Leslie Kimmelman is the author of MANY books that kids and parents cherish. Her most recent picture book. The Rabbi Slurps Spaghetti (Apples and Honey Press) is a charming look at the real life of a beloved Rabbi. The characters are delightful and Sharon Davey’s art helps bring the sweet, playful story to life.
Tell me about the inspiration for your new book, The Rabbi Slurps Spaghetti?
Actually, the germ of the idea for this book came from a teacher. I had been doing a synagogue or JCC visit–can’t remember which–and when I schmooze with teachers and staff afterward, I always ask if they feel there’s anything missing from the shelves. One teacher told me that there were no picture books that actually explain what a rabbi does. My first reaction was, How can that be? So I did a little digging and realized she was right. The only one I found was a groundbreaking book called Ima on the Bima, but it was written way back in the 1980s! It seemed like the time was right to revisit the subject.
The specific inspiration of the character of Rabbi Max was the rabbi at my own temple. He’s a terrific rabbi, just the right combination of caring, thoughtful, hands-on, and laid back and funny. I wanted my book to have humor, and to show that the rabbi has a regular life, too, outside his rabbi duties. Like when you’re a kid and you see your teacher in the grocery store or something, and it’s a huge eye-opener.
Sharon Davey’s illustrations are a perfect pairing for your lively text. What were your thoughts when you first saw her work?
I was, and still am, thrilled. Totally accessible, really appealing, and just full of joy. I love the diversity of her characters. I’m also crazy about the spaghetti endpapers!
There is a lot of playful humor in The Rabbi Slurps Spaghetti (I personally love the Shabbarbeque and Oy! Joy!) including some fun dialogue bubbles in the illustrations. Did you provide notes to the illustrator or were they part of her interpretation?
The speech balloons are all mine. I started with fewer, but then my editor really liked them and thought they should be on every page. Some were harder to come up with than others.
I’m glad the humor came through. I am lucky to be part of a very funny, punny family; in fact, I’m probably the least funny member. Shabbarbeque, by the way, is an actual event that our temple holds annually. I guess I belong to a funny synagogue, too!
Have you had any feedback about The Rabbi Slurps Spaghetti from Rabbis or their families?
So far, the only rabbi I’ve heard from directly is my own (who loved it, or at least that’s what he told me!). I hope I’ll get more responses. I was also happy to hear that it’s a popular PJ Library selection.
To learn more about Leslie and her work please visit her web site Leslie Kimmelman.