Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Q&A with Jacqueline Jules




Jacqueline Jules is the author of the new middle grade novel in verse My Name Is Hamburger,  and the new children's picture book The Porridge-Pot Goblin. Her many other books include the Zapato Power series. She lives on Long Island.


Q: You've said that My Name Is Hamburger is based on your own experiences--can you say more about that, and about how you created your character Trudie?


A: While many details of my main character’s life in My Name Is Hamburger are fictionalized, Trudie’s story reflects the emotional truth of who I was as a child growing up in the 1960s. I lived in a small Virginia town with few other Jewish people. My father spoke with a thick German accent and had a foreign-sounding name.


Like Trudie, I encountered antisemitism  during interactions at school and with friends. And like Trudie, my father had a frightening accident when I was in elementary school.


To create Trudie’s character, I recalled childhood experiences and emotions. Some things were painful to remember. Others were a joy. My family was deeply committed to a Jewish way of life. Shabbat and holidays were treasured times for me, growing up. We also loved flowers and visiting the Tidal Basin to see the famed cherry trees in Washington, D.C. These fond memories made their way into Trudie’s story.   

Q: The author Donna Gephart called the book “A delightful novel in verse that's filled with the complicated truth about the good and bad in people and how we can hurt or heal one another.” What do you think of that description?


A: I was very honored by Donna Gephart’s description.


In My Name Is Hamburger, 10-year-old Trudie Hamburger feels isolated as the only Jewish child in her school. She is excluded from a birthday party held at the country club, where Jews are not permitted.


In music class, the teacher rehearses for the Christmas concert with overtly religious songs Trudie does not feel comfortable singing. The class bully never misses an opportunity to remind Trudie that she is Jewish, and her German last name means “chopped meat.”


Even her best friend and next-door neighbor doesn’t understand why Trudie goes to “that Jewish church” 30 miles away when she could attend New Hope Baptist, four blocks from her home.


But when Trudie’s father has a serious accident, Trudie’s family receives strong support from neighbors and friends. Trudie learns that “sometimes it takes something bad to find out how good people can be.” 


Q: You also have a new picture book, The Porridge-Pot Goblin, which is based on a Jewish folk tale. What inspired you to create this book?


A: The Porridge-Pot Goblin was inspired by the invisible demons described in the Talmud. They leave tracks which resemble a rooster’s footprints.


In The Porridge-Pot Goblin, a brother and sister outwit a mischievous goblin who threatens to disturb their Sabbath. Trapping the goblin not only takes ingenuity and teamwork, it requires courage.


Fears can be disabling. I wrote the final drafts of The Porridge-Pot Goblin during the height of the pandemic, when every surface seemed unsafe. It was empowering to write about an invisible goblin who was subdued by two brave kids. 


Q: What do you think Hector Borlasca's illustrations add to the story?


A: Hector’s illustrations are absolutely delightful. They create the perfect mix of spooky and fun. I hope young readers will trace the little footprints of the goblin all over the colorful spreads.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have two books coming out in the spring of 2023. Zapato Power #13: Freddie Ramos and the Beach Monster (Albert Whitman) will continue the adventures of Freddie Ramos, a boy with a big heart and superpowered purple sneakers. Moses and the Runaway Lamb (Kar-Ben) shares a midrash about Moses during the time he was a shepherd.


Please visit my website at for the latest news on my books. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Since the spring of 2020, I have had the pleasure of visiting classrooms and libraries all across the country via Zoom and other virtual platforms. I am looking forward to continuing these virtual visits during the 2022-2023 school year. Please contact me through my website if you’d like me to speak to your classroom or book club.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jacqueline Jules.

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