Alan Silberberg is the author and illustrator of the new children's picture book Meet the Hamantaschen: A Purim Mystery. His other books include Meet the Matzah. An author, cartoonist, and children's TV creator, he lives in Montreal.
Q: Why did you choose the Jewish holiday of Purim for your latest book, and why a trio of hamantaschen detectives?
A: After having fun with Hanukkah and then Passover it just made perfect sense that Purim would be another holiday with a specific food association. My goal with the three books was to use the same format of a mis-told story that gets corrected but I wanted all three books to have different ways of getting to the holiday.
Meet the Latkes is obviously a “family” story; Meet the Matzah is a “school-bully” story… Knowing I would be having fun with hamantaschen, I came up with the idea of the three clueless detectives knowing it would feel very different from the first two books (and give me lots of fun with three different hamantaschen detectives!)
Q: What do you see as the right mix between the fun and the serious sides of Purim in the book?
A: Great question. I think the challenge I had with all three books has been to try and tell the real holiday story without too much detail because our celebrations tend to have very meaningful but dark themes.
Having already established a silly approach both in my cartooning and the storytelling I went back and forth between what I thought would be humorous and what could best tell enough of the story for the age group.
Q: You have a cameo appearance by a character from a previous book (I won't give away who!)--did you plan on that from the beginning?
A: Ha! Thanks for the NO SPOILERS…. When I knew it was going to be a detective “mystery” I honestly did not have that “surprise” planned. I was working on the story when it occurred to me that someone usually hires detectives to solve a case… and then I imagined who that could be and WHAM… the idea hit me and made me laugh. So naturally, I had to try it!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: As always, I hope kids and families are able to gleam the story of the holiday as told in a light, fun way. Our traditions and holidays have so many layers that I wanted all my books to capture more of the fun and the facts of each celebration.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on something I can’t really divulge - but let’s just say, like all good Jewish celebrations…there will be (cartoon) FOOD!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Just wanted to end with how much I appreciate the response to the three3 books - kids, families, educators seem to really enjoy the humorous way I celebrate and that makes me want to invite everyone over for a nosh!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Alan Silberberg.