Tag Archives: jewish culture & identity

The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero

Written by: Amalia Hoffman

Illustrated by: Chiara Fedele

For ages: 8-12 years old

Language: English and some Italian

Topics Covered: Judaism, WWII, Holocaust, Activism, Global Community, Historical Events, Historic Figure, Sports, Cycling. 

Summary: Gino Bartali was a small and sickly child, but he loved riding a bicycle more than anything else.  He got a part-time job at a bike shop to learn more, competed in his first race at the age of 12, but didn’t get his parents’ proper blessing to be a full-time professional cyclist until age 17.  Gino worked incredibly hard and in 1938 got a spot to compete in the Tour de France.  Even though he crashed his bicycle trying not to hit some spectators that decided to cross the road, Gino won! In his speech, he didn’t mention Mussolini who had taken control of Italy, and this angered the authorities.  Mussolini had teamed up with Adolf Hitler, and many years of hardship had begun.

When Gino returned home, he received a call from his good friend who also happened to be a cardinal and the archbishop of a church in Florence.  The cardinal had a plan to smuggle false papers into the country to help the Jewish folks assume non-Jewish identities for the duration of the war, keeping them safe from deportation to the concentration camps.  Gino doctored his bicycle frame to hide papers and went on long training rides back and forth through the mountains, shuttling papers back and forth to help the cardinal.

This is a fantastic book about a historical figure in multiple arenas!  We had never heard of Gino Bartali before reading this book, and are so glad his story was published.  After the story is finished there is an Afterword containing a photo of Gino and more detailed information about his life.  Overall, this is a fantastic book for elementary school students and we highly recommend it!

This book was sent to us by Capstone for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List put on by the Read With River book club, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

600F95C74AA-483A-43AE-862BEF470200BF66Amalia Hoffman an author/illustrator. Her board book, Dreidel Day is scheduled for publication by Lerners Publishing Group/ Kar Ben Publishing for Fall, 2018.
She also wrote and illustrated The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies. (Gefen Publishing House) Both books were chosen as notable stories for children by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The Klezmer Bunch was selected by the Tony Award winning choreographer/producer, Elizabeth Swados for inclusion in her play, Jewish Books Cooking.
Amalia’s article, Queen Esther and Me, was published in the March 2016 issue of  Highlights Magazine for Children.
Amalia designed and illustrated Rose Bud, on oversized book with pop-up elements, created as prop for Israel’s children’s theater, The Train.
Amalia received the SCBWI portfolio award in the category of Fantasy in 2005. Her art was voted best at the illustration display in the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference in 2014 and she received 2nd place at the 2016 conference.
She actively promotes her books with entertaining presentations and was voted as
finalist in SCBWI storytelling competition.
Amalia is a teaching artist affiliated with ArtsWestchester. She is a member of SCBWI and Children’s Books Illustrator Guild.

22282107_1986392834938384_4822018181978824675_nFrom her website:

Hi,
I am Chiara
I was born in Milan in 1973. I live in a little village 50 km far from Milan where I live with my family and my pets.

I attended Art School in Milan and took a degree in Illustration at La Scuola del Fumetto in Milan. I had also attended several workshops with illustrators such as Gianni DeConno, Arcadio Lobato, Svjetlan Junakovic and a course with the publisher Paolo Canton (Topipittori) called Projecting Books.
I work mainly for children publishers all around the word, storyboarding for advertising and movie. Magazines. I use a combination of mixed traditional media and digital.
My artwork is varied and I feel my style is always evolving.

WORK EXPERIENCE
Freelance illustrator, editorial designer, storyboard artist for advertising and movies.

I work with big and small Publishers in Italy, Greece, USA, UK, France, Germany.

I am currently represented by  illustration Agency ASTOUND.US

Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question

Written by: Aviva L. Brown

Illustrated by: Anastasia Kanavaliuk

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English & Hebrew (glossary included)

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Judaism, Family, Love, Education, Culture & Traditions, Global Community, Jewish Culture & Identity. 

Summary: This book is so great!  The world of children’s literature desperately needs more diversity, and this book fills several gaps.  Having more main characters of color, especially a family that is Jewish is much needed.  Ezra’s family is interracial, and celebrate Shabbat weekly.

Ezra is a bright, curious character.  He loves being Jewish, and asking questions.  One of his favorite days is Shabbat, because no one does any work.  This gets Ezra thinking, what is considered work?  Can knots be tied?  Can Ezra even tie his shoes on Shabbat??  Wandering around the house, Ezra asks each of his siblings his BIG question but none of them can enlighten him.  Ezra’s mother says she will look it up, and then his dad arrives home just in time for Shabbat.  His BIG question will have to wait!  The reader is introduced to a few vocabulary words and concepts related to Shabbat, as well as the blessing that Ezra’s mom sings.  The next morning, shoes still untied, Ezra is able to track down Rabbi Andy to ask his BIG question.  Rabbi Andy explains that people follow Judaism all over the world, and everyone interprets the rules a little differently.  This makes sense to Ezra, but he’s still unsure on if HIS family is allowed to tie knots, even temporary ones, on Shabbat.  As Ezra goes into the sanctuary for the start of services, he bumps into his dad who tells Ezra to tie his shoes.

