Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Q&A with Leslie Kimmelman




Leslie Kimmelman is the author of the new children's picture book A Book About Bupkes (bupkes means "nothing" in Yiddish). Her many other books include How to Be a Mensch. She lives in the New York City area.


Q: What inspired you to write A Book About Bupkes?


A: The idea for the book came when I casually used the word “bupkes” in conversation and then laughed; it’s such a funny word. Bupkes! And then, if memory serves me, I think I said something along the lines of: “I should write a book about bupkes. Yeah, wouldn’t that be a great title, A Book About Bupkes?” So voila—I had my title. Then I had to figure out what the book was about!


Q: What do you think Roxana de Rond’s illustrations add to the story?


A: I love Roxana’s illustrations. They’re fun and playful; they’re upbeat and warm and totally accessible to readers. It was important to me that the illustrations not overwhelm the simple story, which they don’t. They enhance it. A shout-out to the book’s designer, too.


Q: Bupkes is defined as “nothing”--but what do you think the book says about the word? And what do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: Well, of course the message of the story—and I hate to use the word “message”; I’m hoping it’s simply an organic part of the book—is that there’s not much that’s truly bupkes. Even the small, seemingly insignificant things you do are important in some way.


Maybe you don’t see it yourself, maybe it makes a difference to just one person or a few, maybe it doesn’t matter now, but it will later…but everything you do makes some kind of a difference. (Kind of like the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life.).


That’s a really empowering thing for everyone to hear, but especially for young kids. The world is so big, and it often feels like, I’m just one person and much too insignificant for anything I do to be big enough to matter.  But that’s not at all the case. That one person whose day you make better may turn around and make another person’s day better, and so on.


And even if you make a difference for just one person, for that one person, it’s the whole universe!


(My bonus hope, anytime I use a Yiddish word, is that I’m introducing kids to this fabulous, expressive language. I know probably only a couple of dozen Yiddish words, but each one is a gem.)


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Well, I’m not really working on them anymore because they’re essentially finished, but I have two other terrific books coming out this fall. 


Ready, Set, Run is a nonfiction picture book about the NYC marathon; and Eve and Adam and their Very First Day is a story about the Garden of Eden, giving Eve her long-awaited top billing. I’m really excited about them both, each with fantastic illustrations.


I also have a number of other projects in various stages…and lots of ideas turning around in my brain. Stay tuned!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Bupkes. (Ha!)


I just want to add how lucky I feel to do what I do. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and I still am. Reading is like an invitation into a magical world. So I can’t think of anything better than putting new books out into the world. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Leslie Kimmelman.

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