icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

July 2024   Issue #41



Happy July!      


Welcome to issue #41 of The Simpsonian Muse. I am your scribe, Martha Seif Simpson, Author and Children's Librarian. As the header says, this monthly newsletter will feature:

  • News – Mine as well as other interesting tidbits
  • Views – A few photos from my world travels
  • Stuff to Amuse – A mish-mash of activities, crafts, recipes, videos or whatever I am excited about sharing

If you missed the previous newsletters, you can click the button on the left sidebar on my website to catch up or click here. *NOTE: If you are a subscriber to my newsletter and some of the photos don't show up, please go to my website to read it. The server is sometimes finicky.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I hope you will find something to inform and entertain you.


~ NEWS ~


On June 8, I was one of six Connecticut authors who spoke at the New Haven Free Public Library's Women Writing panel.


Here I am with Monica Ong, A.C.E. Bauer, Barb Nangle, Chandra Prasad, and Janae Marks.


Thanks to Jennifer Gargiulo for inviting us and to all the people who came to hear us speak about our writing journeys.


I had a pleasant surprise on June 15 when I looked up my book, What NOT to Give Your Mom on Mother's Day, on Amazon. The Kindle version was ranked #1 for Children's Non-Religious books! And apparently, it will be coming out in paperback in 2025 (which the publisher never told me.) Yay and double yay!



But wait, there's more!


The Association of Jewish Libraries annual conference was held on June 23-26 in San Diego, CA. Here I am with Sydney Taylor Book Award committee members Eytan Kessler, Arielle Vishny, Aviva Rosenberg, and Melanie Koss. Check next month's Muse for more photos!STBA-committee-members----standing--Eytan-Kessler--Arielle-Vishney--Aviva-Rosenberg--Martha-Simpson---sitting--Melanie-Koss.jpg 

Also, I'll be selling and signing my picture books at the Shoreline Jewish Festival in Guilford, CT on Sunday July 14 from noon-5 pm. Like the last 2 years, I'll bring over 100 past Sydney Taylor Book Award submissions to give away. Admission is free and there will be lots of kosher food, music, interesting vendors, and entertainment for kids. Click here for more info.




This month's theme is books about Golems for kids and teens. You'll see why later in this newsletter.


Golem by David Wisniewski (PB)

The story of the golem of Prague is enhanced by papercut art. This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1997.


The Golem's Latkes by Eric A. Kimmel (PB)

A golem is given the task to make latkes for Hanukkah. But when nobody tells him to stop, he makes way too many!


Golem Goes to Camp by Todd Gutnick and Ruth Bennett (MG)

In this early chapter book, Emmett finds a trash can full of mud at summer camp and makes a toy monster. He unwittingly makes it come alive when he scratches his name into the mud.


Naomi Teitelbaum Ends the World by Samara Shanker (MG)
Naomi gets a clay golem as a bat mitzvah gift. At first, it's fun to command. But when the creature gets bigger and starts making trouble, she and her friends have to find a way to stop it.

The Golem's Eye (Part 2 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud (YA)

Apprentice magician Nathaniel and the djinni Bartimaeus travel to Prague to face a rampaging golem.


Wrath Becomes Her by Aden Polydoros (YA)

In this STBA Honor book, a man creates a golem using parts of his daughter who had been murdered by the Nazis, and orders her to avenge her death. But the golem has human feelings and questions her purpose.


New for 2024. I haven't read these yet, but they look awesome!


Too Many Golems by Jane Yolen (PB)

A humorous story about a mischievous boy who unintentionally summons ten golems.


Golemcrafters by Emi Watanabe Cohen (MG)

Faye and Shiloh receive a slab of clay and an invitation to learn how to craft a golem. I can't wait to find out what happens!




This year, I'm featuring the birth dates of authors and illustrators who create(d) books for kids and teens. Here are some people and a sample of their books.

  • July 1 –  Emily Arnold McCully (Mirette on the High Wire)
  • July 2 –  Jean Craighead George (Julie of the Wolves)
  • July 3 –  Dave Barry (Peter and the Star Catchers)
  • July 7 –  Nikki Giovanni (Poetry Speaks to Children)
  • July 7 –  Harriet Ziefert (Who Said Moo?)
  • July 9 –  Nancy Farmer (The Sea of Trolls)
  • July 10 – Candice F. Ransom (Uni the Unicorn)
  • July 11 – Patricia Polacco (The Keeping Quilt)
  • July 11 – E. B. White (Charlotte's Web)
  • July 12 – Joan Bauer (Close to Famous)
  • July 12 – Johanna Spyri (Heidi)
  • July 13 – Marcia Brown (Shadow)
  • July 14 – Laura Joffe Numeroff (What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best)
  • July 14 – Peggy Parish (Amelia Bedelia)
  • July 16 – Richard Egielski (Hey Al)
  • July 16 – Eve Titus (Basil of Baker Street)
  • July 18 – Felicia Bond (If You Give A Mouse a Cookie)
  • July 20 – Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows)
  • July 22 – Margery Williams Bianco (The Velveteen Rabbit)
  • July 28 – Natalie Babbit (Tuck Everlasting)
  • July 28 – Beatrix Potter (The Tale of Peter Rabbit)
  • July 29 – Sharon Creech (Walk Two Moons)
  • July 29 – Kathleen Krull (Lives of the Musicians)
  • July 30 – Marcus Pfister (The Rainbow Fish)
  • July 31 – Lynne Reid Banks (Harry the Poisonous Centipede)
  • July 31 – J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter series)

 Do you know…

  • Which author is a Pulitzer Prize winner?
  • Which author collaborated with Felicia Bond to write a best-selling series?
  • Which illustrator won 3 Caldecott Medals? Who are the 2 other authors who won a Caldecott?
  • Which 2 authors won the Newbery Medal?
  • Which author won 3 Newbery Honors and the U.S. National Book Award for Young People's Literature?


