I haven’t bought a cookbook for Pesach in more than 15 years. The last one I got was quite the disappointment - big on gorgeous pictures, but full of ‘recipes’ that were basically some version of ‘combine onion soup mix with X’ or ‘get X brand and then do this with it’.
While all that stuff was available in the US for Pesach, the UK 15 years’ back was nowhere near as well stocked with kosher for Passover ‘brands’, so most of the recipes in that book were a bust.
Then, I went through my hardcore, super-healthy, gluten-free and vegan stage, which meant that most of my recipes could be adapted for Pesach anyway.
I’m out the other side of all the eating madness, and I really, really wanted a cookbook with mostly healthy recipes, but which wouldn’t keep me chained to the kitchen for hours or trying to track down unusual ingredients all over the country.
Enter: A Taste of Pesach #2.
Now, I also looked at A Taste of Pesach #1 in the store, but for some reason the recipes in the second book really just spoke to me more.
Yesterday, I took the book for its first spin through my Pesach kitchen, and I have to say I really, really like it. I made eight recipes from it yesterday, and they all came out really good - except for the chocolate bundt cake.
But let me tell you, I am hugely challenged when it comes to baking cakes, and it’s very, very rare for me to ever bake a cake that people actually want to eat (without coercion) even when it’s not Pesach, so I don’t think I can blame the book for that.
Maybe, there really is a difference between baking soda and baking powder, who knows?
So in the meantime, I’m very happy with how my first batch of recipes came out, and I will be trying out a few more over the holidays.
The ingredient list is mostly just very basic Passover staples, and is mostly on the healthy side - only one recipe, for the Pesach quiche, called for margarine, and that was easily switched out for butter (because who eats a meaty quiche anyway?!) - and I just used my regular olive oil throughout the other recipes.
There are a couple of instances of onion soup mix - what can we do, there is no perfection until Moshiach comes.
But on the whole, A Taste of Pesach is really good addition to the Pesach cookbook stable, especially if you’re a health-conscious cook who wants some inspiring and yummy-looking food that isn’t all mayonnaise and margarine-y, and next year I will BH go and buy the first one, too.
If you still haven’t started your cooking and you can pick the book up easily, try it out!
And may your bundt cake come out much better than mine.
If you have a favorite cookbook for Pesach, please feel free to let us all know about it in the comments section. We need all the help we can get...
The new biography of Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, 'One in a Generation: From Haifa to Uman' has just hit the #1 spot for new releases on Amazon in the 'Orthodox Judaism' category!
Which is pretty exciting, even though between you and I, it doesn't take a lot of book sales to get to achieve that in the 'Orthodox Judaism' category. But it's still really nice to see it! Here's a bit of blurb about the book, and then if you scroll down, you'll find how you can buy if for yourself.
It just appeared on the Book Depository website too, which means you can currently pick it up for just 83 shekels, including free postage to Israel and everywhere else in the world.
'One in a Generation' is the first Volume in a series that distills hundreds of hours of interviews and first-person accounts about the Rav to give readers a flavor of who this tremendous tzaddik really is, and how the events of recent years transpired.
This first book describes the first 75 years of Rav Berland's life, and sets the scene for the terrible scandal, suffering and exile that engulfed the Rav and his community from 2013.
In Volume II, we will continue to tell the true story of the people behind the terrible persecution of the Rav, and set the record straight about:
10 ways to enjoy your writing even if it’s not paying the bills
Tip 1: Stop promoting yourself
This sounds so counter-intuitive, I know, but here’s the low-down: the whole world is absolutely, thoroughly sick and tired of self-promoters trying to get us to buy their latest book, or forcing us to ‘share’ how wonderful they think they are.
Pretty much the fastest way to turn-off your potential readership and alienate your audience is to keep banging on about that book you wrote that you’re trying to sell, or forcing them into giving you 5 star reviews on Amazon, or arm-wrestling people into attending your events or ‘liking’ your stuff or sharing your blog posts.
