Sunday, November 3, 2019

Q&A with Sheryl Haft

Sheryl Haft is the author of the new children's picture book Goodnight Bubbala: A Joyful Parody. She also has written the picture books Baby-Boo, I Love You and I Love You, Blankie. She is the founder of Kids Engineer!, and she teaches design and invention-building to elementary school students. She lives in Wilson, Wyoming, and New York City.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for a Yiddish parody of Goodnight Moon?

A: I had been looking for a way to incorporate Yiddish into a children’s book. One day when I was re-reading Goodnight Moon, I looked at the “quiet old lady who was whispering hush” and wondered: Who is she? Is she a grandma?

And then I thought: What if she was a “Bubbie?” And what would this story look like with my family? (My not-so-quiet family?) Probably more like Fiddler on the Roof or My Big Fat Greek Wedding—which is the spirit in which I wrote this parody.

Q: What did you see as the right combination of the original book and your own Chanukah-based version?

A: Writing Goodnight Bubbala, I paid close attention to the rhyming beats of Goodnight Moon and kept as similar a cadence as possible. The fun sounds of the Yiddish words provide a sort-of punchline for much of the text. 

[Illustrator] Jill Weber and I discussed the art and how the characters should be rabbits as in Goodnight Moon. In Goodnight Bubbala, there’s more of an arc, where the story starts off quietly, builds to a raucous gathering of the whole mishpacha—a surprise bedtime party—and then quiets down again at the end. Like Goodnight Moon, on many of the pages, there is a mouse that’s fun to find.

Q: What do you think Jill Weber's illustrations add to the book?

A: Jill’s illustrations bring the perfect balance of happy energy, nostalgia and charm to the book. She created many special details that will make it fun for kids to read again and again. We created Stick Puppets and an iSpy game activity to accompany the book. Available on my website.

Q: What do you hope people take away from Goodnight Bubbala?

A: My biggest hope is the children and adults experience joy from reading the book together. It’s especially wonderful for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.

I am concerned that each generation knows less and less of the Yiddish language. I feel that life would be so much duller without it. I hope this book and its glossary helps keep Yiddish alive.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My next book is Mazie’s Amazing Machines, a book about a little girl engineer who uses engineering to make inventions for her family. It’s due out in 2021 and is based on my work as the founder and educator of Kids Engineer!, my after-school program.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I collaborated on two songs created especially for the book: "We’re Gonna Learn Some Yiddish" and "Goodnight Bubbala-The Song." Both enhance the reading experience and are available on my website or here

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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