one of two honor books for older readers. Leon, at age 10, was one of the youngest on Oskar Schindler’s list of “essential” Jewish prisoners for the factory he ran for the Nazi war machine. Thanks to Schindler, Leon lived a full life and passed away about a year ago.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing two key people who assisted Leon with his memoir: Elisabeth B. Leyson, Leon’s wife; and Dr. Marilyn J. Harran, founding director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University.

RUTH: Leon’s memoir ends with remembrances from his son and daughter at Leon’s memorial service in 2013. […]

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Snow. In Old Norse, snjor. In modern Dutch sneeuw. This winter, even in downtown Portland, those lovely crystals fall from the sky. What happens when they hit the ground, depending on your circumstances, is another story. For the construction crews at Janey II, snow meant several days off. My phone’s emergency management alert link…I didn’t know I had one!….urged me to stay indoors, away from wind and ice. I was to be officially “snowed in.”

As I watched the white from the warm side of the window, I plowed through an avalanche of self-assignments and administrivia that was threatening to make me feel snowed under. To top it all, I’d volunteered to be a stop on a blog tour for the  Sydney Taylor Book Awards. That meant reading The Boy on the Wooden Box and organizing an interview. Talk about flaky. What was I thinking?

Then I started reading the book. […]

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See this print of the Daughters of Zelophehad? I came across it at an art auction in 1932. A copy is in the 1897 book called Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us. I’ve kept the print to remind me that illustrations of Bible stories are fanciful—and that what happened to Miriam Josefsohn Jacobowitz was extraordinary, but true.

I wish I could tell you that I believed the fantastical story that Mim told me back in the fall of 1916, when her mother sent the old teddy bear that had belonged to Danny and Mim. His name was Baloo, from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories. Do you know those books?

While Paul was napping the day that Mim got the bear, she finally told me her story—at least part of it. “My mother hid my prayer shawl,” she said. “The one with the embroidery and a blue thread, remember I showed it to you a while back?”

I nodded because I didn’t want her to stop. […]

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Followers of Blue Thread probably know that the title of the book refers to a blue-colored fringe in a prayer shawl. In the Bible’s Book of Numbers 15:38, the ancient Israelites are commanded to add fringes (in Hebrew: tzitzit) to the corners of their garments. The Biblical edict goes on to require that the tzitzit have a thread of blue (p’til t’chelet). There’s more about that in a blog post from last November.

What is the precise color of t’chelet? The color is supposed to echo that of the sea and the sky. Opinions vary about just which dye was to be used to make the blue color. The blue that Ooligan Press and I decided would work for the cover of Blue Thread is “Pantone 293 uncoated.” I found yet another take on t’chelet yesterday at a shoe store. Take a look at these shoes from Israel. The Hebrew script reads t’chelet. […]

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