February 2021 Issue #4
February 6, 2021
February 2021 Issue #4
Welcome to the fourth issue 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 You Can Use – A mish-mash of activities, crafts, 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: Newsletter link
Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I hope you will find something to inform and entertain you.
~ NEWS ~
In January, I wrapped up my first year on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries annually since 1968, the committee recognizes outstanding picture, middle grade, and young adult books that authentically portray the Jewish experience.
We received over 200 books for kids and teens for the 2021 award and met online in early January to determine the winner, honor, and notable books. There were so many excellent books – it was tough to select just a few to recognize. But we did, and our choices were announced at the at the Youth Media Awards Press Conference on Monday, January 25th during the 2021 American Library Association's MidWinter Meeting.
So, the winners for the 2021 STBA are (drum roll) ...
Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal
This warmly illustrated, poetic book parallels the experiences of a young boy at a Passover seder and a small white kitten outdoors. When the boy opens the door to welcome the prophet Elijah, he finds a furry friend instead. Simple text, diverse characters, and a timeless feel make this a story to be treasured.
I Am the Tree of Life: My Jewish Yoga Book by Mychal Copeland, illustrated by André Ceolin
Miriam at the River by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Khoa Le
The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Galia Bernstein
The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Lisa Anchin
The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Shahar Kober
Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein
Will's bar mitzvah service project helps him face challenges in his own life in this engaging story by a debut author. Bullied at school and a loner, turtle-loving Will completes a bucket list of milestone activities for a terminally ill boy and gains the strength to face his own upcoming surgery.
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen
Anya and The Nightingale by Sofiya Pasternack
Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport by Deborah Hopkinson
Beni's War by Tammar Stein
Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder
This debut memoir in graphic form is a funny, sad, confidently illustrated meditation on grief. It's both a tribute to Tyler's wonderful mom, who died of breast cancer at the age of 47, and a guide to Jewish mourning practices. A singular achievement.
They Went Left by Monica Hesse
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
The New Queer Conscience by Adam Eli
The Way Back by Gavriel Savit
The Assignment by Liza Wiemer
For the full annotated list with cover photos, click here:
Members of the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award committee: Marjorie Ingall, Chair Rebecca Levitan, Rena Citrin, Toby Harris, Martha Simpson, Judy Ehrenstein, Aviva Rosenberg
Here is a photo of the committee members:
You can listen to the Book of Life podcast with Rebecca and Heidi Rabinowitz discussing the
STBA books here: STBA Podcast
My term on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee will continue this year. I am proud to announce that I will be the chair of the 2022 committee. This is a huge honor and responsibility, and I am very excited to accept the position.
But wait, there's more!
The Sydney Taylor Book Award was just one part of the Youth Media Awards. For a complete list of all the books, media, and people that were recognized, including the Newbery and Caldecott Awards, click here:
Since there are already so many great books in the above lists, we'll skip Book Share this month. More great books to come in March!
You probably know that February is Black History Month. But did you know it is also National Canned Food Month?
According to the Every Day's a Holiday Calendar, other noteworthy dates in February) besides Valentine's Day and Presidents Day) include:
February 2 – World Ukulele Day
February 6 – Ice Cream for Breakfast Day and Take Your Child to the Library Day
February 7 – Wave All Your Fingers at Your Neighbor Day
February 9 – Toothache Day
February 13 – Get a Different Name Day
February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day
February 22 – National Margarita Day
February 19 – National Chocolate Mint Day
February 26 – Tell a Fairy Tale Day
February 27 – National Retro Day
~ VIEWS ~
My husband and I try to celebrate our wedding Anniversary (March 1st) every year in a place we have never been before. This year will be our 40th anniversary, but it doesn't look like we'll be spending it in an exotic locale. Oh well, we'll have to make up for it another time.
Last year, we managed to squeeze in a bucket list vacation to the Galapagos Islands. To get to there, you have to connect through Guayaquil, Ecuador. The coronavirus was already in the city but we didn't know it. We were so fortunate to travel safely and got home one week before the pandemic shut everything down. That was a close call! Here are some photos from the islands we visited.
