I first met Betsy at a Jewish book event where we were both speakers. She was warm and friendly and I was charmed by her presentation. Betsy worked as a lawyer for many years before she became a children’s author. She has written two picture books, MY HOUSE IS SINGING, and IT’S NOT WORTH MAKING A TZIMMES OVER. Betsy lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. She says they are all “worth making a tzimmes over.” I’m so pleased to bring you this interview with my local colleague, Betsy Rosenthal.
Tell me a little bit about your latest book. Why you were drawn to write about a Jewish theme or character?
It’s called, It’s Not Worth Making a Tzimmes Over! It’s a romp about a girl and her grandmother (her bubbe) who make a shabbat challah together. After Sara makes a mistake when she’s adding the ingredients, the challah dough grows and grows until it’s flowing through the town. They find a way to solve the problem and the whole community benefits from the yummy challah.
The story was based on a real life situation in which my son (when he was in a preschool temple program) mistakenly added his cup of orange juice to the mix instead of the eggs. It got me thinking…. In the book I even have a recipe for Challah a l’Orange courtesy of my son.
When I was growing up, my parents occasionally used Yiddish so that my brother and I wouldn’t understand what they were saying. Hearing Yiddish brings back memories and gives me a warm feeling that I tried to replicate in my book by sprinkling in Yiddish words through the grandmother. I also have a Yiddish glossary in the back of the book.
What type of research was involved?
I did a little research on the old horror movie, The Blob. Also I used a couple of books to check the English spelling of the Yiddish words. And lastly, I tested out the challah recipe – it was yummy.
How did you become a children’s writer?
I used to practice law, up until I had my second child. At that time I stayed home with my children and spent many hours on the rocking chair, reading children’s books to them. Since I had always loved to write stories and poems, I tried my hand at books for children. Now my children are beyond the age that I write for, but they still inspire me with their antics and give me fresh ideas I can incorporate into my writing.
What are you working on now?
I’m trying to interest a publisher in my novel in verse about my mother’s childhood, growing up in a super large Jewish family (she was one of 12 children) in Baltimore during the depression.
What are a few fun facts about you?
In my Tzimmes book, Sara and her grandma play badminton because I play badminton. I just launched my website — www.betsyrosenthal.com that has some biographical stuff about me.
I’ve been to Israel 8 times and I lived there for a little over a year.
What is your favorite holiday?
Definitely Passover– the food, oh the food!
Betsy, thanks for sharing about the life experiences that inspire you!
To learn more about Betsy, please visit her web site at www.betsyrosenthal.com