This month, two of my books won awards. AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT (Jewish Lights Publishing) won the Sydney Taylor Honor Book Award, and WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING (Charlesbridge Publishing) has been named as a Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies by the Children’s Book Council (I’ll have more to post about that soon). The former is for excellence in children’s literature and declares my book an authentic depiction of the Jewish experience; the latter endorses my book as an educational resource. In both cases, I was surprised and delighted to receive the good news!
Awards were given in several categories by the Sydney Taylor Award, and all of the winning authors will be interviewed in a blog tour. On Thursday, February 9th, I will be interviewed on a blog called Frume Sarah’s World. On Friday, February 10th, all award-winners will be interviewed in a “wrap-up” at The Whole Megillah. You can read the interviews anytime from those dates on. I hope you will do so!
I’m especially pleased about these awards because although my two books are quite different – one teaches about the Sabbath and the other about how time zones work – they also have something in common. They are both multicultural books that depict the ordinary lives of children all over the world as they participate in the cycle of time. But in this case “ordinary” does not mean boring. I chose to depict lesser-known aspects of children’s lives that are not so familiar in America. Young readers in our society may not be aware that in other parts of the world, children may have to carry water, gather firewood, milk a goat, or paddle a canoe in order to help provide a meal. At the same time, the books depict crucial similarities between our lifestyles and those of children in faraway places. Many people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – celebrate the Sabbath in one form or another, but how often do we get a peek at a family in Istanbul or Ethiopia celebrating the same tradition that guides the rhythm of our lives?
The underlying theme behind all these differences and similarities is simple: it’s about good old-fashioned healthy family living. Old-fashioned in terms of values, not shape or form. We live in a time in which the definition of “family” is rapidly changing. But good family values can survive these changes and even be strengthened. No matter where you live or what your economic status, healthy family living is possible for you. It’s all a matter of how we value and treat our children. The children shown in AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT, whether rich or poor, are blessed to be part of a tradition that helps keep families healthy and happy. The children shown in WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING, whether rich or poor, are participants in the cycles of time, weather, seasons, and family life. These are the rhythms of our children’s lives, and they all intertwine. We do our best to set the beat wisely for them.
It’s no accident that Remember the Sabbath is the fourth commandment, and the first in positive form. According to Wikipedia, ancient understanding of the fourth commandment took it to go beyond “a sign and remembrance of God’s original rest during the creation week; it extends to a concern that one’s servants, family, and livestock be able to rest and be refreshed from their work.” In our times, translate servants into employees, and livestock into all domestic animals. Equally, we are taught to invite guests and even strangers to the Sabbath table: as a sanctuary in time it is a birthright for all who pass within our domain.
Maybe it’s also no accident that the international time clock to which the entire world adheres is seemingly lacking in contention. It is difficult to think of another man-made system in which the whole world agrees to participate peacefully without issue.
As one teacher in my daughter’s elementary school reminded us while introducing a play the kids put on during “Diversity Week”: We are all the same, in all different ways.
I liked that. And the kids’ play was a hoot. Through smiles and a few tears, I wondered: who is teaching whom?
Please help spread the word about my books, and request them at your local bookstores and libraries. Librarians (whether at school or public libraries) will often honor such requests. If I live nearby or pass through your area, I’ll be happy to come in and sign the books. As always, I am available for author events. And I love to hear from my readers, young and old.