Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

Good Morning All!

What's the first thing you do when you wake up? Is it groan and moan while you reach for the snooze button? Blindly make coffee? Grumble about everything you have to do that day and how you don't want to do it? (Ok, maybe that's just me)

Do you ever take the time to wake up and appreciate the gift of each new day? To thank God for giving you such a blessing?

I know I don't. But such thanks are part of the Jewish morning prayers, a daily ritual for many Orthodox Jews, but many of us more liberal Jews don't necessarily say it, especially not every morning.

Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book (Hebrew Edition)In her Sydney Taylor Honor Award winning book for Young Readers, Sarah Gershman gives families a gorgeous picture book to read in the morning, making the morning prayers, Modeh Ani, accessible for young children. Her Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book pairs nicely with her previous book, The Bedtime Sh'ma.

I'm delighted to have Sarah Gershman here this morning to talk about her new book!

You have a bedtime book of the Sh'ma for young readers. While many Jews are familiar with the Sh'ma, they might not be as familiar with the Modeh Ani. What tips can you give to parents who want to start working this morning ritual into their lives?

There are some wonderful artistic interpretations of Modeh Ani. Find one you like and hang it over your child/ren's bed. This can serve as a beautiful reminder to being the day with this prayer of gratitude. In our family, it also helps to say it right when we first wake up, before beginning our other morning rituals (getting dressed, etc.)

How did you choose which selections from the morning prayer to include in this book? How did you decide which ones to do only in interpretation and which ones to include in Hebrew? What special considerations do you think should be taken into account when teaching religion to young children?

I tried to choose excerpts that young children would most connect to. The theme of the book is really gratitude. So I tried to find prayers that lent themselves to being interpreted as expressions of gratitude for the most fundamental blessings in our lives.

We chose only to have the Sh'ma itself in Hebrew - so to parallel with the Bedtime Sh'ma.

I have found that talking about God comes very naturally to young children. When talking to my own young children about God and religion, I try to keep it simple. There is plenty of time for later for more complex understandings.

Many Jews do not write out God and instead use a substitute, such as G-d. However, throughout your book, you use God. Why did you make this decision and do you have a response to those who are critical of it (I noticed it came up in the Amazon reviews of the Bedtime Sh'ma.)

My main motivation was to make the book accessible to people of all backgrounds. That being said, there are also Rabbinic opinions that say that writing God in English is not the same thing as writing God's full name in Hebrew. We were careful not to do that in the Hebrew portions of the book, as well as on the Bedtime Sh'ma CD.

Blogger's Note: This is what my Rabbi says, too. He has a very long and fascintating explanation that I would butcher if I were to share it here, so I won't, but in case you wonder why I don't write G-d, that would be why.

The illustrations of a young child waking up, getting ready, and going about her day bring this prayer to life. Were you able to work at all with the illustrator or have any say over the illustrations? What's it like to see your words come back with someone else's pictures attached to them?

Just as in the Bedtime Sh'ma, Kristina Swarner understand the vision for the book with relatively little guidance from me. I wrote a sentence or two with each page - suggesting my vision for an illustration and she took it from there. My biggest worry was that the book would look too similar to the Bedtime Sh'ma. I love the way it turned out. I think Kristina manages to have a consistent style, while still making it clear that this is a morning book.

What's your favorite breakfast food?

Poached eggs and toast! Oh, and a delicious fruit smoothie.

Thank you so much for stopping by and congratulations again on the well-deserved award!

Everyone be sure and check out the rest of the blog tour for interviews with all the winners and honorees in all the categories. It's a great list of books this year-- don't miss out!

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Phyllis Sommer said...

A great interview! I'm looking forward to sharing this book with my early-rising children :)

Barbara Bietz said...

Wonderful interview with Sarah!

Barbara Bietz

Barbara Krasner said...

Thanks for the interview, Jennie and Sarah! I learned a lot from it.

Betsy Parkes said...

Interesting interview. It adds so much to the experience of reading a book to hear the author talk a bit about the book first. I definitely will pick this one up on my next library trip.

Betsy Parkes

abissetatatime said...

I started singing the Modeh Ani with my kids every morning and think this book would be perfect for us. Thanks!