Elana Rubinstein is the author of the new children's book Once Upon an Apple Cake: A Rosh Hashanah Story. She lives in Los Angeles.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Once Upon an Apple Cake?
A: I started Once Upon an Apple Cake in college. In between classes, I was writing a story about a little girl who lived in a magical restaurant. It was pure wish fulfillment. The restaurant could do all sorts of things—like cook meals by itself and set the table (think Beauty and the Beast Be My Guest.)
Unfortunately, the story wasn’t really working. The plot and characters felt very bland to me. Something was definitely missing.
At a certain point, I realized that I should change the focus of the story from a magical restaurant to the little girl who was actually living there. That’s how Saralee Siegel’s super-nose was born! After changing that crucial detail, the rest of the story fell into place. Saralee’s voice and unusual perspective made the entire book feel alive.
Q: What do you think the story says about the connections between holidays and food?
A: Saralee Siegel and her family are in the restaurant business. Their entire lives revolve around cooking delicious food for the Jewish holiday cycle. For the Siegels, food is a way to connect with the community around them. It’s almost like they are opening the door and allowing their whole town to join in on their family traditions.
Q: What do you think Jennifer Naalchigar's illustrations add to the book?
A: As soon as I saw Jennifer’s artist portfolio, I knew she was the perfect illustrator for Once Upon an Apple Cake. She added so many quirky details to the book. During the editing process, I didn’t want to add too many “art notes” because I knew that Jennifer would come up with something so much better!
I especially love how she illustrated each character, paying close attention to their fashion choices, hair styles, and accessories!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I hope that readers see how much the Siegels love each other, despite each person’s MANY eccentricities. The Siegels have true acceptance for one another. They may bicker, break things, forget important details, and drive each other nuts—but their love for each other surpasses it all.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am currently writing the second book in the Saralee Siegel Series! I can’t give a lot of details right now, but I know readers will love this second installment.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If you have any family recipes you’d like to share with the Siegel Family, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows, perhaps your recipe will make it into the official Siegel House menu.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb