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Spread the Joy with Leslie Kimmelman!

Hello, readers, writers, and holiday lovers, too! We're officially kicking off our Spread the Joy holiday event with Leslie Kimmelman. Leslie is a former children's editor at multiple publishing houses, former editor at Sesame Street Magazine, and author of 50+ books for young readers. Her and Hilli Kushnir's new book, Eight Nights of Lights - A Celebration of Hanukkah, follows a young Jewish girl and her family as they decorate their home, say blessings, and more in this nine-book interactive story. Want to know more about Leslie and her beautiful new book, PLUS want an opportunity to win your own copy? Read on...

Q: Hi, Leslie! Thanks so much for joining #SeasonOfKidLit! We’re thrilled to have you with us and hear all about your new book, Eight Nights of Lights, A Celebration of Hanukkah.

You have such a fascinating background in editing. Can you share a little bit about your journey as an editor at various publishing houses and at Sesame Street Magazine? How did this help you transition into becoming a children’s author?

A: I've been a children's book editor since graduating from college. I love books, and working in the publishing world was a dream from the minute I started. I never intended to become an author, though; I never really considered it a possibility. Maybe because I thought that being an author was for famous people only! But after a few years editing other people's books (first at Morrow Junior Books--which no longer exists--and then at HarperCollins), I began to see that it was, of course, possible, and that I had lots of ideas to explore. Even then, I don't think I had any clue that I would end up keeping at it for so long and get to see so many of my ideas become books. I feel incredibly lucky; I devoured books as a kid, and I still do. To be part of the writing community is a huge honor.

As for Sesame Street, I had taken a few years off after my second child was born. Then--remember when people found jobs through ads in the New York Times?--that's just what happened. My kids, like so many kids, loved Sesame Street, and when I saw an ad in the paper, I immediately responded. I ended up staying at Sesame Workshop in various capacities, both writing and editing, for almost twenty-five years. While there, I learned a huge amount about child development and education. The best part was being surrounded by so many creative and dedicated people and knowing that the work we did had an impact on children all over the world.

Q: Eight Nights of Lights, A Celebration of Hanukkah, is an interactive storybook set featuring a young Jewish girl and her family as they celebrate the season. Your book set also includes nine mini books, all in the shape of candles. This seriously sounds like so much fun and such a unique read. What inspired you to write this book?

A: I can't take much credit for the original idea for Eight Nights of Lights. An editor at HarperCollins who was familiar with some of my books about Jewish holidays came to me with the format. Which I instantly loved. I'd thought for years that there should be some kind of Jewish, well, advent calendar format, for lack of a better description. So I instantly agreed to do the writing, and then I ran with it. I think the expectation was that each book would be completely separate and perhaps more of a straightforward nonfiction, but I decided it would be more meaningful to follow one child and her friends and family through the holiday, experiencing all the different facets of Hanukkah.

Q: Can you share a little more about what the mini books are and what type of stories are included in them?

It was fun coming up with a different tradition or storyline for each of the nine books. A lot of them are quite personal to me, such as betting on candles and giving coupons and choosing a charity to give to. I think HarperCollins did a genius job with the design. Not to mention the terrific illustrations by Hilli Kushnir. Hilli also did a great job of making the book inclusive. I had written some diversity into the text, but she really took it to heart. The result is a book that can resonate with everyone.

Q: How do you hope your book helps spread joy to readers this holiday season?

A: I have always taken issue with seeing Hanukkah and Christmas as competing holidays. They are completely different. In the Jewish holiday cycle, Hanukkah is considered fairly minor, though it's hard for kids to keep that in mind because of its place in the calendar. But as a Jewish parent, I think it's really important to stress all the unique qualities of the holiday; there are so many things that make it special and meaningful. (One of them is NOT, I don't think, getting a present every day. That's something that I've never experienced in my family, either as a child or as a parent.) These days especially, Hanukkah's message about the ability of even just one small candle to light up the darkness is what's most meaningful to me. And there's so much joy in sharing a holiday with family, friends, and community. Those are the things I hope I’ve accomplished. But I also hope that this book reaches beyond the Jewish community. I hope that I've been able to communicate all the different customs of the holiday to those who simply want to learn more, who may not celebrate Hanukkah themselves. The magic of the holiday season--everyone's holiday season--are accessible to anyone who slows down, looks around, and is open to joy.

Q: What other books of yours can we check out ASAP?

A: Other books of mine to check out: The Eight Knights of Hanukkah is a fun, medieval take on the holiday, about a group of knights doing holiday deeds of "awesome kindness and stupendous bravery." I had two other Jewish-themed books that came out this fall: Eve and Adam and Their Very First Day (not just for Jewish readers!), about the importance of faith and hope and also with a fun, feminist twist; and A Book About Bupkes, about the power of small kindnesses. I am extremely proud of both of them. In the non-seasonal-but-lots-of-fun category, is my newly published Ready, Set, Run: The Amazing New York City Marathon, a valentine to both running and to my adopted city (though you don't have to be a runner or a New Yorker to enjoy it!).

These all sound fascinating! Thanks for sharing this with us. It was such a treat having you join us this holiday season!

Q: How would you like to Spread the Joy this holiday season?

A: I'd love to gift a copy of my book to one reader!

Thanks for such a sweet gift, Leslie!

Giveaway details:

Readers, to enter to win this joyful giveaway, 1) share this post on social media and 2) leave a comment below thanking Leslie for stopping by! Let her know why you can't wait to check out her book, too.

Spread the Joy winners will be chosen on or about December 17th.

*Books will be shipped in the US only*

Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of three (3) Rate Your Story Speed Passes,perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.

About Leslie Kimmelman:

Leslie is the author of more than 50 picture books and early readers for children, many of them award-winners. She is also a longtime children’s book editor. She lives just north of New York City.

For more about Leslie, visit her website, here.

You can also follow Leslie on Facebook, here.

To purchase Leslie's books on Amazon or to leave a review for them, click here.



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23 comentários

Joy Dickinson
Joy Dickinson
10 de dez. de 2023

Thank you for sharing your journey and your books! I love to see you’ve written about kindness.


09 de dez. de 2023

I love the idea of books inside a book! How clever. I was happy to share this post on X. Congratulations on your continued success.


Thanks for sharing your story! Tweeted you out!!


Jacqueline Lindsey
Jacqueline Lindsey
07 de dez. de 2023

I'm always looking for good Hanukkah books! I can't wait to share this one with my sons.

Heather Macht
Heather Macht
18 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

Congrats! We drew your name as the winner of this amazing giveaway! We’ll be in touch soon with more details. ❄️


Thelia Hutchinson
Thelia Hutchinson
06 de dez. de 2023

Thank you for stopping by Leslie and sharing your book!

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