Pamela Ehrenberg is the author of the new children's picture book Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas. Her other books include Ethan, Suspended and Tillman County Fire. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas?
A: Partly the idea came from experimenting with dosa recipes with my kids—the process reminded us of making latkes for Hanukkah.
And partly the idea came from thinking about and celebrating how much more diverse our Jewish communities are becoming but also noticing that Jewish books may have some catching up to do. I had been thinking for a while about how I could join in the efforts that PJ Library and others are working on to address that.
Q: What do you think Anjan Sarkar's illustrations added to the book?
A: Aren’t they gorgeous?! They added so much joyful spirit as well as a chance to convey so much through the characters’ facial expressions.
And I had never imagined the role of endpapers in creating such a fun entry point before the story even begins—lots of readers including professional reviewers have commented on those fantastic endpapers.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I’m an only child, and I think I always wished that those kids who were lucky enough to have siblings would realize how good they had it. So on one level, I hope kids take away the idea that the narrator realizes at the end—that even the most difficult little siblings are, on balance, good to have around.
And I hope kids take away the idea that there’s no “wrong” way to celebrate a holiday or embrace their culture—or cultures. Whether they’re feeling different for celebrating a holiday that’s different from their friends’, or celebrating the same holiday in a different way, or doing something different instead of celebrating—there’s no scorecard at the end of childhood to tally up whether your family has done things right or wrong.
Q: You've written for different age groups--do you have a preference?
I find that it works really well for me to be able to shift gears; when my novel gets overwhelming (or simply can't be squeezed in amid the demands of parenting, work-life, and Hanukkah book promotion), I can still find a creative few minutes somewhere to straighten out a line or two in a picture book.
Having multiple projects in various hoppers makes it more likely that I won't be totally burned out/frustrated with all of them at the same time and can let a project or six rest for a bit while still making progress elsewhere.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a couple of different projects in the works: a cross-cultural novel-in-two voices that I’m working on with a co-author, and a picture book that my daughter and I really could have used 10 years ago.
And my agent is shopping around my middle-grade embezzlement novel-in-verse—if any editors reading this might be searching for something like that, let me know if I can put you in touch!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have a number of local events coming up, including an SCBWI Read Local party at Dawson's Market on Nov. 24 (Black Friday). An almost-full list is on my website!
I'm grateful to SCBWI for connecting me to so many wonderful authors--and of course for connecting me to my agent, to my first editor, and to Deborah and others who keep all of us informed through your blogs!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb