|Esty Schachter, photo by Samantha Liddick|
Esty Schachter is the author of Pickled Watermelon, a new novel for kids. She also has written Anya's Echoes and Waiting for a Sign. Also a clinical social worker, she lives in Newton, Masssachusetts.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Pickled Watermelon, and for your character Molly?
A: Pickled Watermelon was my way of preserving my memories of my grandparents, who lived in Naharya [a community in Israel] when I was a kid. The rest of the book is fictional, but Saba and Savta were written as I remember them.
While I was able to speak and understand Hebrew fairly well, Molly was a way to explore tricky things many kids experience related to confidence, communication and trying new things.
Q: Why did you choose to set the novel in Israel in 1986, and did you need to do much research to write the book?
A: I set it then so it would generally fit the story of how my grandparents came to Israel post-World War II. My family visited Naharya a number of times when I was a child, and I was there on my own as a teen on a kibbutz and a college semester in Tel Aviv. I did need to do some research to check my descriptions of places and things.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: Communication is always possible. That doesn't mean it's easy!
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: I adored the All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor as a kid (and my sons did too!). Other favorites are Patricia Polacco, Dana Reinhardt, Lynne Reid Banks, Jacqueline Woodson and Linda Sue Park.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I've started a young adult novel. It's exciting to be working on a new project.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Pickled Watermelon is also a story of persistence. A version of the book won an award in 2004 that led me to Joni Sussman at Kar-Ben. We corresponded periodically about the manuscript, and at one point I rewrote it, switching from third person to first person. Joni's feedback was crucial in helping me shape the book.
The first version of Pickled Watermelon was written more than 25 years ago. It makes it that much more special to see it on my bookshelf now!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb