Rodeph Sholom School is thrilled to be welcoming children’s author Laurel Snyder for a visit in March. Ms. Snyder is the author of seven novels for children, including Orphan Island, a Bank Street School Best Book of 2017, and the recent My Jasper June, one of the New York Times’s Best Books of 2019.
She has also written many picture books, including the Geisel-winning Charlie and Mouse series as well as PJ Library picks The Forever Garden, The Longest Night, and Good Night, Laila Tov. When our resident Elementary Librarian Elizabeth Shaw recently asked Ms. Snyder about how her writing life and Jewish identity intersected, she had a lot to share with the Rodeph Sholom School community.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve also been Jewish. But to be honest, my sense of myself as a Jewish writer has taken a long time to develop. Growing up in an intermarried home, I carried a lot of insecurities. While I attended Hebrew school and synagogue, and identified as strongly Jewish, I worried that other people didn’t see me that way. As I grew older, I found opportunities to think and talk about that. I took college classes in Jewish studies, moved to Israel for a year, and went to work for Hillel. The more I learned, the more secure I felt. And yet, as I began to publish, I still worried people wouldn’t welcome me as a “Jewish author.”
Then I became a mother, and what I discovered was that I was suddenly very full of ideas for explicitly Jewish stories. I feel a deep urge to help create the picture books my own sons would read. And I wanted to carve out a space for kids who—like me—felt a little insecure in their Jewishness. Some of my books, like Baxter the Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher, approached the subject head-on, and others, like Good Night, Laila Tov, simply depicted a more secular family, embracing Jewish values with a lighter touch.
When these books were appreciated by the Jewish world around me, even honored with the Sydney Taylor award and distributed by the PJ Library program, I found that my insecurities vanished. It was deeply meaningful for me, and I was finally able to think of myself as a “Jewish Writer.” To fully claim that identity.
What I have discovered since then is that the more authentic I am in representing Jewish life as I know it, the more people respond positively to my work, and the more accepted I feel. Currently, I’m at work on a novel about a girl preparing for her bat mitzvah, and I’m digging into my own Jewish life more than I ever have before. I’m representing my own family and community in ways I never could have imagined I would be able to do.
It has been one of the greatest gifts of my life, that I’ve been able to create this role for myself, to write and publish Jewish books, to engage with the Jewish community all over the country, and to learn from every experience.”
The students and faculty at Rodeph Sholom School are looking forward to our upcoming visit with Ms. Snyder. Parents wishing to purchase one of Ms. Snyder’s books to be signed by the author are invited to contact Elizabeth Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.