Several weeks ago, I used social media and my blog to reach out to authors and illustrators. I wanted to let this group know that I would be showcasing their talents on my blog. Much to my delight several individuals contacted me. Ann D Koffsky was one of the first. Through an exchange of emails, I learned about her recently published book Frogs in the Bed: My Passover Seder Activity Book (Behrman House, 2014). Ann sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for an interview and review.
Individuals who comment on the interview and review will be eligible for a book giveaway.
Thank you Ann for taking time out of your busy schedule as an editor at Behrman House. I know that your life must be a bit hectic since you just started your new position last month.
That’s an understatement! It’s been very exciting, though—I am so pleased to be working there—it’s a great place with an amazing legacy.
Many of my readers may be unfamiliar with Behrman House. What type of books does Behrman House publish?
Behrman House specializes in books of Jewish content and interest. They create lots of educational materials for Hebrew schools, and also lots of cool digital resources, like Hebrew language apps, online games, lesson plans…actually I think it’s really impossible to list everything they do—it’s a ton of great stuff for Jewish families and educators. (See for yourself at www.behrmanhouse.com!)
Some of my readers may be interested in publishing a children’s book. Can you provide 3 helpful tips?
1-Write a really great story, with a beginning, middle and end. (easy to say—really hard to do!)
2-Then show it to folks—at conferences, or in a writing group, or just someone who is smart and willing to give you feedback. Then don’t be afraid to edit. I know it’s you baby, but you’ve got to be willing to adapt to constructive feedback.
3-When you are going to send it to publishers, do your research—don’t send a story about Christmas to Behrman House—make sure you know what the publisher is interested in and tailor your submission appropriately.
Your website indicates that you use your artistic talents in many ways. Why did you choose to place a focus on Jewish children’s books?
It’s a cliché but…you write what you know. And I have Jewish kids, so it’s what I am involved in day-to day, what I’m thinking about.
As an author and illustrator of over 30 books, can you briefly share some information about 3 books that you have published?
The newest one is the one you mentioned, Frogs in The Bed. It illustrates the classic song of the same name, and then has lots of additional fun activities and crafts to do before and during the seder. (Trailer is here, if you Want to take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M19iDgcLM8)
Noah’s Swim-A-Thon(URJ Books & Music) is about a boy who learns to swim just in time for the camp swim-a-thon (inspired by all my years as a lifeguard!)
My Cousin Tamar Lives in Israel(URJ Books & Music) is a sweet introduction to Israel for young children.
You are indeed a rarity. Most authors are unable to illustrate their books and need to rely on others people’s artistic talents. Was it difficult to find publishers that would allow you to be both an illustrator and an author?
It’s always difficult to find a publisher. Full stop. No matter what, it’s hard to get lucky, and have just the right product they need for their list.
But actually, being able to pitch a complete package I think was useful, because it helped editors visualize my intentions more clearly.
Is there a set procedure that you follow when you illustrate another person’s book? For instance, do you communicate directly with the author or just the publisher?
Usually just the publisher. Typically, the author might give feedback, but the publisher acts as a middle man.
Illustrations in picture books cover the entire spectrum of artistic expression. Do you always use the same materials or do you vary your style?
I have three styles—a painted style, a papercut style, and a pen&ink style. Different projects call for different approaches.
Early on in your career you worked for DC Comics. Did your experience as an intern affect the way that you draw picture book illustrations?
My experiences reading zillions of comics as a kid does! I definitely have been influenced in my visual story telling skills by the paneled narratives that they use. And their vivid color, too.
What prompted you to write and illustrate your most recent book, Frogs in the Bed: My Passover Seder Activity Book?
It’s just such a classic song—and I knew that the visuals could be funny and kid friendly—frogs jumping around—how fun is that?
How is Frogs in the Bedroom different from other Passover children’s books?
Well, I think it’s unusual to have a book with so many different aspects to it. It has the story part that’s based on the song…but then it also goes through the classic parts of the seder, like the 4 questions, and provide fun activities and crafts.
Another big difference is I tried to put frogs EVERYWHERE, so you’ve even got some frogs acting the 4 questions out. That’s different, right?
Your website includes a few video book trailers. Has this been an effective way to market your books?
It’s a fun addition to the marketing package—here’s your press release, here’s a video…how effective it is difficult to measure…but people like it so that’s always a good thing!
Have you started writing and/or illustrating your next book?
Yep! It’s about a girl and her dog—Kayla & Kugel. I’ve already drawn the sketches, and I am excited to start painting them. It should be coming out from Behrman House sometime next year.
Thank you so much for hosting me here on your blog! It was a pleasure!
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, February 16 will be eligible for a book giveaway. The randomly selected winner will be sent an autographed copy of Ann D. Koffsky’s latest book, Frogs in the Bed: My Passover Seder Activity Book.
If you read any of Ann’s children’s books, I’d love to hear from you.
If you are an author and/or illustrator and would like to be featured on this site, check out my interview and review policy.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.