Author Chat With Rebecca Gardyn Levington (AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? A Passover Hide-and-Seek Adventure), Plus Giveaway! ~ US ONLY!

Today we are very excited to share an exclusive interview with Author Rebecca Gardyn Levington (AFIKOMAN,WHERE’D YOU GO?)!

Read on to find out more about the author, the book and a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Rebecca Gardyn Levington

Rebecca Gardyn Levington is a Jewish children’s book author, poet, and journalist. She has a master’s degree in magazine journalism from NYU and a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from UCLA. This is her third published picture book, and her poetry and articles have appeared in various anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband and two boisterous boys.

Noa Kelner is a freelance illustrator living and working in Jerusalem. She graduated from the Department of Visual Communication at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and now works with Israeli newspapers, magazines, publishers, and design firms. She has illustrated several picture books and is the co-founder and artistic director of an art festival in Jerusalem that showcases hundreds of illustrators every year.

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About the Book: AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? A Passover Hide-and-Seek Adventure

Help the children find the afikoman during their seder! It’s a rambunctious Passover hide-and-seek story for Jewish fans of Where’s Waldo? and The Gingerbread Man.

 

This lively, funny picture book brings to life the Passover tradition of searching for the afikoman—literally. When the mischievous piece of matzoh runs and hides during the seder, all the kids in the family (and even the pet dog!) go hunting for it, through every room in the house. Readers can join the hunt and find the sneaky afikoman in each bright and busy scene while enjoying the playful rhyming text. And they’re in for a surprise ending that’s as delightful as this favorite part of Passover.

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~Author Chat~

 

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

For those who may not be familiar with Passover, I like to describe it as “Jewish Thanksgiving.” It is a holiday that typically takes place in March or April, where we gather together around a big table, eat great food, sing songs, say prayers, and express gratitude for our freedom and for all the good things we are blessed to have in our lives. This gathering is called a “seder.” One of the rituals that takes place about halfway through the seder, after the meal, is called “searching for the afikoman.” This is when a piece of broken matzah cracker – called the “afikoman” – is hidden somewhere in the home and all the kids embark upon a manic search to find it and win the coveted prize (in my house it was always a dollar, which was a lot of money in those days!).

During my own childhood seders, I have fond memories of my sister and I (and other family friends) tearing through the house, upending couch cushions, throwing open cabinets, and digging through drawers! (My guess is that my mom has less fond memories of this! Lol).

These memories were the impetus for this story, along with a longtime desire to do a fractured fairytale version of The Gingerbread Man. Once I’d written the first draft, I thought about how fun it would be if I could also find a way to involve the reader by making it a seek-and-find, much like the Where’s Waldo and Richard Scarry books I enjoyed reading with my own two boys when they were little. I’m so thrilled that Noa Kelner was chosen as the illustrator because her cleverness in hiding the Afikoman in the pages of this book is just brilliant!

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

Oh, definitely the Afikoman! When I initially wrote this book, I thought of Afikoman as more of a smarmy, snarky, dislikeable character, but I absolutely love that Noa drew him more as a silly, trickster character, which makes so much more sense and works so perfectly in this book!  I particularly love the endpapers she created, where more of Afikoman’s silly personality is revealed.

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I’m most proud of how the ending came together. No spoilers, but I will say that my original ending included Afikoman being eaten (GASP!). I didn’t feel like there was any problem with this because: 1) If you look at most iterations of The Gingerbread Man, the main character does indeed get eaten at the end. 2) At the Passover seder, the afikoman is meant to be eaten as a symbolic “dessert” after the meal, and 3) As I mentioned earlier, I was initially envisioning Afikoman as a sort of sneaky “villain” character, so I thought kids would kind of enjoy the idea of him getting his “just desserts” (pun-intended) in the end.

My editor, however, thought cannibalism took things just a little too far, so I managed to came up with what we both felt was an even better twist (which also ended up going through a few revisions until we got it exactly right!).

If you want to find out what actually does happen to our little Afikoman friend, you’ll just have to read the book!

YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?

Noa so cleverly hid the Afikoman on every spread of the book by using lots of browns and beiges as camouflage and added patterns to purposefully trick the reader, so I love how she brought this onto the cover of the book as well. He’s there, on top of the treehouse, but you don’t necessarily notice him at first. It’s so great to have that little taste on the cover of all the fun to come.

YABC:  Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I think the most important thing I’ve learned since I began writing picture books and poems in earnest in 2016 is that publishing is a business. When I first started, most of what I wrote was to amuse myself (which is absolutely essential, of course!) but I wasn’t thinking about whether or not my stories were marketable. I wasn’t thinking about who might actually want to buy these books or why they would want to buy my book over another. And I certainly never thought about hooks. I didn’t realize then that even if an editor thinks my story is “cute” or “funny” or “heartfelt,” she can’t acquire it unless she can also prove to all the financial and marketing people that it will SELL.