So please stop doing that.
Tip 2: Take a real interest in other people
So then, how can you build a relationship with your prospective audience without coming across like a creepy social media narcissist? The answer is actually very simple: Write about other people. Write about their books, their projects, write how their work touched you, leave truthful Amazon reviews for them unbidden, in short: take a real interest in other people.
When we do this, two things start to happen: Hashem’s serendipity starts to kick in, and we find that other people start to take a real interest in us, too. And we start to value our writing and our interactions – and the time we spend engaged in them – because even if they aren’t helping us to earn a buck or build our buzz directly, they are still helping someone else, in some small way.
And that gives us such a good feeling.
Tip 3: Start over again
If that book you wrote 50 years ago isn’t selling, or that short story, or that article – whatever it is – leave it behind and start over again. This can be so hard, I know, because we put so much effort into these things and they mamash feel like our children.
But if it didn’t get anywhere 50 years’ ago despite your best efforts, don’t give up on your writing career, get bitter, or continue to flog a dead horse: just start something new.
Maybe something completely different, maybe go in a completely different direction, try something you never would have thought of trying before. If you only do fiction, write a non-fiction essay, or a gardening book. Try writing a screenplay, or a poem, or a song.
Go completely crazy and channel your creativity into something else entirely, like painting, quilting, ceramics. Start a book club locally. Start a blog. Start a scrapbook for your children – something, anything.
But don’t sit there and stagnate.
There only true ‘failure’ for a creative person is when they stop creating, and stop using their God-given talents in the world. As long as you’re still making stuff, writing stuff, trying stuff, you are actually succeeding.
Tip 4: If you love what you do, stick at it, no matter how long it takes
Let me tell you about my blog. Today, Emunaroma gets between 12-20,000 unique readers a month. That’s a heck of a lot, and I’m so grateful to God for sending all these readers my way, because I’ve done next to zero social media marketing and a few months back I even deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
But when I started Emunaroma almost 4 years ago, I had a handful of readers. And next to no comments. And rarely, barely, ever any ‘likes’. A lot of my readers are frum Jews who don’t ‘do’ Facebook – thank God! – and presumably, a lot of them also didn’t ‘like’ my stuff anyway.
I had so many times when I nearly gave up and stopped. But I didn’t, because ultimately I knew my job was just to keep writing and creating, and that even if the readers didn’t show up in their droves, this was still what I was meant to be doing with myself.
For free. With little or no encouragement or feedback.
Blogs take three years to start really getting noticed by Google.
Around six months’ back, my blog started to get some serious traffic from search engines and my numbers shot up. Also, another friendly blogger who’d been going for a decade found out about my blog and stuck me up on her sidebar, which tripled my readers overnight.
I didn’t ask her to do that, I just kept writing what God put into my head to write, and more and more people liked it, including my fairy Blog-mother. So stick it out! Don’t give up at the first hurdle, or even the 71sthurdle. If you love what you do keep doing it to the best of your ability, and sooner or later it will start to gain some traction out there ‘in the real world’.
Tip 5: Don’t try to please people by being someone you aren’t
This can be so tempting, especially in our fake Facebook world, but the problem with churning out stuff just to build your audience, or to get more ‘likes’, or more recognition (or even more dollars) is that you then build an audience that wants more of that stuff.
Which means you get stuck writing about stuff that isn’t really ‘you’. And if that carries on long enough, you’ll come to hate writing and you’ll stop doing it.
So even if what you write isn’t popular, likable or lucrative, don’t sell your soul out just in order to try to give people what you think they want. You’ll end up burning out and not writing about the stuff that really makes you, you.
Tip 6: Find like-minded people to collaborate with
Two – or even 15 – heads are definitely better than one. Again, if you’re only doing things to promote yourself, and your own books, and your own writing, then you’ll find this tip quite hard to follow through on, because as we already mentioned, no-one likes selfish self-promoters.
