Posts Tagged #jewishkidlit

WNDMG Wednesday- Interview with Anna E Jordan

Shira and Esther cover

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado

WNDMG Wednesday – Debut Author Interview

I’m super excited to be able to introduce you and interview debut author Anna E Jordan today. Anna’s new book is SHIRA AND ESTHER’S DOUBLE DREAM DEBUT (Chronicle Books) and it launches on October 10, 2023.

I am extra excited to do this, as Anna and I are Agent siblings! I can’t wait to hold a copy of Anna’s book in my hands, and I am eagerly waiting for my preorder to arrive in October.

Shira and Esther cover


A fun middle grade book that draws on the fun switched identity  in THE PARENT TRAP and comedic tone of THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, this beautiful book features two Jewish girls navigating family, friendship, and faith.

Description taken from the publisher:

When Shira and Esther first meet, they can hardly believe their eyes. It’s like looking in a mirror! But even though they may look identical, the two girls couldn’t be more different. Shira dreams of singing and dancing onstage, but her father, a stern and pious rabbi, thinks Shira should be reading prayers, not plays. Esther dreams of studying Torah, but her mother, a glamorous stage performer, wishes Esther would spend more time rehearsing and less time sneaking off to read books. Oy vey! If only the two could switch places . . .

Would Shira shine in a big-time televised talent show? Would Esther’s bat mitzvah go off without a hitch? What’s a little deception, when it means your dreams might finally be within reach? One thing is certain: Shira and Esther are going to need more than a little chutzpah to pull this off. But if they do, their double dream debut is sure to be the performance of a lifetime.

Interview with Anna E. Jordan

I loved getting to talk to Anna about her new book and I think you will enjoy meeting her and Shira and Esther as well.


SSS: What is the inspiration behind Shira and Esther?


On a trip to the Society of Illustrators in the spring of 2014, I saw an exhibit of Drew Friedman’s book Old Jewish Comedians. I hadn’t gone to the museum to see it, but one drawing and explanation card caught my eye. It was about a comedian, Benjamin Zuckerman, whose father wanted him to be a rabbi, but he wanted to be a comedian. What if, I thought, there were two kids and they each wanted what the other had. From there, my research led me through the evolution of Jewish theater and comedy in this country.

SSS: So many important and wonderful themes in your book – could you elaborate on which themes resonate the most for you, and that you hope will be the most impactful for young readers.


I resist having themes or a lesson when I start to write the book and hope that by the end, I pose more questions than deliver answers to young readers. The characters struggle with some big questions in the text including: When and how should you follow your dreams? What does it mean to obey your parents? How can family and community support young people as they dream? What are different ways that we express our culture and are they all valid? How can we make room for magic in our everyday lives?

I’m sure that young readers will come up with their own big questions. Hopefully, they will find interpretations I didn’t even consider when I wrote the book. That’s the best part of sending a book baby out into world!

SSS: How are Shira and Esther similar? How are they different? Was it difficult to write a book in two points of view?


The book is actually told by a 3rd person omniscient narrator, but you are absolutely right about the difficulties involved with having two main characters.

Shira, the rabbi’s daughter, is a confident risk taker. She wants to sing, dance and tell jokes all the time. As you can imagine, that frustrates her father—the rabbi.

Esther, is happiest with her nose in a book and especially in books that teach her more about Judaism. Esther has big questions about the world and her place in it while her mother just wants Esther to take the stage.

 A lot of the revision work that I did with my first editor was about honing the differences between the two characters. Not only their character traits, but also their wants, needs, and faults. We wanted to make sure that the reader knew each character well before they switched places, so they could root for each character throughout her journey. Like the movie Parent Trap, the characters pretend to be the other character. When Esther became Shira, she still had to have her essential Esther-ness, and Shira had to hold on to her Shira-ness as Esther.

SSS: The subject of music and theater is important in the book—can you talk more about how you became inspired to write about music and the performance arts?


I sang, danced, and performed from the time I was six through high school. My two sons were also very active in school theater. I loved supporting their theater programs with makeup and set design and creation. As a 5th-grade teacher, I help with the annual production in my school too. It’s wonderful to watch students shine outside the classroom. Like writing, theater allows the artist to step out of their own life story and into another character for a time.

