Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Q&A with Alan Silberberg


Alan Silberberg is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book Meet the Matzah: A Passover Story. His other books include Meet the Latkes. He lives in Montreal.



Q: After creating Meet the Latkes, how did you come up with Meet the Matzah?


A: I wasn’t sure I was going to do a “follow-up” even though Meet the Latkes ends with Grandpa asking, “Now who wants to hear about Passover?”


But when the pun/name Alfie Koman popped into my head - I knew I had found an “in” to something funny. Because the afikomen is the HIDDEN MATZAH at the seder - I knew that the character of Alfie Koman would always be hiding.


That’s when I realized Meet the Matzah could be a “school” story and Alfie would have a bully problem. Once I came up with those basic ideas I felt I had to  write the book! The Pharaoh/Bully connection became the through line for me.


Q: What do you think the book says about the Passover story?

A: Meet the Matzah, like Meet the Latkes, is a humorous way to explore the serious holiday. Loaf (the bully) takes over and tells a loud, mostly made-up story which gives Alfie the chance to tell the true story of Passover. By placing the story in a school it becomes a present-day allegory of the Passover story.


Q: In an interview with Jewish Boston, you said of the book, "it’s both an introduction to the Jewish holidays and a way to embrace them in a new way." Can you say more about that?


A: Sure. With both my holiday books my goal has been to let my silly style of storytelling open the door to what each holiday is really about. I’m a big believer in teaching through humor.


It isn’t that I am trying to change what the holiday means in any way - I just like giving kids a new way to think about the Jewish holidays by making the main characters anthropomorphic and a little goofy. 


Q: What first got you interested in creating children's books?


A: I spent a good chunk of time writing TV shows for kids and have a degree in education.


After our son was born I became interested in writing children’s books because we always read to him and with him. Books were so important to us as a young family. I really wanted to write something for him.


My first books were middle grade novels. Meet the Latkes was the first time I even thought I’d do a picture book! 

Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now I am doing the final artwork for the third book in the series; Meet the Hamantaschen. The Purim book features three Hamantaschen detectives trying to solve The Case Of The Missing Megillah. It’s very silly!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Hmm. I think this is a very good time for laughter and being silly. We all need it… even if the puns are bad!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alan Silberberg.

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