But if you concentrate on finding more people to help, encourage and brainstorm with, then you’ll also end up building a really useful network of great creative people, naturally. And that could end up opening all sorts of doors for you – and also for them!
But again, don’t try to force the issue. Give without expecting anything in return, just for the mitzvah, just for the opportunity to connect with another human being and to share something meaningful with them, and then see what seeds sprout – naturally.
Tip 7: Forget about the money
Yes, I know we all have mortgages, dental fees, mobile phone bills etc etc.
Here’s the thing: most creative people never make enough to pay their way only doing what they love. The exception to this rule are the less than 1% who ‘make it big’ and the creatives who have some sort of familial ‘patron of the arts’ supporting them financially.
Everyone else will have to work at supplemental jobs they don’t like so much, and that doesn’t make their heart sing, to make it to the end of the month. Accepting this reality will make it so much easier to deal with.
When it comes to writing or creating for love, forget about the money and just do what makes your soul happy.
Find creative outlets to share more of your work for free, and you’ll find that not only do you meet more of the right sort of people, you’ll also ‘build your buzz’ in the process and increase your chances of one day being paid something for one of your projects.
Again, it sounds counter-intuitive, but there has to be a clear distinction in your head between the projects you are doing to pay the bills, and those you are doing to fill your soul. And the people who can successfully combine these two are honestly very few and far between.
So carry on doing what you love, but consider also getting a ‘proper job’ to pay the bills, if you need to.
Tip 8: Go through every door that opens up for you, even if it you can’t see why you should bother
If someone suggests that you should try and send your work to someone you’ve never heard of, or some obscure magazine – try it! Follow up every single lead that God gives you, as part of the joy of reaching out to different people and trying something new.
You never know which door could lead to ‘success’, and it often comes in the most unexpected guises. If a door gets unexpectedly opened for you, don’t be scared to go through it. The worst thing that could happen is that you’ll have another experience, meet another person, figure out a bit more about where you and your stuff actually ‘fits’ in the world – and this is all useful grist to the creative mill.
Tip 9: Pivot if you have to
So no-one is buying your anthology of haikus? Did you consider maybe printing up a set of ‘haiku’ t-shirts and selling them online? Or turning them into poetic coasters, or printing up a bunch of massive poetry pictures with a stunning image to complement your verses?
How about setting them to music? How about setting up an online workshop to teach the next generation how to rhyme?
If what you’re doing isn’t getting anywhere fast, consider repackaging it, consider doing it a totally different way, consider writing for a completely different audience, or selling your stuff in a completely different way. Identify your lemons, and go make lemonade.
Ultimately, God is the one that’s sending us success or otherwise, so if what you’re doing isn’t getting anywhere, go find the creative way of making that happen (with God’s help).
Tip 10: Include God in the creative process
And really, this is the most crucial tip of all. God is designing everything in our lives, and all our successes and failures are 100% tailor-made to get us to a particular place in ourselves.
If things aren’t getting somewhere or progressing, that’s usually for one of two reasons:
How do we know which is which?
If you really, absolutely, truly love what you’re doing right now – regardless of how much you’re getting paid, how many people are reading it, how much external ‘success’ you’ve got going on, you are probably just hitting some obstacles on the way, and you will ultimately get there.
If the only reason you are doing something is because it pays well, or because it’s giving you clout or social influence, or some other external benefit – but you still feel really miserable – then odds are good you aren’t actually doing what God wants for you right now.
The other reason to include God in the creative process is because when you hit those inevitable bumps, those inevitable downs, that non-stop string of apparent failures, it can be very hard to pick yourself off the floor, and continue.
But when you are regularly connecting to God, somehow you always get a second, and a third, and a fortieth wind, to stand back up and try something new.
There really is no despair in the world, as Rebbe Nachman taught. If you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, sooner or later it WILL get there. And if you aren’t, then God is going to send you something even better and happy-making instead once you get that message.