Also, as I mentioned previously, my research led me through the evolution of Jewish theater and comedy in this country from the Yiddish Theater and Vaudeville, to stand-up comedy in the Borscht Belt (the group of hotels in the Catskills that were owned by Jewish families for Jewish families when we weren’t allowed in other hotels), to television and finally Hollywood. 

SSS: Diverse books are so important (and a passion of mine!). How does the Jewish Faith play a role in your book and in Shira and Esther’s lives?


The Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group with an identity, culture, language(s), and religion. Judaism is our religion but we experience it in different ways. Shira has been raised as a practicing Reform Jew and Esther has been raised within the vibrant Jewish culture of the Yiddish theater. Each character goes on a journey to learn more about being Jewish and coming to understand their own experiences.

 Ultimately, both Shira and Esther embody pieces of my own Jewish Journey: the part of me that strives to study Torah and the part of me that wants to be immersed in my culture and community.

As the narrator of the book says:

“There is a saying that if you assemble ten Jewish people in a room and ask them a question about Judaism, you’ll get ten different answers. This is one of the most wonderful things about being Jewish: No one is Jewish in quite the same way.”

 One thing that was important to me as an author was filling a space in the children’s book market with Jewish Joy. So often, Jewish books have to do with the 3Hs: History, Holiday, or Holocaust. With the rise of anitsemitism in the U.S., it’s important that Jewish and non-Jewish children read about the positive aspects of Judaism such as education, social justice, community, and yes—humor and joy.


SSS: Will there be more Shira and Esther in the future?


As we say, “From your mouth to G-d’s ears.” Seriously though, one of the supporting characters, Benny Bell, has been talking to me more and more. I need to give him space in my writing time to listen to his story.

We’ll see!

Writing Process

SSS: How long did it take to write SHIRA AND ESTHER? And was it an emotional process (as a fellow author, all my books seem to come from personal experience. Was this the same for you?)


I’ve had other wonderful publishing experiences in my 22 years as an author, but I’m so proud that SHIRA AND ESTHER’S DOUBLE DREAM DEBUT is my first published novel. The seed of the book was in 2014, the manuscript was purchased in 2021, and now it’s 2023. That nine-year period includes two agents, a divorce, raising two children as a single mom, a variety of day jobs, many moves, many submissions and rejections, a pandemic, and the death of my father. It was a very long and emotional process.


SSS: Bonus question! Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share with us?


I’m grateful that Shira and Esther found a publishing home with Chronicle Books. The team there gave this book so much time and attention. I had a double dream team of editors—Taylor Norman, who helped me hone the story and characters, and Daria Harper who worked with the sensitivity readers (for Yiddish and Jewish accuracy) and with the copy edits, mechanicals, and design. The designers did an amazing job as did the cover illustrator Marco Guadalupi (visit him on Instagram @marcoguadalupi85) It’s such a long process, and I feel so lucky.

Thank you so much Anna for answering my questions!

I hope everyone picks up a copy of your beautiful book.


Yes, please. Preorder, post, and review! Thanks so much for this lovely interview.

Those who preorder from Anna’s local independent book store will receive a signed book and swag!

Politics and Prose preorder link

You can also preorder on



For more Middle Grade diverse books, check out this wonderful book list on our site!


Anna Jordan picture

About Anna E. Jordan

Anna E. Jordan, an author and middle grades educator, was the recipient of the 2013 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery award and has an MFA from the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. SHIRA AND ESTHER’S DOUBLE DREAM DEBUT (Chronicle Books, 10/10/23) is her first novel. In addition to the rhyming picture book THIS PUP STEPS UP, her poems appear in the anthology THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG AND OTHER HOW TO POEMS (Candlewick, 2019). You can also find her work national magazines including Ladybug, Babybug, Highlights High Five. Follow Anna on Facebook and Instagram @annawritedraw or on her blog Creative Chaos (

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Author Interview: Deke Moulton, DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER


Welcome to MUF, Deke Moulton. Deke (rhymes with ‘geek’) Moulton’s debut novel, DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER, is out August 1, 2023. Read on to learn more about Deke, including their love of middle grade books, the inspiration for their vampire story, and how their background as a US Army drill sergeant informs their writing.

