Melissa Stoller is the author of SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES (Clear Fork Publishing) a picture book that celebrates family, tradition, and the power of story from generation to generation.
Every Shabbat as they bake challah, Sadie listens to Nana’s family stories and learns all about her ancestors. Soon, Sadie wants to tell Nana stories of her own. Sadie weaves a beautiful narrative that connects her past to her present in a meaningful way for the whole family. Lisa Goldberg’s illustrations provide a magical quality that beautifully enhances the text. A perfect Shabbat story!
I’m so happy to chat with Melissa to learn more about the creation of this charming picture book.
Can you tell me a bit about what inspired Sadie’s Shabbat Stories?
Absolutely! In SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES, Sadie loves listening to her Nana’s tales about their ancestors, surrounding the Shabbat ritual objects: candlesticks, a Kiddush cup for grape juice or wine, and a challah cover for the special bread. Sadie hopes that she can find her unique voice and tell special Shabbat stories, just like Nana. My family history inspired SADIE! First, my father always told tales about how he was born in New York in 1912, and when he was around a year old, his mother took him to Europe to visit his grandparents. Unfortunately, World War I broke out and they were trapped there for many years. Finally they returned and he was reunited with his father, and my uncle was born in 1924. Also, I was always struck by the story of my husband’s grandfather, who left Russia in 1917 with nothing except his younger brother and some provisions. They escaped from the pogroms, violence again Jewish people, and made their way to America for a better life. Finally, my grandmother was an excellent storyteller and I loved hearing her stories when I was growing up. I put all these ideas together, and also pulled in the fact that I have three daughters, and I always encourage them to have strong voices. I am so happy that I was able to weave all
these threads together to tell this story.
How can we encourage families to share stories, like Sadie and her Nana do?
I think it is so important for families to share stories. We all have unique heritages and histories that we want to keepalive from generation to generation. Now more than ever, when it might be harder to spend time in person with older relatives, we can still find ways to connect. A few ways to preserve family stories include: interviewing family members and making videos or other recordings of their life histories; researching genealogy on sites like ancestor.com or at local city record offices; and looking through old family photos. Ask about relatives’ joys and setbacks, about their memories, and about their hopes and dreams. You never know what treasures you may discover!
What did you think when you first saw Lisa Goldberg’s lovely illustrations? (Personal note – the popsicle stick Star of
David necklace made me smile!)
When I first saw Lisa Goldberg’s illustrations, I literally had tears in my eyes. She so perfectly captured Sadie, Nana, their relatives and environments, and all the Shabbat ritual objects. Lisa’s Chagall-like artwork beautifully captures and creates the tone of the book – dreamy, nostalgic, and mindful of the past, the present, and the future.
Lisa and I actually met at the SCBWI Winter Conference in February 2020 (we were so lucky!) – here’s a photo of us holding a postcard of the cover image.
Thank you, Melissa! Learn more about Melissa and her books here Melissa Stoller.