So, nowadays, I still first write from my heart – always. But once that messy first draft is completed, I immediately begin thinking about hooks and marketability. I write my pitch and logline. I research comp titles. I even write an Author’s Note. Then, as I continue to revise, I have a very clear idea of what the book is really about, why I’m writing it, what the hooks are, who the audience is, and how I will sell the idea to a publisher.

 

YABC:      What would you say is your superpower?

I think my ability to say what I need to say while incorporating unexpected rhymes in perfect meter, humorous puns and/or emotional wordplay, and as much lyrical language as possible in my stories, is my superpower. Maybe that sounds arrogant, but I’ve worked really, really, really hard over the last 7-8 years – taking classes, reading and studying thousands of rhyming picture books and poems, swapping manuscripts with other incredible rhyming authors, getting professional critiques, etc. — to truly master the ins and outs of rhyme, meter, and lyrical language. I finally feel like I’m at a point where I am confident enough to say: I know what I’m doing! That’s not to say I don’t still have much to learn (don’t we all!) but I love what I do and I am proud to be able to say I’m good at it.

YABC:   What advice do you have for new writers? 

Put yourself and your work out into the world as much as you can! Apply for ALL the contests, join ALL the groups, go to ALL the conferences and webinars you can, and enter ALL the mentorship programs. You just never know where or when opportunity will rear its head and you need to be ready for it when it does.

I am proof that this strategy works because it’s exactly how I sold my first two picture books, on my own, without an agent.

The deal for BRAINSTORM! (my debut, which came out in 2022 with Sleeping Bear Press) was the result of me choosing to apply to the #PBChat Mentorship Program in 2019, which was a free contest in which well-established, multi-published authors selected mentees and engaged them in a 3-month mentorship. I was lucky enough to be chosen by Lori Degman and, after our mentorship was over, she very generously offered to connect me with her editors, one of whom was Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press. I sent Sarah my very favorite manuscript at the time, which she passed on. But she liked my writing and rhyme and invited me to submit more. I ended up sending two others (which she also passed on) before she finally acquired BRAINSTORM!

The deal from for I WILL ALWAYS BE… (which was my second book sold, to HarperCollins, but for scheduling reasons will be my 6th book out, in 2025) resulted from a critique I signed up for via my local SCBWI chapter. The editor I was matched with didn’t connect with the manuscript I’d given her to critique and, when I mentioned that all my other work was in rhyme, told me that “rhyming manuscripts are a hard sell.” But, even so, I went ahead and sent her I WILL ALWAYS BE… (another rhymer) because she had a 1-week submission window after the conference and I didn’t have an agent so I figured, why not? Two months later, she emailed me asking if it was still available!

That sale also helped me find my wonderful agent, Kaitlyn Sanchez, with whom I’ve sold an additional seven rhyming picture books!

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

After AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO?, I am excited to say I have another six more rhyming picture books being released within the next couple of years. Next up, on Sept. 4th, is LITTLE DREIDEL LEARNS TO SPIN, illustrated by Taryn Johnson, and published by Scholastic, is a rhyming Hanukkah picture book about Little Dreidel, who discovers that she needs persistence, patience (and a whole lot of momentum!) if she ever hopes to spin as well as her older cousins.

The previously mentioned I WILL ALWAYS BE… releases in spring 2025, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell and published by HarperCollins. That one is an inspirational picture book that encourages kids to celebrate their passions – whether or not they ever make it to Broadway or the big leagues – because doing what you love and loving what you do is what really matters.

Readers are welcome to learn more about my upcoming books and sign up for my monthly newsletter where I offer all kinds of tips for upcoming writers, on my website: www.RebeccaGardynLevington.com.

 

 

 

Title: AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? A Passover Hide-and-Seek Adventure

Author: Rebecca Gardyn Levington

Illustrator: Noa Kelner

Release Date: February 20, 2024

Publisher: Rocky Pond Books

ISBN-10: 0593617789

ISBN-13: 9780593617786

Genre: Picture Book

Age Range: 4-8

 

 

 

*Giveaway Details*

 

Three (3) winners will receive a hardcover copy of AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? A Passover Hide-and-Seek Adventure (Rebecca Gardyn Levington) ~ US Only!

 

*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway!*

 

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6 thoughts on “Author Chat With Rebecca Gardyn Levington (AFIKOMAN, WHERE’D YOU GO? A Passover Hide-and-Seek Adventure), Plus Giveaway! ~ US ONLY!”

  1. astromgren says:

    This looks too cute!

  2. Book looks great! Just in time for Passover!

  3. i need this for my bestie’s baby!

  4. ltecler says:

    Perfect for Passover!

  5. Rebecca Gardyn Levington is fantastic! So excited to read this one!

  6. I love the cover which matches this fun synopsis well.

Comments are closed.