This book does a great job of explaining the nuances of the religion, and presenting a simple question that adults may not consider but is very important to young people.  Another small side plot of this story we found particularly funny is that in the beginning Ezra wonders if the cat thinks in English, but in several places throughout the story we see thought bubbles above their two cats and they’re in fact NOT thinking in English!  This book does a fantastic job introducing a young audience to Judaism without knocking the reader over the head.  The story is believable, the illustrations are adorable, and the reader is left wanting to know what other BIG questions Ezra has.  We can’t wait to see what this author publishes next!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

web+bio+picAviva Brown and her children converted to Judaism in 2017, but during the preceeding years of Jewish study, she noticed a lack of diversity among Jewish children’s literature.  In late 2018, Aviva read a quote by author Beverly Cleary: If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.  So, she did.

In 2019, Aviva founded SpringLight Publishing to publish her books, with the goal of eventually publishing diverse picture books by other independent authors.

Aviva currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two cats, and four wild animals who sometimes pretend they’re well-mannered children.  When she’s not writing, editing, or reading diverse kidlit, she can be found hiding from housework (well, you can try, but she’s super good at hiding), eating popcorn, or singing show tunes.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 11.03.42 AMAnastasia Kanavaliuk is hard to find on the internet!  Her Instagram handle is here, and we think she’s so incredibly talented! 

Sound Off Saturday Featuring: Aviva Brown!

Happy Saturday!  We are SO EXCITED to be able to feature this powerhouse, Aviva Brown!  Aviva is one of the first people we “met” on Instagram when we started our account, and we’ve been keeping in regular contact ever since.  Aviva is knowledgable, funny, and definitely not afraid to laugh at herself as she shares funny life situations on her entertaining Instagram stories.  We are thrilled that she was able to publish her first book at the end of July, and see a shining bright future for her!  We hope you enjoy reading this interview, but make sure that after you’re done you go outside and enjoy some of this end of summer warm weather.

This is actually the first of 3 posts around Aviva and her new book!  Our next book review post on Tuesday is Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question, and for our next Sound Off Saturday post, we were able to interview Aviva’s talented illustrator Anastasia!  Whew, we have to go lie in a hammock for a bit, it’s getting too exciting around here 😉  Tiny Activists, out!

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

IMG_3930Aviva Brown: Hey, peeps!  I’m Aviva Brown and I self-publish children’s picture books about Jewish kids of Color.  I’ve been married to my incredible spouse for 12 years and we have four amazing children that get on our nerves, cover us in kisses, and make our lives…unpredictable.  My oldest child is 11 and my youngest turns 1 in September. My children and I converted to Judaism in 2017, and my husband just finished his conversion in August 2019.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

AB: I’m passionate about so many things that I burned out on activism because I tried to do every. single. thing.  These days I’ve limited my focus to two areas–finding, reading, reviewing, and creating books about diverse populations, and working on immigration issues.  

I’m currently the chair of my synagogue’s Immigration Sub-Committee.  We’ve held an ID drive for undocumented immigrants, which many businesses and the police department in our small city will recognize as legitimate identification.  We partnered with a mostly Latinx Christian congregation for a program called Stranger 2 Neighbor, where we met several times in Fall 2018 to exchange information about our different cultures.  It went so well, we’ve kept in touch and are planning a community service project this fall.

imagesWe also maintain an Immigration Relief Fund, which congregants donate to, and partner with a local organization, Faith Action International House, to provide monetary relief to families who have had family members detained by ICE.  We’re also currently planning a trip this winter to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

81WeUn5RNjLAB: My first picture book, Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question, was just released July 30th, so I’m currently working on getting it on peoples’ radar and selling it.  I’ve also started work on my second book, Ora: Summer Camp Stowaway, already.  My goal is to release it in spring 2020.  I’m really excited to bring stories about Jews of Color to the children’s market.  Kids need to see themselves in books so that they know they matter. That’s my mission.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

AB: The easiest way to support my journey would be to purchase copies of my book. Ha!  However, I know that’s not possible for everyone. If you know someone who might be interested, though, tell them.  Follow my social media accounts and help me build an audience of like-minded parents, grandparents, and educators who understand how important diversity is in kids books.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

91GKSSOobOLAB: My favorite children’s book this year is Lubna and Pebble.  It’s about a little girl who lives in a refugee tent city where her pebble is her only friend.  She eventually makes a human friend, and when it is time for her family to leave, she leaves Pebble with him.  Such a sweet story.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in The coming year?

AB: If I can pull it off, I hope to release two books in 2020, and mentor other self-publishing authors.  There were so many things I had to spend hours researching or learn on the fly.  If I can save another writer that research time, hopefully more people will add their voices and stories to the kidlit world.  We need them!

Keep Connected with Aviva!

Website

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