MIXED-UP FILES: Congrats on the new book, Deke. Tell us a little bit about it.

DON'T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER, by Deke MoultonDEKE MOULTON: Thank you so much for having me! DON’T WANT TO BE YOUR MONSTER is a middle grade spooky adventure about two vampire brothers who are sick (in their own ways) of the secret life their mothers want them to live, especially when they find out there’s a serial killer in their small, sleepy Pacific Northwest town. Adam wants to use his vampire powers (and protections) to track down and stop the killer, whereas Victor sees the killings as a way to get guilt-free blood.

I honestly came up with the idea from a dream – I had this super vivid dream of being a middle-grade-aged vampire kid being accused of eating people and having to clear my name. My original idea has changed a lot over the drafts, but it was one of those moments where a super vivid dream becomes very inspiring.

MUF: Why vampires? Have you always been into them? 

DM: Honestly (and I hate to admit this!) I have never been ‘obsessed’ with vampires. I’ve enjoyed vampire movies (I include so many references to THE LOST BOYS in my book for a reason!), but on the other hand, I went viral on Twitter for talking about how I accidentally ate at the Bella Italia of Twilight fame during my honeymoon without any idea what Twilight was.

Though part of my removal from a vampire obsession helped while I was writing – I explored different vampire myths without feeling too personally connected to any of them, which gave me some of the space to play with what myth is used for.

MUF: Do you love to be scared as a reader?  

DM: I cannot do horror at all! If something is truly scary, I just have a hard time dealing! I adore spooky things though – I love witches and skeletons and vampires and ghosts. I love the idea that the spooky can be friendly and misunderstood and helpful (but once ‘spooky’ things are out to get me, I just don’t care for it much). That’s one of the reasons I love Halloween – even though traditionally it’s not a Jewish custom to observe it – just because I love all these little spooky things.

MUF: What made you want to write for middle grade readers in particular?  

DM: I’ve always been drawn to middle grade books. Part of me wonders if I’m trying to ‘recreate’ a childhood I didn’t have, or if I’m really just in need of books that have a guaranteed ‘hopeful’ element to them. I’ve read adult books but get a little bored with the jaded atmosphere I find in so many of them. I don’t really care about adults being down and out, or having marriage problems, or having a mid-life crisis. I want to go on adventures with the full promise of life ahead of me!

MUF: Did your career in the military inform your writing in some way? 

DM: Ha! Yes!! Though in some strange ways – I talk about different kinds of blood, which I learned about while doing ‘combat life saver’ courses. One of my supporting characters, Luis Espinosa, is a military kid and shares some insights that he learned from his father that helps the kid trio try to track down the serial killer.

But also in some surprising ways, too. I trained as an Arabic linguist during my service, and at one point, all my professors were Sudanese, so I made one of my characters Sudanese. Sudanese Arabic is surprisingly hard to find online, so I’m glad I have some authentic language in there!

Author Deke Moulton

I was also stationed in Vicenza, Italy, so my Italian character is a former nun whose convent was one I ran to weekly as part of my physical training regiment – the hilltop convent of Monte Berico. Also, that character’s name is Beatrice – I worked with an interpreter with that name, but because of the Italian pronunciation, I didn’t realize her name was actually Beatrice!

MUF: What are some other recent middle grade books you’ve read and enjoyed? 

DM: I have been reading a LOT this year, so this will be a difficult list to manage, but I’ve been positively adoring the ARC I got of ALEX WISE VS THE END OF THE WORLD by Terry J. Benton-Walker at ALA, THE WITCH OF WOODLAND by Laurel Synder (which is an incredibly wonderful Jewish witch story!), SOUL LANTERNS by Shaw Kuzki was so phenomenal that I had to purchase it (after borrowing it from my library), HONEY AND ME by Meira Drazin was such a great look at the Modern Orthodox community.

MUF: What are you working on next? 