So either way, it’s good.
And it’s only going to get better.
But if you take one thing away from this post, let it be this:
Put the emphasis on helping others, not promoting yourself, and then you’ll always enjoy your writing, even if it doesn’t bring you big bucks or huge recognition.
If you haven't checked out the Soul Foodie's excellent blog, I highly recommend you do that.
In the meantime, the blog's author, Nesanel Yoel Safran, just reviewed Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav on Sasson, which I'm reprinting below.
If you'd like to learn more, and / or buy the book yourself, please go HERE.
Unlocking the Secret of the Erev Rav by B. R. Levy
The title alone tells you that this book is trying to go out on a limb in the orthodox Jewish world, so I was very happy to read a copy of this, author Bracha Goetz’s memoir.
Bracha is best known for authoring more than 30 children’s books, many of which have become a staple in Jewish homes, so this book was quite a departure from her usual style, and her usual audience.
The book spans around three decades of the author’s life, and begins with her diary entries as a young girl, to her ‘diary friend’ called Twilly. Now, a quick confession: I wasn’t overly-fond of the ‘Twilly’ entries, although I could appreciate that they were setting the scene for what was to come, and trying to depict the day-to-day life of a young secular Jewish girl in the States who had no idea what it really meant to be a Jew.
The book really started to come into its own, for me, when ‘Twilly’ disappeared off the scene and Bracha began to describe her experiences in much more adult terms. The book covers a lot of ground, ranging from trying out other religions as an older teen, to falling in with a bad crowd, to the first real experience of Yiddishkeit on a trip to the holy land.
Although the content is pretty dramatic in places, and is definitely pushing out boundaries in a frum world that likes to keep all the issues and problems we all face in our private lives firmly under wraps, Bracha writes with such a gentle hand, often via allusion, hint and poem, that’s it’s often left to the reader to peer between the lines to really grasp a little more of what was truly going on.
One of the book’s themes is food, and more specifically the unhealthy relationship to food so many people in the West, and particularly media-pressured women, seem to have in our generation.
Again, the subject is treated with a gentle hand in the book, but the picture painted is still clearly one of eating dysfunction as a result of that huge, spiritual hole that so many of us baal teshuvas had to try to fill with whatever came to hand, growing up.
Some people tried to fill it with unhealthy relationships, others with career ‘success’ and money, and still others with substances and pills. Bracha ended up with an eating disorder, hence the title of the book.
Something else you should know about ‘Searching for God in the Garbage’ is that many of the prose sections are punctuated by poems, and a few of those poems were my favourite parts of the book.
Take this verse, for example:
A box of cookies
As a temporary refuge
Doesn’t last long.
Not long enough
To be a kid forever.
So much is said in so few words about what’s really behind so many of the eating disorders, and all sorts of other ‘disorders’ plaguing the world generally.
Usually, when a book tackles the kind of heavy-weight subjects that are found in Goetz’s memoir, from seriously dating non-Jews, to dealing with family members who are upset that you’ve ‘joined a religious cult’ by getting all frum on them, to that effort to fill the black void inside our souls when God is missing from the equation and apparently out of the picture, it can often be wrenching for the reader, and pretty hard going.
Personally, I quite like wrenching accounts (call me a masochist…) but I still enjoyed the more gentle approach employed in Bracha’s book, and I applaud the author’s courage in putting so much of her real inner dimension out there, and lifting the lid on a bunch of subjects that we should be discussing much more in religious society.
Ultimately, I think the book is actually more about finding God in the garbage, than just searching for Him there. Maybe that’s a subtle distinction, but not everyone could have come through Bracha’s experiences and emerged a believing Jew, as the shocking intermarriage rates in the US and elsewhere sadly attest.
