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Practically Paradise
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Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland

On January 12, 2010, the Association of Jewish Libraries (www.jewishlibraries.org/blog) announced the winner in the Younger Readers Category:  New Year at the Pier written by April Halprin Wayland and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009.  Today we kick off the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour in Practically Paradise.
gold sealSydneyTaylor Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) since 1968, the Award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category. The award memorializes Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. Winners Wayland and Jorisch will receive 2010 gold medal at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Seattle this July. The full list of thirty-three award and notable titles is available online here.
NEW YEAR  at the Pier cover Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland
From the press release: The Jewish New Year is a special time of year, with a change in seasons, symbolic foods and other traditions. It is also the time for introspection and the ritual of Tashlich, when sins are symbolically cast into a body of flowing water. Izzy thinks about things for which he is sorry. He “compares Tashlich to cleaning out his toy closet, an example of the wonderful way this story conveys to children, at their own level, a contemporary version of the healthy Jewish way we start fresh at the beginning of each new year,” commented Susan Berson, a member of the Award Committee. Incoming Committee Chair Barbara Bietz noted that the “whimsical watercolor illustrations are a perfect paring for the delightful prose.”

According to AJL’s Mission statement for the Sydney Taylor Book Award: It is hoped that official recognition of such books will inspire authors, encourage publishers, inform parents and teachers, and intrigue young readers. The committee also hopes that by educating readers about the Jewish experience, they can engender pride in Jewish readers while building bridges to readers of other backgrounds. nighthrse cvr2 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland
April Halprin Wayland ~ photo credit Webb Burns Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland
April Halprin Wayland is well-known for being one of six authors on the blog Teaching Authors: Six Children’s Authors Who Also Teach Writing. In addition to New Year at the Pier, she has written To Rabbittown,rabbittown cvr Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland The Night Horse, It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandmagrandma cvr Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April Wayland, and Girl Coming In for a Landing.  Let’s ask her a few questions.

Diane:  April, winning the Sydney Taylor Book Award is an outstanding achievement. Congratulations! Now that New Year at the Pier has won this award, how do you believe it will be used to educate readers about the Jewish experience and engender pride in Jewish readers while building bridges to readers of other backgrounds (as the committee hopes)? That seems such an overwhelming mission. 

April:  It’s not overwhelming if you know that I set out to tell a story about something I do each year which makes me happy. It was that simple.

The joyous ritual of Tashlich (here’s how to pronounce it) is about apologizing and forgiveness.

Young Izzy walks to the end of the pier only after saying he’s sorry to those he has hurt. When he tosses each piece of bread into the waves, he can forgive himself for being human. In the story, the reader learns that making amends is humbling…and universal. Everyone—even Izzy’s mother—needs to make amends.

I am proud to help shine the light on this beautiful lesson in courage which Judaism and many other religions and cultures teach. 
Diane: How do you see teachers, librarians, and parents sharing New Year at the Pier with students who are not of Jewish faith? 

April:  I’d like teachers to use it to help explain to students why some of their Jewish classmates are absent on Rosh Hashanah…and what they’re doing.

I’d like them to use it in January to talk about the ways people around the world celebrate the new year. (For more on New Year Rituals Around the World, see my website.)

I’d like teachers and parents to use the book to open discussions about how to apologize. To help, I’ve listed resources for discussing forgiveness on my website.

In fact, here’s an activity I’d like readers of all ages to try:

• Think of one person you’ve harmed.
• Write about the incident and read it to someone else.
• Sit with the feelings for a bit, then be willing to let them go. The feelings may not go away, but the first step is to be willing to let them go away.
• Then make an appointment to see the person you’ve hurt face-to-face to apologize. No excuses—just a simple heartfelt apology…without expectations that you will be forgiven. Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels told me that forgiveness can’t be the focus of the apology. I can’t apologize in order to be forgiven or to feel better.

I’d also like teachers to use New Year at the Pier to learn how to accept an apology…by first acting this out in a safe environment.

I’d like older kids to use this book as an opening to discussions about the Rwanda Reconciliation. I’ve provided resources for this on my website too.

Finally, I’d love to hear that an adult gave this book to a friend as a way of finally apologizing about something that’s been bothering her for a long-long-long-long time.

Diane:  Many teachers seem to ignore Rosh Hashanah and concentrate on incorporating Hanukkah into the curriculum in December. What advice would you offer them?

April:  I’m sure that’s true for most teachers in non-Jewish schools. Many don’t realize that Hanukah, a relatively minor holiday, has been elevated by our culture to compete with Christmas. So it’s about educating our teachers.
One year, my nephew’s school district scheduled a major test on Rosh Hashanah, while he was out of school. Oy!

In an effort to teach teachers and administrators to become more culturally aware and sensitive, my loving and inventive journalist/researcher sister created a multicultural calendar.

She offered it to the teachers and administrators in her community. .Each year thereafter, she expanded the calendar, adding more holidays and cultures. It was an enormous project. Her calendar became a standard teaching tool in the district.

These days, there are many such calendars available. So I’d suggest teachers get a good multicultural calendar which commemorates, celebrates and teaches important holidays across all cultures.