DM: My next book is called BENJI ZEB IS A RAVENOUS WEREWOLF – which is a werewolf book based on Jewish werewolf mythology! I honestly had no idea there even WAS a specifically Jewish werewolf mythology, so it was really fun to explore that and build a story around that. It comes out next summer!

Readers can find Deke at their website, on Twitter @dekemoulton, and on Instagram @dekewritesstuff 


WNDMG Wednesday – Debut Author Noa Nimrodi

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around
We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado


WNDMG Wednesday – Debut Author Interview

Hello everyone, and happy WNDMG Wednesday to you. I’m so excited to be able to introduce you to debut author Noa Nimrodi today. Noa’s new book is NOT SO SHY (Kar-Ben/Lerner) and it launches on April 4, 2023. NOT SO SHY was a great read – I truly loved her well-realized characters and her gentle exploration of tough topics.

Full disclosure–Noa and I are in the same debut author cohort, and we also share a launch date for our books AND an editor, the fabulous Amy Fitzgerald!

About Not So Shy

Twelve-year-old Shai hates everything about moving to America from Israel. She’s determined to come up with a plan that will get her back home. Maybe she can go back with her grandparents when they come to visit. Or maybe she can win the drawing competition that’s offering a plane ticket to any destination in the world as a grand prize. Meanwhile, though, she’s stuck in seventh grade at an American school, where she has to communicate in English and get used to American ways of doing things. Worst of all, she faces antisemitism up close for the first time.

But she also finds support and friendship where she least expected it and starts to see her new life with different eyes. Maybe home doesn’t have to be the place she’s always lived. Maybe home is a place in the heart.

Interview with Noa Nimrodi

I loved getting to talk to Noa about her book, Not So Shy, and I think you will enjoy meeting her and Shai as well.

HMC: What is the origin story for Not So Shy?

NN: Not So Shy originated from personal experience (as you probably guessed…). The fictional Shai is loosely based on my middle child ,who was twelve-years old when we moved from Israel to the US. I also shamelessly stole her name for my main character (with her permission of course).

Although the story is fictional, it carries many emotional truths and a few based-on-a-true-story bits.Although the story is fictional, it carries many emotional truths and a few ‘based-on-a-true-story’ bits.

Drawing Courage

HMC: So many important and wonderful themes in your book – being Jewish in the United States, music, learning to live in a foreign country, making new friends, and an exploration of the issue of genetically modified food. Can you talk more about what it was like to write Shai’s experiences dealing with antisemitism?

NN: The main incident of blunt antisemitism that is described in the book is based on a true event that happened to my daughter. Shaping and incorporating that experience into a work of fiction helped me gain insight and in a way, like with other issues I tackled in the book, it was a cathartic process. In real life, Shai kept this incident from me and my husband for years. I hope young readers will draw courage to speak up when caught in similar unfortunate situations.

Tackling Misconceptions and Skewed Opinions

HMC: The subject of food and science is important to Shai—can you talk more about how you became inspired to write about food science?

NN: As writers, what we’re concerned/intrigued/passionate about, finds its way into our writing, and such was the case with GMOs in this book. I’ve always been intrigued with science, my husband has been in the biotech industry for many years and my dad is a scientist.

I worry when important issues, which are too nuanced to be summed into infographics, are shared and reposted carelessly on social media. The ease in which information (and misinformation) is spread these days allows for misconceptions and skewed opinions to be regarded as facts. This goes for how we view new inventions in science as much as it goes for how some perceive the state Israel, so it made sense to me to tie in the controversies of GMOs into the book.

Bridging the Gap Between People

HMC: One of my favorite lines in the book is, “Music is my favorite language now.” Do you play trumpet like your main character, Shai? Do you love the language of music as much as she?

NN: I do love the language of music! I believe it can bridge the gaps between people of all backgrounds. When we listen to music we tap into universal emotions. Music has the power to connect people in a magical way.

(and it’s pretty cool that music notes are the same all over the world).

I myself never played an instrument (I wish I did…), but my daughter Shai played the saxophone in the school band, and she still remembers how in her first tough months when English didn’t come easy, she eagerly waited for seventh period Band, where she felt less of an outsider when immersed in the language of music.

