Three Questions With Barbara Bietz

In each installment of "Three Questions With," we get to know a different PJ Library celebrity by asking three questions about their work, their process, and interests. Today we're talking to author Barbara Bietz author of PJ Library book The Sundown Kid: A Southwestern Shabbat and PJ Our Way selection, Like a Maccabee.

What inspired Like a Maccabee?

Like a Maccabee is a story that came to me when I realized many kids don't make a connection between their Jewish lives and their daily activities. Hebrew school and Shabbat may happen in a vacuum, but Jewish values should permeate all aspects of our lives--at home, in a synagogue, and even on the soccer field. Through learning about Hanukkah from his grandfather, Ben develops a new perspective for the challenges he faces at school and with his soccer team.

My hope is that readers will see that Ben, the main character, learns that his Jewish identity can enrich his life while helping him to become a more caring, compassionate person to those around him. I also wanted to create a relationship dynamic between Ben and his Grandpa to underscore what they have in common. Technology advances and fashions may change, but feelings and emotions stay the same from generation to generation. There is so much kids can learn from their elders!

You blog and write a lot about children’s books on your site, Jewish Books For Kids. What makes something a great children’s book?

I love children’s books and my goal for creating Jewish Books For Kids was to celebrate the books I love, the people who create them, and the readers who enjoy them.

On my web site I don’t offer reviews. Instead, I have the honor of interviewing writers, illustrators, editors, and more--people who have devoted their loves to creating stories. Writing is an art form and will always be somewhat subjective--there is room for all tastes. That said, there are story elements that good books share--a well-defined setting, a compelling character with an authentic voice, and a journey that takes the reader to a new place of wonder.

What are you reading right now?

I read a lot of middle grade and YA books. Some of my recent favorites are Rain, Reign by Ann Martin Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott, Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephardt. I can't keep up with all the books I'd like to read. My "TBR" (to be read) stack seems to grow taller by the day!

Congratulations to Barbara and the many other PJ Library authors who were honored in the 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

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