A Compendium of Jewish Culture: An Interview with Jane Breskin Zalben

Sharon Verbeten


You’re an icon in the children’s literature world, having written more than fifty books. Why does your latest title, Beni’s Tiny Tales: Around the Year in Jewish Holidays, feel different from your others? Do you feel closer to it?

I need to answer this in a circuitous way because life often takes indirect paths. I have done many kinds of books and have illustrated and written most of them, but sometimes, I have illustrated other authors, and other times, other artists have illustrated my text.

My first Beni book was Beni’s First Chanukah about bears and squirrels celebrating and sharing their holiday traditions as we did with our children and friends. It was my ode to all the Christmas trees I never had. All the red-and-green sugar-dusted cookies, wreaths, and pine roping my family would never do. I desperately wanted to spray-paint reindeers on my bedroom window prancing in fake snow and prayed for Santa to arrive, bringing me a Patty Playpal doll. A Jewish child growing up in a non-Jewish world.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5860/cal.21.3.22


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