It’s not easy growing up sane and Jewish. It wasn’t easy in the 1970s and 1980s, where much of the action in the book takes place, and it’s probably even harder in 2018. And that may well be where this book will have the biggest impact in the Jewish world, as a bridge between parents who are doing their best to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and to pretend everything has always been A-OK, and the next generation that is desperately demanding that we get real, and honestly explore what’s happening in our lives, families and inner dimension.
Goetz’s book goes a long way to building the foundation of that discussion, and I, for one, am very interested to see what other positive things may now be built in the orthodox Jewish world, as a result.
Click HERE to buy the paperback ($17.99) or Kindle ($4.99) on Amazon.
So, do you remember that I actually wrote a book recently, called The Secret Diary of a Jewish Housewife?
(If you forgot don't worry, because I also did....)
But luckily, the Goodreads Struggling Writers' group remembered, and they just posted up an interview about me and the book, which you can see HERE.
The Jewish nation is numerically one of the smallest in the world, and when you’re trying to sell books to it, by golly do you feel that paucity of numbers.
But when you’re an orthodox Jewish writer writing in English - and your brand of orthodoxy isn’t so mainstream frum either - well, good luck shifting ten copies of your latest offering.
The Forward won’t be interested in promoting you and your books, with all your backward ideas about God actually existing, and about people having souls, and about them having a mission in life that extends beyond being famous, thin or rich.
And mainstream orthodox magazines like Mishpacha won’t be interested in you either, because you don’t paint a picture of Yiddishkeit that is uniformly monolithic and unbending, where all of the orthodox Jews in the world are apparently all keeping all of the 613 explicit mitzvoth, all of the time, and NEVER having even the tiniest little spiritual struggle or crisis of faith.
And yet, the English-speaking orthodox Jewish world is crying out for these sorts of words from the heart, and this sort of honest self-expression. If the mainstream orthodox magazines won’t give voice to this, then who will? And if you’re not being covered or reported on by these magazines, then how on earth is anyone even meant to know who you actually are, or what you really stand for, let alone be persuaded to buy your books?
Another huge obstacle that orthodox authors have encountered is that many of them try to spend as little time as possible on the internet, which they (often rightly) view to be a moral swamp, a sea of evil speech and a massive waste of mankind’s most precious commodity, i.e. our time.
Relatively few orthodox Jewish authors have the same interest or motivation to ‘be online’ and to do all the things that network-savvy authors are supposed to do to sell their books, like sticking up Facebook posts, or servicing a regular blog, or sending out clever Instagram pics of their book being read by minor celebrities.
Not only that, a large swathe of their target market are also adverse to the internet, which means that even when an orthodox Jewish author does do all these online things, finding anyone out there to actually connect to is still proving to be quite a struggle.
Add all these things together, and you arrive at a number of formidable obstacles stacked up in the path of an orthodox Jewish writer who doesn’t have a comfortable ‘label’ to fall back on, or a standard ‘box’ to fit into.
But when, o when, did real change, real creativity, real society-transforming prose and poetry ever sprout from the midst of a comfort zone?
Which kind of sums up the problem. And until now, there really hasn’t been much of a solution, but hopefully, what I’m about to tell you is going to start changing the picture for unorthodox orthodox Jewish writers.
The glimmer of light at the end of this very long tunnel is called Sassonmag.com.
Sasson Magazine has a very simple premise: to pull some of the English-speaking orthodox world’s most talented and creative writers together into one place, so that they can find their target audience, and so that their target audience can also find them.
The site is being bootstrapped into being by around 15 committed Jewish writers, who are freely sharing their time, energy and creativity to get Sassonmag.com off the ground, and into Jewish reality.
Issue one came out at the beginning of October, and contained an eclectic mix of poetry, prose and fiction. Issue two is already well underway, and there are plans afoot to start a podcast interviewing Jewish authors, and a fiction and poetry workshop, which will help new writers really hone their craft.
The founders are also trying to encourage creative expression by doing things differently from most other websites out there, Jewish or not. For example, Sassonmag.com welcomes pieces that you’ve already posted up on your own blog or Facebook page, and you retain the copyright on anything that appears on the site.