The Galapagos Islands are located just below the Equator, off the coast of Ecuador.
We flew from Guayaquil to Baltra Island (the small triangular island above the oval-shaped one in the center.) We took a bus to the port of Puerto Ayora and then a public speedboat to Isabela Island (the largest island) which took about 2.5 hours.
Arriving at Isabela Island
Black iguanas and seals lie around everywhere. The iguanas burrow under the sand on the beach. Their long tails drag in the sand and leave trails. It's a good thing they don't interact with people, because they are everywhere!
We took a short walk along Flamingo Lagoon before driving to the hotel.
The next day, we took a 6-hour boat tour of Los Tuneles, named for the rock formations made from lava flows that had formed unique geological formations shaped like tunnels.
Here are some photos of seabirds - albatross, blue footed boobies, and penguins.
Spiky cactus grew on many of the rock islands.
It was a treacherous walk for someone with bad knees (like me). But with the help of our guide, I hobbled along with the group to find a blue footed booby. They are not easy to locate!
John and I (in our stylish rented wetsuits) with the booby in the background.
The next day, we packed up our stuff and took a speedboat to Santa Cruz Island (the center oval on the map.) From our hotel, we walked to the Charles Darwin Research Station.
The center breeds Galapagos turtles and they are kept in various pens according to their age. Here are some babies.
Here is an older turtle. When they get big enough, the turtles are released into the wild.
We also saw a golden iguana, which are not as common as the black ones.
Of course, I had to get a photo with Lonesome George (stuffed, since he died in 2012).
Fun fact: Lonesome George was never able to have children, but a similar breed of tortoise from Espanola Island named Diego is singularly responsible for saving his species from extinction.
Over the course of 30 years, he sired 2,000 offspring at the Darwin Center with 12 different mates! The grown ones live in the Highlands, a rugged area on the other side of the island. We didn't have time to go there.
In the afternoon, we took a boat tour to the Playa de Los Perros where we saw more birds, sea lions, and crabs. I managed to catch a photo of the frigate that kept flying by.
Back on Santa Cruz, we did some tourist shopping and eating.
Overall, it was an exhausting few days, but definitely a unique experience. Not bad for our only getaway in 2020!
~ STUFF YOU CAN USE ~
Purim is February 26, 2021, so of course I have to remind you that I have a picture book about the holiday. You can read about Esther's Gragger: A Toyshop Tale of Purim on my website by clicking on the book title in the right column or this link: Esther's Gragger
To celebrate the holiday, I am including a recipe for a Purim treat. Everyone knows about hamentaschen, but here's an easy-to-make confection from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen by Joan Nathan (Schocken Books, 1979.) This is for a Moroccan sugar cookie called ghouribi. Her description says that it's a tradition for Moroccan Jews to decorate their table with flowers and sweets on the morning of Purim. Kids enjoy helping to make these yummy cookies.
1 cup vegetable oil or butter
1 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely ground walnuts or almonds
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly flour an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Place oil and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Gradually add the flour, a cup at a time, and knead well. Blend in the nuts.
- When the dough is smooth, use the palms of your hands to roll balls the size of an egg. Pat into a round cookie about 2" in diameter. The cookie should not be flat.
- Place on the cookie sheet and sprinkle the center of each cookie with cinnamon.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Do not let the cookies become even slightly brown – they must remain off-white.
Makes about 30.
Here's my tip for making no-fuss finely ground nuts.
- Put shelled nuts in a plastic Ziplock bag. Make sure to squeeze out the air before you zip up the bag.
- Lay the bag flat on a cutting board.
- Take a mallet and smash the nuts through the bag. Keep pounding and turning the bag over until you get to the desired texture.
Pour the ground nuts into a measuring cup. Easy, right?
Until next month, remember to stay safe and peruse your muse!