I just googled “multicultural calendar” and “diversity calendar” and found many possibilities, including this one: http://www.diversityresources.com/vcal2010.htm  (Disclaimer: I haven’t read it thoroughly, nor have I used this particular calendar—but the idea is to spread the spotlight over all cultures to enrich our children, ourselves and our world.) 

View this book trailer about New Year at the Pier. 

Diane:  I noticed you are donating a percentage of your profit from the sale of New Year at the Pier – A Rosh Hashanah Story to Mazon. Tell us more about your reasons for this. 

April:  I believe that every soapbox on which we stand offers us an opportunity to change the world. (One of my favorite quotes is, “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” ~ Betty Reese)

And since we toss bread crumbs as part of our amends during Tashlich, I wanted to find a charity that was involved with feeding the poor. My research led me to Mazon.org, which believes that in a world of plenty, hunger and malnutrition should not exist. I second the notion.

Mazon means “food” or “sustenance” in Hebrew and each year Mazon distributes over $4 million worldwide for meal distribution, food banking and grocery delivery, nutrition and hunger awareness education and advocacy for change.

Diane: One of your award winning novels for older students is a novel in poems Girl Coming In for a Landing.  girllanding Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour with April WaylandJournals and poetry play an important part of your writing. Do you still journal?

April:  Absolutely! Writing in my journal each evening gives me an airplane-view of my day. After I’ve written in my journal, I realize why I got so tired after a strained talk with a friend—funny how I hadn’t seen the connection at the time.

I see why I wanted to eat more after waiting on the phone for 30 minutes…The writing helps me understand that overeating can sometimes be a way to block anger or impatience or just feeling overwhelmed.

I realize I should have stopped talking and instead listened to my Uncle Davie. Seeing that clearly–simply from writing about my day–propels me to make direct amends to him as quickly as possible…which leads this interview right back to the subject of making amends!

The whole point of making amends, as I see it, is so we can move forward in life. My aim is to be like a glass tube between heaven and earth…I don’t want any junk in that tube…I want it to be clear so that I focus on being of service to my fellows on this earth.

Thanks for joining us, today.While preparing for this interview I read your blog where you reveal how you learned you’d won the award.  Readers, New Year at the Pier and April Halprin Wayland appeared on many 
blogs this fall for you to learn more:

Join us on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour all this week as we celebrate books that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.

  • Monday, February 1, 2010 April Halprin Wayland, author of New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story - Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category appeared here at Practically Paradise
  • Monday, February 1, 2010 Stéphane Jorisch, illustrator of New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story - Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at Frume Sarah’s World 
  • Monday, February 1, 2010 Margarita Engle, author of Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba – Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category will appear at bookstogether
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010 Robin Friedman, author of The Importance of Wings – Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category will appear at Little Willow’s Bildungsroman 
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010 Jacqueline Davies, author of Lost - Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category will appear at Biblio File
  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010 Jonah Winter, author of You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at Get in the Game: Read! and be cross-posted at Examiner.com
  • Wednesday ,February 3, 2010 Elka Weber, author of The Yankee at the Seder – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at BewilderBlog
  • Wednesday, February 3, 2010 Adam Gustavson, illustrator of The Yankee at the Seder – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at Great Kids Books
  • Wednesday, February 3, 2010 Judy Vida, daughter of the late Selma Kritzer Silverberg, author of Naomi’s Song – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category will appear at The Book Nosher
  • Thursday, February 4, 2010 Jacqueline Jules, author of Benjamin and the Silver Goblet - Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at ASHarmony
  • Thursday, February 4, 2010 Natascia Ugliano, illustrator of Benjamin and the Silver Goblet – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at The Book of Life
  • Thursday, February 4, 2010 Deborah Bodin Cohen, author of Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at Ima On and Off the Bima
  • Thursday, February 4, 2010 Jago, illustrator of Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category will appear at Jewish Books for Children
  • Friday, February 5, 2010 Annika Thor, author of A Faraway Island – Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category will appear at Teen Reads
  • Friday, February 5, 2010 Ellen Frankel, author of The JPS Illustrated Bible for Children – Sydney Taylor Notable Book for All Ages will appear at Deo Writer

Comments

  1. madelyn says:

    Thanks! I love the suggestions for talking about this tradition around Jan. 1 as well as the Jewish New Year!

  2. Kathe Pinchuck says:

    I enjoyed the book so much that I didn’t realize how many “teachable moments” there were. Congratulations to April again. Thank you Diane for a great interview and the links to so much more information.

  3. Heidi Estrin says:

    Diane, thank you for this very thorough and thoroughly interesting interview, and for all the helpful links. What a great way to start the Sydney Taylor blog tour!

  4. Barbara Bietz says:

    Thank you for sharing this lovely interview with April! I feel inspired by her words – and your thoughtful questions!

  5. April Halprin Wayland says:

    Dear Diane,

    Thank you for your terrific questions and for all those links–wowza!

  6. Rivster says:

    So many ways to use this book. I can’t wait to share it at shul this Tishrei :)

    A great interview — thanks so much!

  7. Jacqueline Jules says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview. The author’s lovely spirit shines through. Thanks for all the ideas for expanding the beautiful thoughts presented in this book.