If you’re being paid for a submission to a publication that’s one thing (and also, lucky you! That’s an increasingly rare perk in today’s world where words are cheaper than they’ve ever been.) But if you’re anyway volunteering a piece, then why on earth should the publication that publishes it claim ownership to it?
You care about your writing much more than they do, and you’ll probably do much more with it, if they let you.
The nascent site also contains a library where featured authors can upload their book titles, and interested readers can click straight through to buy them in their thousands. (A girl can dream).
It’s early days still, but the process of real change nearly always sprouts in a quiet, gentle way initially. So if you’d like to be part of Sassonmag.com, please go check out the site HERE, check out the Submission guidelines HERE, and get in touch!
There’s thousands of English-speaking frum readers out there who are really struggling to find decent stuff to read, and tens of orthodox-friendly Jewish authors who are struggling to find their audience. So let’s make the shidduch, shall we?
Someone asked about how to do Print-on-Demand if you're a Jewish author, and this is what I emailed her back. If you're an author with more to add, please feel free to share in the comments field at the bottom.
There are really 2 options to use for POD, in terms of getting your book out to the widest number of channels, and those two are Create Space (Amazon's own company) and Ingram Spark.
There are pros and cons for both. Here's a brief rundown of what they broadly are:
CREATE SPACE IS GOOD FOR:
People on very tight budgets, who want the POD process to be as easy as possible, and who aren't planning to print a lot of their own books for face-to-face sale.
It also helps if you live in the US (or UK) because while Create Space do give a discounted price on the books authors themselves buy, first of all it's not such a big discount, and second of all the postage costs of getting those books shipped to Israel are prohibitive.
The main 'con' of create space is that is stamps the book as 'self-published', and many traditional book buying channels won't touch it with a bargepole. That may be less of an issue anyway in the Jewish book world, but it certainly is the case in the non-Jewish book world.
INGRAM SPARK IS GOOD FOR:
Anyone who's planning to publish a lot of books, who wants their books to be available in the more 'professional' book distribution channels, and who wants to print a number of their own books, to sell face-to-face at events, etc.
I find the pricing is much more flexible, and reasonable, especially for people living in Israel.
The main downs of Ingram spark is:
You have to pay a set-up fee for each book, while Create Space is free (currently $50 a title).
Sometimes, the book shows up on Amazon as 'out of stock, but more coming soon' - especially if you aren't selling a lot via Amazon - while Create Space titles always show up as available.
Whichever option you choose, you will need to get the book properly designed, although again, Create Space makes it much easier, at least in theory, for you to 'design' the interior of your book yourself in Word and then have Create Space turn it into a PDF etc, (although that can sometimes look a little amateurish, depending on how well you do it, and doesn't suit every type of book), while you will have to have a professionally designed PDF done for Ingram Spark.
You can also do your own cover on Create Space for free, but again, it's very hard to avoid the book looking a little amateurish when you do that (unless you're unusually talented at putting covers together.)
So in terms of costs for POD, it stacks up like this:
Create Space - you could potentially do it all for free, but if you want it to look professional expect to pay a minimum of $200-300 for good book design and cover
Ingram Spark - will cost $50 set up fee, plus the $200-300 for good book design and cover.
They are both 'suitable' for Jewish books, inasmuch as you choose if you want the book published or not, but again, I find it's much easier to control what actually shows up on the Amazon website if the title is from Ingram Spark.
With both companies, the books will show up both on the Amazon website and Book Depository.
In the (now far distant) past, I used to wolf down fiction books in one gulp. In fact, my addiction to quality fiction was one of the biggest challenges I had when my kids were very small, because I couldn’t put books down when I needed to, in order to give them the time and attention they needed.
When I moved to Israel and frummed-up, the fiction books got the heave-ho, along with a bunch of other things like movies and internet in my home, which I’d come to realize weren’t so good for my soul or my aspirations to be a good parent.
