Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Q&A with Erica S. Perl

Erica S. Perl is the author of the new children's picture book The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. Her many other books include All Three Stooges and Goatilocks and the Three Bears. She is based in Washington, D.C. 

Q: You write that a family discussion inspired you to create The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. Can you say more about that?

A: On Hanukkah, my two daughters pointed out that the shamash works hard every night helping to light the other candles, but it never gets a night of appreciation. The idea stuck with me. And then I thought about all the people who help others, yet so often go unappreciated (and sometimes even unnoticed).

I realized how great it would be if we could honor the shamash as well as people who give of themselves and share their light with others. This led me to write The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. 

Q: What do you think Shahar Kober's illustrations add to the book?

A: The book takes place in a contemporary urban apartment building, and I love how Shahar depicted all of the diverse characters so beautifully. Shahar lives in Israel, so it was also wonderful that he brought an international flavor to the book. And the case cover he created (for the front of the book, underneath the book’s jacket) brought tears to my eyes!

Q: The book focuses on the holiday of Hanukkah, but also on the issue of helping others. What do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: I hope kids will be inspired to be kind, generosity, and welcoming, like the neighbors in the book. I also hope the book will show readers the virtues of being creative and resourceful like Max and Rachel. I hope kids will come away from the book with an appreciation of all of the ways we can help each other (and the desire to celebrate Shamash Night, too!).

It’s especially important during the global pandemic, when we need to take care of each other in so many ways – by wearing masks, social distancing, donating resources, and checking in on older and more vulnerable people. But it’s great because kids really love to help and welcome opportunities to do so. 

Q: You've written for different age groups--do you have a preference?

A: I really like writing for kids of all ages. I love writing middle grade novels, like All Three Stooges and When Life Gives You O.J. and I love writing picture books like The Ninth Night of Hanukkah and Goatilocks and the Three Bears.

And I love writing everything in between, from early readers (I write the Lucky Dogs series, about my own dogs) to nonfiction (I write the Truth or Lie series) to chapter books (I write the Arnold and Louise and the Craftily Ever After series). 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am finishing my revisions on a new middle grade novel. I am also working on a new picture book (about a cookie that is best friends with a carrot) and I’m doing research on the next Truth or Lie book. I love my job! 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I am hoping that lots of families and communities will be inspired to celebrate The Ninth Night of Hanukkah with me this year and going forward annually. I’m thrilled to share a wonderful collection of free downloadable resources on my website for anyone who wants to celebrate and/or host an event. These can be found at bit.ly/9thNightHanukkah.

Mark your calendar! This year, the Ninth Night of Hanukkah (aka Shamash Night) takes place on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. However, the book is available as of 9/15/20! 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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