CALLING COBBER is a middle grade novel for Jewish boys, first released by PJ Our Way in May 2020, and released by Green Bean Books (London) in December 2020.
When eleven-year-old Jacob “Cobber” Stern’s best friend, Philip “Boolkie” Berman, breaks their agreement not to “get bar mitzvah’d” and becomes busy with frequent Hebrew lessons, Cobber begins spending more time with his almost one-hundred-year-old great-grandfather, Papa-Ben, a Russian immigrant. Still missing his mother six years after her death and wondering where he fits in, Cobber hopes that Papa-Ben can fill the void in his life. Cobber resists embracing his Judaism for a variety of reasons, including anger at God over his mother’s death. The “ticking clock” of Boolkie’s brother’s bar mitzvah compels Cobber to deal with his own reservations about faith and forgiveness.
In spending time with Papa-Ben, Cobber notices that the old man’s memory is failing and makes painful choices about which promises should be kept. His overly-developed sense of responsibility for Papa-Ben’s welfare is tested when his great- grandfather collapses and Cobber blames himself. While his father favors discharging Papa-Ben to a nursing home, Cobber wants to find a way for him to live with the Sterns. Realizing how much Papa-Ben misses rituals like Sabbath dinner, Cobber—with Boolkie’s help—tries to reprise the event—with comic, emotional, and sad results.
Meanwhile, events at school—a talent show and a haiku poem, praised by Cobber’s teacher and panned by Papa-Ben—heighten tensions. When Cobber discovers that Papa-Ben never learned to read English, he and Papa-Ben nervously try to teach each other English and Hebrew, respectively. Frustration results on both sides, however, convincing Cobber he made the right decision not to join Boolkie in studying for a bar mitzvah.
Dad and Cobber struggle toward greater understanding of one another. All that is tested, however, when Papa-Ben takes ill after Cobber’s Sabbath dinner. Fear of losing Papa-Ben forces Cobber to reach out to both God and his father. When Papa-Ben recovers sufficiently to participate in Eli Berman’s bar mitzvah but falters en route to the bimah, Cobber’s love for the old man overcomes his fears about standing before a crowd, reciting Hebrew. When Dad joins them and he is supported between the two people he loves most, Cobber feels a new connection to their shared history—and a sense of peacefulness that he is not alone.
ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE, my first picture book, (illustrated by Kristina Swarner, from Peachtree Publishers) was released October 1, 2012.
The Wisconsin Library Association awarded ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE its Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award for most distinguished children's book by a Wisconsin book creator in 2012 at the 2013 fall convention.
Book of Life Podcast with an interview about ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE was recently posted.
I'm so honored to announce that ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE has been selected as winner of a Sydney Taylor Honor Book Award for Younger Readers for 2013. The Sydney Taylor Book Awards are awarded every year by the Association of Jewish Libraries to books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.
Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) has been recognizing quality Jewish
literature for many years. In 1968,
AJL established a children�s book award called the Shirley Kravitz
Children�s Book Award. This award
was renamed �the Sydney Taylor Book Award� in 1978 after the death of Sydney
Taylor, author of the All-of-a-Kind Family
series. More information about
the award, including how to order silver seals for your own copies if you wish,
can be found here.
The Parents' Choice Foundation has awarded ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE a Parents' Choice Recommended Award for 2012.
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People /NCSS/CBC/ 2013
Paterson Prize for Books for Young People (honor book) / The Poetry Center at Passaic County (NJ) Community College / 2013
ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE was named to Tablet Magazine's List of Best Children's Books of 2012.
Some great trade reviews are available, along with links to blog reviews and interviews here.
My book talk for ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE includes a Power Point presentation for adults called "GOOD GRIEF: How to Talk to A Child about Death" and ends with a reading and discussion.
My young YA novel, GIVING UP THE GHOST, is available in paperback from Peachtree and in several digital formats. Order online via the Amazon.com link under CURRENT BOOKS. The amazing jacket photo is by Karekin Goerkjian. See more of his work here.
You can read the first chapter of GIVING UP THE GHOST here.
A Teacher's Guide for GIVING UP THE GHOST is available here.
On the Web:
Heidi Estrin's Book of Life podcast about ZAYDE COMES TO LIVE.
Booking It Blog
� 2000-present Sheri Sinykin