Did I miss the fiction? Yes and no. Yes, I missed the pure escapism, but no, I really don’t miss the thought that I just wasted a day reading the product of someone else’s imagination.
But every now and then, I make an exception to my ‘no fiction’ rule, and one of those exceptions was for the book ‘By light of hidden candles’, by Daniella Levy.
The prose is very easy on the internal ear, the story is just fast-paced enough to keep you reading avidly, and the subject matter - a Jewish girl who almost gets swept up in a romance with an apparently Catholic student, set against the backdrop of a research project exploring Spain’s crypto Jews - is definitely captivating.
Here’s what I really liked about the book: It’s not at all pretentious, it’s extremely well-written and well-researched, and it explores the issues of intermarriage, interfaith relationships generally, and the always fascinating subject of conversos, in a way that I think most Jewish readers would really appreciate.
(The converso, or crypto Jews were Spanish subjects who were given the choice of converting to xtianity or being forced to leave the country as penniless wanderers. Sadly, many Jews put their bodies ahead of their souls, and they and their descendants have paid an extremely heavy price for that for coming on for 600 years’, already.)
Here’s what I was less keen on: all the detailed xtian stuff it contains, including descriptions of catholic mass, xtian teachings, and the general tolerance and even, dare I say it, respect for xtianity.
In terms of the book, if the author Daniella Levy had been a jot less detailed, or a touch less tolerant and respectful of xtianity, her artful depiction of the characters involved, and the integrity of the book, would have definitely suffered as a result.
And yet…as a frum Jew, I have to admit to wincing through a couple of the passages, and wishing there was a kind of ‘third way’ where Levy could accurately portray the main protagonist without having to drag the reader straight up the baptismal font after him.
But let’s be clear that most people, most frum Jews, even, probably won’t have the same strong reaction to those scenes that I did.
If you find all things ‘xtian’ distasteful, this may not be the book for you to settle down with this Autumn. If you can at least tolerate references to xtianity, then I think you’ll find this book a very good read, and a thought-provoking excursion into the deeper questions of what really makes a person a Jew, anyway, and how much most of us would be willing to sacrifice to hang on to our Jewish faith.
You can buy the Kindle and Paperback version of 'By light of hidden candles' on Amazon, HERE.
'Yaakov the Pirate Hunter' by Nathaniel Wyckoff is not my usual reading fare, I'll be honest. But I've come to realise that there are so few orthodox Jewish authors out there, that I have to do everything I can to try to spread their word about their books and work, even if it's in a genre that I don't usually 'do'.
Hence, a week spent reading 'Yaakov the Pirate Hunter' by Nathaniel Wyckoff. The book is fiction (I know, like duh! you figured that out without me...) but where it's extremely unusual is that it combines a kind of gentle sci-fi, futuristic vibe with some extremely orthodox characters - for kids!!
I don't have small kids at home these days, but I can tell you that when I was trying to find suitable, fun, reading material for my pre-teens a while back, the frum fiction world had me gnashing my teeth and yearning for Anne of Green Gables - even with its somewhat derogatory caricature of a Jewish peddler.
But at least it wasn't set in World War II!!! At least it wasn't set in a girls' school in Bnei Brak!!! At least there was more to the plot than finding a good shidduch or running away from rabid Ukrainian peasants who were trying to kill you!!!
So, 'Yaakov the Pirate Hunter' makes a very welcome, and refreshing addition to the frum children's lit world. The pace is fast enough to keep the kids' attention, and the plot is interesting enough to keep you guessing until the last page, and best of all - they keep shabbos!!!
And still talk about pirates, treasure hunts and robots.
So if you're looking for an engaging Jewish fiction book for 7-11 crowd, I highly recommend this book, which is the first in a series of three.
You can get the book on Amazon, HERE.
Rivka Levy's Books: