I am Jewish, my husband is Catholic, and we celebrate holidays from both faiths with our two daughters. A couple of years ago, I noticed that my daughter’s book collection included books about Hanukkah and books about Christmas, but nothing that talked about both together. I started looking for a good children’s book about celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. To my surprise, there was very little out there.
So, I decided to write my own. I have been writing stories and poetry my whole life, but this was my first try at a children’s book. Writing the original version in verse was both challenging and lots of fun. I printed it out, added some stick-figure illustrations, and read it to my daughter. This opened up a conversation about how and why we celebrate both holidays in our family.
My training and experience as a clinical psychologist helped me capture Sam’s emotional journey as he struggles with embarrassment and confusion during a discussion about holidays at school. His mother provides the comfort and explanations that ultimately allow him to embrace who he is and how his family celebrates.
I toyed with the idea of trying to get it published, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I also didn’t have much confidence that such a dream would actually come to fruition. For a while, I put it aside and focused on other things. My two young girls keep me endlessly busy, and I am in private practice three days a week. Common sense told me to focus on my practice and to write for my girls and myself. However, I kept thinking about the fact that my book was something different and new, and much-needed in a world where many families blend cultures and traditions.
I was incredibly lucky that the first publisher I sent it to showed interest. It just so happened that they had been in the market for a new dual-celebration story, and mine fit the bill. Then the editing process began. The first thing they had me do was rewrite the entire story in prose. Then there were other tweaks and changes. I learned that there is a right amount of text for each page in a picture book. I also learned that not everything needs to be spelled out in words, because the illustrations will help tell the story.
The final version of MY TWO HOLIDAYS is something I continue to enjoy with my children. I have been busy sharing the book with local schools and organizations, and I hope that lots of parents and kids out there will love it too. In the meantime, I have been working on other children’s books that are quite different, experimenting with different genres and styles. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my new career as a writer for children.
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For more information about Danielle and MY TWO HOLIDAYS: A HANUKKAH AND CHRISTMAS STORY (Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, September 2010), please see her website, www.daniellenovackauthor.com.
Thank you Danielle for sharing your book and what went into writing it with us. I know many families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. I'm sure they will be very happy to have your book in their personal libraries. The first day of Hanukka is December 1st and it lasts until December 9th. To all of you celebrating I wish you a Happy Hanukkah!
Kristin *<( :)