Sydney Taylor Honor Award Celebration

Kristi's Book Nook is celebrating the Sydney Taylor Honor awards winners in the Younger Readers category for Shanghai Sukkah! Congratulations to Heidi Smith Hyde (author) and Jing Jing Tsong (illustrator). The host of this wonderful blog tour is the Association of Jewish Libraries. You can find other participating sites at the Association of Jewish Libraries blog AJL blog. If you are interested in learning more about the award visit the Sydney Taylor Honor Award site.

Read the review posted to Kristi's Book Nook.

Meet the author and illustrator of this wonderful book.

Heidi Smith Hyde
The story you've shared is very unique. What inspired you?
Many years ago my neighborhood synagogue established a monument to commemorate Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat to Lithuania who, at the risk of his own career, issued thousands of visas to Jews to help them escape the horrors of the Holocaust.  Many of them ultimately resettled in Shanghai, where they lived meaningful Jewish lives.  In addition to celebrating the holidays, the refugees established schools, newspapers, and theaters.   Before the monument was created, I was unaware of the fact that there was a thriving Jewish community living in Shanghai at the time of the Holocaust.  In writing this book, I wanted to pay tribute to these brave men, women and children who, despite difficult living conditions, preserved their rich traditions while peacefully co-existing with their Chinese neighbors.

The Sydney Taylor award is a great achievement. What was your reaction when you discovered your were a winner?
I was very humbled to have received this award, particularly since my sister, Karen, and I grew up reading Sydney Taylor’s classic series, All of a Kind Family.  This treasure trove of Jewish culture chronicles the life of five spunky immigrant sisters growing up in New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the century. Sydney Taylor’s much beloved series fueled our imaginations, helping to form our earliest impression of the Jewish immigrant experience in America.   

What advice do you have for young writers?
First and foremost, never compare yourself with other writers or try to emulate their style.  Just find your own authentic voice and let your imagination do the rest.  Secondly, don’t let rejection letters deter you.  We all face rejection.  Give yourself one day to mourn, and then continue to do what you love most – write!!

Who was your favorite author growing up?
As a child, I was a voracious reader.  Prior to every family vacation, my mother would take me to the library, and together we would select at least 6 or 8 books for the trip.  For me, nothing beat sitting on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, losing myself in the pages of a good book.  My favorite titles included classics such as The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare), Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink), The Wheel on the School (Meindert De Jong), A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) and The Endless Steppe, (Esther Hautzig). 

Do you have any new and upcoming projects that you would like to share? Currently, I am hot on the trail of a children’s book that celebrates the wonder and majesty of trees!  I look forward to seeing where this fledgling idea takes me.

Heidi Smith Hyde

Jing Jing Tsong

KBN: Your illustrations bring life to what a Sukkah is throughout the pages. What inspired you to become an illustrator?

JJT: I have always loved picture books. I remember my Mom laughing at the fact that even as an advanced reader, I would go into the picture book section. That magic combination of just the right words and just the right images still casts a spell on me.

KBN: What is your preferred medium?
JJT: Even though my work is dependent on traditional techniques such as block printing, monoprints, pencils and paints, I would be lost without my computer. For me, collaging and layering elements, digitally, allows more fluid exploration.

KBN: The Sydney Taylor award is an awesome achievement. What was your reaction when you discovered you were a winner?
JJT: It’s a real honor to be included in the company of such talented writers and illustrators.
KBN: What advice do you have for young artists who would someday love to illustrate children's books?
JJT: Never stop looking at and reading picture books!

KBN: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share?

JJT: I’m excited about a book called Before We Met (by Laura Melmed Krauss, published by the Beach Lane Books  (an imprint of Simon and Schuster). It comes out at the end of this April.