Tuesday, July 21, 2009

AJL Conference

Back from the AJL Conference in Chicago. Thanks to everyone who helped make it a wonderful time.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Association Of Jewish Librarian Conference

If you are in Chicago on July 7th, I will be stopping by the AJL conference to pick up my Sydney Taylor Award Gold Medal. It is quite an honor and this will make it official. They can't take it away from me now. Full details are on the AJL website.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shtetls, The Old Frontier

Since I have been complaining to everyone that the new Trek movie missed a great marketing opportunity by not having Prime Spock reading a copy of Too Young for Yiddish when young Kirk first finds him in the cave, I've decided to redesign the cover for the paperback edition (packaged with a CD of Nimoy reading the book). Of course, I still need to sell my publisher on the idea!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just One More Book

I am pleased to be featured on the Just One More Book blog, which is an essential site for anyone interested in the world of children's literature.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Frankie Manning

I am sorry to note that my friend, the great and legendary lindy-hopper Frankie Manning died yesterday at 94 years of age.  Frankie was the hero of the boy in my book "Happy Feet," and he turned the gallery into a dance hall at the book's publication party. You can see pictures here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Abraham Joshua Heschel School

I had a great time meeting the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in NYC last week, and thanks to all the families who showed up at my Anti-Defamation League Next Generation Philanthropy lecture.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Image Journal

Image magazine, a journal that bridges "faith and imagination" has selected me as Artist of the Month in their 20th anniversary issue! Spend time looking around this site. All the art, poetry and prose is of the highest quality.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sydney Taylor Book Award Announced

I am thrilled to announce that "As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom," was awarded the prestigious Sydney Taylor Award Gold Medal from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and “A is for Abraham,” was awarded the Silver Medal. This is the first time in the award's 41-year history that one author has been honored with their top two awards. The Sydney Taylor Award is the most coveted award for writers of Jewish children's literature. Isaac Bashevis Singer was the first award recipient. Thanks to Jewish Librarians everywhere!

From Cold Feet to Happy Feet

I've gotten close to stardom. When my daughter attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, I went to see her introduce the person who was going to introduce Bill Cosby. But I missed her minute of fame because I had excused myself to the men's room, where I found myself standing at a urinal alongside Billy Crystal. After we both returned to our seats (he up front, me to the nosebleed section), I could see him settling in next to Robin Williams and doubtless mentioning meeting me, just as I was mentioning our encounter to my wife.

This is the only story I have to tell, when kids ask me if I got to hang out with Robin Williams. Why do they ask? Because lately, when I speak at schools, I am introduced as the author of, among other books, Happy Feet. Happy Feet? The movie with Robin Williams as the voice of the dancing penguins Ramón and Lovelace, which opened Friday?

Well, no. My Happy Feet is a story of Harlem's old Savoy Ballroom. It's about a father who gives up his dream of stardom as a dancer so that he can provide a stable life for his son (much as my father gave up his fantasies for me). He opens his own business--a shoe-shine shop--across the street from the legendary ballroom. Happy Feet was published last year to good reviews and middling sales. It was praised in African-American and trade publications, and last fall, when the New York Times Book Review featured one of E.B. Lewis's brilliant illustrations from the book, I watched the book's sales ranking climb from the mid-700,000s on Amazon to the top 7,000s. And then I watched it quickly return to where it had started. There was a much smaller spike after I published an essay titled, "No, I'm Not Black and I Can't Dance Either," to answer those critics who felt Jews (like me) should stick to writing stories about Jews, and leave children's tales of African-American history to African-Americans.

But it seems nobody has reservations about Jews writing in the voice of penguins. Maybe it's the black-and-white tuxedo look that allows all races to identify. "I can't wait to see your movie," the kids say, and I've even received an errant e-mail asking for my autograph. Suddenly, my book sales are picking up momentum, so I have hatched this plan to help them along. I am urging all booksellers to set my Happy Feet amid their Happy Feet merchandising displays. There are enough similarities to mislead even an astute shopper.

The Warner Bros. film's tag line is "Warning: May Cause Toe-Tapping." My story begins, "My toes are tappin' and my knees are swingin'." In the movie, Lovelace says, "Turn to the penguin next to you... and give him a great big hug!" The boy nicknamed Happy Feet in my book says, "Daddy catches me and holds me close." It's almost a case of pure plagiarism, but rather than sue, I am planning on selling more books by mistake than I previously had by design. Maybe my publisher can print a new dust jacket alluding to the tie-in. It was, after all, the actress Lana Turner who named the Savoy "the home of the happy feet," so the Hollywood pedigree already exists. I do regret not cybersquatting on the Web site Happyfeet.com, but Birkenstock got there before me.

I'm not bitter, though. I'm too busy working on my next picture book. I'm calling it Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture--Coming to a Bookstore Near You.

Published in Publishers Weekly – Volume 253 Issue 46 11/20/2006