The fictional Shai plays the trumpet since (research has taught me) it’s the easiest instrument to play with a broken arm. (For those who haven’t read the book yet, Shai breaks her arm before the beginning of the school year).

HMC: Each of your chapters has three words. Is there a thematic or symbolic reason for that choice?

NN: Hmmmm. Thematic or symbolic reasoning would have been clever of me… but admittedly, it was a happy accident. I first used the words for myself, just to sum up what happens in each chapter as I wrote it, later deciding (with the support of my critique group) that it does a good job at hooking the reader and hinting what’s to come in each chapter. I suspected this might be cut out at the editing stages, but it remained as an integral part of the book.

Including Easter Eggs

HMC: Authors often include so-called “Easter eggs” in their books—do you have any in Not So Shy?

NN: I love this question! There are some “Easter eggs” in the book. Very few are consciously intentional (the name of the middle school Shai attends, for example, is a nod to the middle school my kids attended, I deliberately slightly distorted the name). Other surprise eggs (which my kids claim to have found) were woven in unintentionally, and so far I have yet to admit otherwise… 😉

((Enjoying this interview on WNDMG? Read this one from our vault, with contributors Jonathan Rosen and Melissa Roske))

Finding Personal Resonance

HMC: What part of writing this book was for you personally, for Noa Nimrodi?

NN: A pretty big part… When I began writing this book from the perspective of my daughter Shai, I believed I was drawing from the experiences of my three kids (we moved from Israel to the US when they were seven, twelve and fourteen). But as I tapped deeper into the emotions of my main character, It dawned on me that I was also writing about myself (by the age of twelve I’ve moved from Israel to the US and back, twice). I realized in hindsight that subconsciously I was uncovering layers of feelings and emotions that were tucked away for decades. (Maybe I was writing for twelve-year-old-me…)

Writing the Next Book

HMC: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

NN: I’m working on a middle grade novel which is pretty different than Not So Shy, but in a way also reflects my concern with misconceptions. I’ll vaguely say it has elements of mystery, bits of magic, a pet pig, a sassy parrot, twin sisters who’s older sister mysteriously disappears and a misunderstood elderly Holocaust-survivor neighbor facing Holocaust denial in the gossip-driven town they live in.

I’m a slow writer, and my agent hasn’t even seen any part of this one yet, so you probably won’t see it on shelves anytime soon.


HMC: Bonus question! Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share with us?

NN: I’d love to share how much it means to me to belong to the 2023Debut group. There is such a great sense of comradery in this group, and such heartwarming interactions of likeminded people all rooting for each other. I’m so glad I got to meet you through this group, Heather, and I want to take this opportunity to recommend your fantastic debut Indigo and Ida to everyone reading this interview— I loved it. I’m thrilled that our books are coming out on the same day! (along with another excellent debut— Good Different, by the talented Meg Eden Kuyatt! Looking forward to the triple book-birthday on 4/4/23 !!)

Visiting Israel

HMC: For those of us who plan to visit Israel one day (HMC raises hand) what is one thing you (or Shai) would tell us we MUST do?

NN: Oooo! This is a tough one! Just one thing? Ok, besides the obvious touristy musts (you don’t need me for those), I’d say take a walk on the beach in Tel Aviv and have an Israeli breakfast in one of the restaurants located on the waterline with your bare feet in the sand. Continue to Shuk Ha’Carmel and take in the sounds, the colors, and the flavors of this one of a kind market. Get a freshly squeezed cup of juice (orange, carrot, pomegranate, or a mix!), and if you’re not too full from breakfast have some falafel, or shwarma. Ok, I’ll stop here, I can go on and on, especially about the food, because food in Israel is seriously the best in the world (and Shai would say the same).

Thank you so much, Noa! Best of luck to you with your debut … and I look forward to reading more titles by you one day soon.

About Noa Nimrodi

Noa Nimrodi is an Israeli-American author/illustrator living near the ocean in Southern California. As a designer, oa worked on displays in bookshops and gravitated most to children’s books, sparking her passion to create her own. Two of her Hebrew-language books, one which she also illustrated, have been published in Israel. When not writing, Noa can be found reading a variety of genres, creating all sorts of art, and running on the beach in Carlsbad (with or without her two dogs).

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