 ~ VIEWS ~


Last fall, John and I took a spectacular cruise down the Danube River. We arrived in Prague, Czech Republic a few days early to have more time to look around. This was one of our bucket list destinations, and it didn't disappoint. It will take a few issues for me to cover this historic city.


We started by touring the Jewish Quarter, also known as the Jewish Museum. Our excellent tour guide, Peter, told us many interesting facts and anecdotes as we toured the area. I added some history from online sites to this narrative.


Peter first pointed out these square brass plaques that were embedded in the cobblestone sidewalks all around the Old Town. Called Stumbling Stones, they mark the locations where Holocaust victims lived immediately before they were captured by Nazis and deported to their deaths.


Prague's Jewish Quarter is located in the heart of Prague's Old Town. The building of a segregated ghetto centuries ago was unfortunately the result of religious persecution. By the start of the 18th century, 18,000 people (a quarter of Prague's entire population) were Jews who lived and died in an area that was only a few square meters, with no sewage systems nor sanitary facilities. Here is a model of the Jewish Quarter which was displayed in the Maisel Synagogue.


As you can see, the entire area was walled in. Most people were never allowed to leave, and they also had to bury their dead within these walls. More on that later.


In 1850, Emperor Joseph II's Edict of Tolerance guaranteed religious freedom, and the quarter was renamed Josefov after him. Many Jews took the opportunity to leave the ghetto at that time.


During World War II, the Nazis used the Quarter as a place to sort, catalog, and store thousands of stolen religious and cultural artifacts. You can watch the documentary, The Jewish Museum in Prague (cited below), for more information about the 20th century history of the Jewish Quarter, a look inside the synagogues, and their collections.


The four synagogues we toured were restored in the 1990s and opened to the public as museums. We started with the Maisel Synagogue, built in the 16th century. The permanent exhibition shows the Jewish history of Bohemia from the 10th to the 18th century, covering the peak of Prague's Jewish Quarter, Jewish guilds and scholars.  


Peter told us you can tell the synagogues do not hold services because the light over the ark isn't lit.


Our tour was on October 31, only a few days after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. (Peter said his teenage daughter was in Israel that day and survived by running to Jerusalem with some friends!) Part of the Jewish Quarter's outside wall was covered with posters of the hostages. This high wall also encloses the Jewish Cemetery, which we will see later.


Built around 1694 in the Baroque style, the Klausen Synagogue was the largest and second most important synagogue in Prague. It now houses artifacts exhibiting Jewish traditions and customs.


As we entered the door at the left, a man handed paper-thin kepot (head coverings) to everyone who wasn't wearing a hat. Here are two of them, folded in half and flattened so I could scan them.


Here are some photos taken inside the synagogue.






We exited the Klausen Synagogue and walked into the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is wedged in between the Klausen and Pinkas Synagogues. In this photo, Klausen is straight ahead, Pinkas is to the right, and you can barely make out the cemetery on the left. We wove our way along a crooked path that ended at the entrance to Pinkas.


The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, dating from 1439 to 1787. Since Jews were confined to the ghetto and not allowed to leave, they were all buried here when they died. In an area of 10,000 square meters, historians estimate it contains the bones of over 100,000 people! Since the cemetery could not be widened, it was extended upward by adding a coating of dirt when there was no more room. There are up to 12 layers on top of each other, which was another reason for the high walls surrounding the ghetto. The famous rabbi and scholar Judah Löew, who is said to have created a golem, is buried here.




Next was the Pinkas Synagogue (shown here in a brochure photo with the Old Jewish Cemetery and Klausen Synagogue at the upper right). You can go online and read the history of the building, but what made it especially memorable for me was that it was turned into a Holocaust memorial.


Every room of the building is covered from floor to ceiling with the names of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who were murdered during the Holocaust. Here is a close-up of an inside corner.


In this photo, taken further back, the thousands of names look like stubble.


The synagogue has several rooms on three floors, all covered with names. The attic has a different Holocaust memorial. Glass cases display a small but heart-wrenching exhibition of drawings made by the children of the Theresienstadt (Terezin) camp, the majority of whom didn't survive deportation.


The last synagogue we visited was the Spanish Synagogue, which was built in the Moorish style with beautiful stained-glass windows. Concerts are held here because of the wonderful acoustics.




The benches have locked boxes where men could leave their prayer books and tallit.


We passed the Old-New Synagogue (Altneuschul Synagogue) but didn't go inside. Built around 1270, it's the oldest preserved synagogue in Europe and is still used for religious services. Legend says that Rabbi Löew hid the remains of his golem in the attic.


Speaking of the golem, we saw this restaurant just outside the Jewish Museum.


Of course, we had to eat there. The food was good…


…and I had my picture taken with the Golem!


That concludes this month's photo journey. More from Prague next month!




If you want to learn more about Prague's Jewish Quarter, here are some sites to look up.

More information about Golems:


That'll do it for this month.

Until next time, remember to enthuse your muse!


~ Martha