Author Chat with D.J. Steinberg (Hanukkah, Here I Come!), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we are chatting with D.J. Steinberg, author of
Hanukkah, Here I Come!
Read on for more about D.J., his book, and a giveaway!
Meet D.J. Steinberg!
D.J. Steinberg is the best-selling author of more than 20 children's books that have sold close to 2 million copies to date, including the popular "Here I Come" series, award-winning picture book "King Louie's Shoes," a line of humorous poetry readers including "GrasshopperPie and Other Poems," and his graphic novel series The Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy. His alter-ego David has served as an executive, producer, and artist on animated movies and TV shows, at studios like Disney and Nickelodeon. He lives in Los Angeles, California with a beautiful wife, 3 boys, a cavapoo, and a house with secret doors in the bookcases. For more, see www.djsteinberg.com.
Meet Hanukkah, Here I Come!
Celebrate Hanukkah with a collection of funny and festive poems from the author of the hugely popular Kindergarten, Here I Come!
The candles are lit and the latkes are frying -- Hanukkah is here! Welcome in the holiday with poems -- and a sheet of stickers! -- from author D. J. Steinberg that highlight the family fun, dizzying dreidels, and mighty Maccabee stories that Hanukkah is sure to bring..
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I grew up celebrating Hanukkah every winter in snowy Chicago. Some of my favorite childhood memories are lighting the candles with my family (it was the only time we could hold a real lit candle—with a parent!) and opening presents every night. And my mom made the best potato latkes ever. I remember spinning around with my sister to a song about dreidels until we both fell down and watched the room spin around us. And years later, I got to raise my children with the same celebrations (only in Los Angeles, where there wasn’t nearly as much snow). With all these memories swirling, I asked Penguin Workshop to consider a book in my “Here I Come!” series about Hanukkah, and guess what? They said yes.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
There is a poem in the book called “A Favor For My Grandpa.” The story is about a grandpa who gets his grandson to try one of the home-made latkes (potato pancakes) by pretending that it’s defective and that otherwise he is going to have to throw it out. The grandchild falls for the trick, hook, line and sinker. That was my own grandfather, always twinkling with a mischievous sense of humor. Which is why I think I like that character so much!
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I am especially proud of the vignette called “Hanukkah Selfies.” It feels like a modern twist on Hanukkah in a day and age when we are all a little obsessed with taking selfies wherever we go. I don’t know about you, but selfies never work out well in our family. It seems like no matter what, somebody’s head is cut off or my finger is covering half the picture, or everybody’s blurry or backlit. That was the origin of the poem—and I’m guessing that the scene will strike others as familiar too!
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
“Hanukkah, Here I Come!” is the 9th book in the series, and I have certainly learned a lot about writing for this format since I first began the series with “Kindergarten, Here I Come!”
What is unique about these books is that they are formatted as collections of fun rhymes that center on specific childhood experiences. So the first books were about going to different grades of school, and the latest books have been covering the holidays that children celebrate over the course of the year. When I first started writing the series, I wrote long and elaborate poems with more details and plot and dialogue. My editor worked with me to cut them down to size. And she was so right. The most successful poems in books like these are often the shortest, where the pages are not overwhelmed with words, but the pictures have lots of room to draw you in and fill in the details. So I learned to write leaner and I challenge myself on every poem to tell a story in as few words as possible!
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
“Hanukkah, Here I Come!” was illustrated by a fabulous artist named Sara Palacios, whom I have never met. (People are often surprised to find out that authors and illustrators on books usually do not meet or work together directly.) Sara also illustrated my book, “Thanksgiving, Here I Come!” and did a great job on that as well.
What I love about Sara’s art on the cover of the Hanukkah book is the cat that you see with the children playing dreidel. The cover is actually a hint of things to come. If you look at the pictures in the book, you will find a lot of cats and some dogs and even a bunny enjoying Hanukkah—see how many you can find!
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to?
I am excited to say that this 2021 holiday season, I also have “Christmas, Here I Come!” being released, so it’s a double-whammy season for me! Both books came out so beautifully, and I am proud of them both!
YABC: What’s up next for you?
It’s been so great to see the amazing reception I have gotten to the “Here I Come!” books so far. And the greatest thing about having a best-selling series, is that I am getting the chance to write more and more “Here I Come!” books, covering more holidays and life events. So I am keeping very busy writing and if you keep an eye on my website (www.djsteinberg.com) you will see a lot more fun titles coming your way!
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
I wanted to say something about the challenges of writing in verse. I always loved rhyming books growing up, especially Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, and don’t forget A.A. Milne and Lewis Carrol! These are my heroes and so when I began writing my own stories, I often tried to write in verse as well.
What I had to learn the hard way--because my heroes made meter and rhyme look easy--was that it is not easy at all! It is deceptively hard to write well in verse. Because you need to do all the things that make for good writing in general—story, character, voice, description, word choice, clarity—and then make them all fit into a consistent pattern of meter and rhyme. It’s like juggling 100 balls! And it takes work and patience to get each poem to feel like the language is natural, and the meter flows effortlessly. I love doing poetry workshops at schools, where we can dig into the elements of poetry more and have fun making up our own rhymes!
Hanukkah, Here I Come!
Author: D.J. Steinberg
Illustrator: Sara Palacios
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Publish Date: November 2nd, 2021
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