Picture Books Review
(NEW!) An interview with Jonathan Scovner that all began with a question about Raisel's Riddle..
I discovered the magic of libraries before I could read,
when my grandmother (I called her Mima) took me to the 23rd Street branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. We climbed up the many, many steps to the children's room
where I had the delicious experience of picking out books to take home. One of my favorites was an East European folk tale called 'The Turnip.' Many years later, the memory of this book inspired me to write Big Pumpkin.
It was Mima who started teaching me to read, before I started school. Sometimes she told me about her life in the "old country" where she grew up speaking two languages - Yiddish and Polish. These stories fed my imagination and I drew on these memories when I wrote Gittel's Hands, Raisel's Riddle, When the Chickens Went on Strike and Sholom's Treasure.
I loved reading aloud and reciting poems.
It all started with Mother Goose rhymes. My father had a big reel-to-reel tape recorder. Together we recited Mother Goose rhymes onto tape.
As I grew older, our material grew to include all kinds of poems and stories. Those hours of reciting onto tape nurtured in me a love for the sounds and rhythms of language. When working on a picture book, I often read it aloud into a tape recorder and then listen for the places where it doesn't sound quite right.
Nursery rhymes continue to influence my work, these many years later. Do you remember the old woman who lived in a shoe? I've felt always felt terrible for her. In my newest book, There Was A Wee Woman, I finally helped her find a new home for her large family.
Books have the power to fill our lives with moments of great pleasure and deep meaning. They connect us to ourselves and to the world outside ourselves.
In my own work, I try to put feelings into words with honesty. Writing can help me know myself better while allowing me to escape from the limits of my own daily life.
With research and imagination, I can give my characters experiences I never had. I grew up in a big city, and yet I can imagine what it's like to be a working cowgirl with her own horse. If I do my job well, I can make that world real to my readers.
What else can I tell you about myself?
For fourteen years I taught English as a Second Language to adult immigrants. The acquisition of language is empowering, and I enjoyed watching my students grow as they mastered our difficult English tongue.
My love of reading and writing has led me to yet another career. I recently earned my Masters in Library and Information Science and have become a librarian. I’ve always spent a great deal of time in libraries, both to research my books and to find books to read for pleasure. I can think of no better place to spend time. I love being able to help library patrons find what they need, whether it's a book, a movie, or one very specific and obscure bit of information.
I enjoy speaking at schools, libraries and conferences about the joys and challenges of the writing process.
Oh, and I have one dog and one cat.
In my imagination, I also have horses and cows, rabbits, goats and parrots. In my imagination, I swim with sea turtles and dolphins. In my imagination, I can fly like a bird. In my imagination, I'm a foot taller and play a mean game of basketball. And with my imagination, I can make up new stories, write new books. Isn't imagination wonderful?