This Passover Story May Be the First Jewish Children’s Book With a Nonbinary Protagonist

So many delightful Jewish children’s books with LGBTQ+ representation are hitting the shelves this year, including Leslea Newman’s  upcoming “The Naming Song”.
One such book, which came out in January, is “Frankenstein’s Matzah,” a book that combines Passover traditions with science experiments and Mary Shelley love, and that is helmed by a curious, nonbinary scientist named Vee.
According to its publisher, it’s the first Jewish children’s book to feature a nonbinary protagonist. Vee uses they/them pronouns, but the most important part of their identity in this book is their love for science. In a page that introduces us to the Jewish Frankenstein family, we are told that Vee “aspires to be the world’s greatest Nobel Prize winning Jewish non-binary scientist.”
“Incidental representation is so important in books so readers are able to see themselves in the pages and readers are able to see characters who may be different from them,” author K. Marcus told Kveller over e-mail. “As Emily Style said (and I’m paraphrasing) books are ‘windows and mirrors’ where readers can see others and see themselves.”
This charming book, with colorful digital comic book style illustrations by Sam Loman, is a parody of the Frankenstein story. Instead of a human-like creature, young Vee tries to bring a piece of matzah to life. Spoiler alert: They succeed!
Marcus says she was inspired to incorporate the Frankenstein story into her book after listening to an NYPL podcast about how Frankenstein has become a part of popular culture. She loved paying tribute to what is considered the first science fiction story.  She wants readers to learn about how important it is to keep trying — when conducting science experiments and beyond (Vee tried their matzah experiment 1817 times before it worked!). She hopes that the book helps portray how “amazing and thoughtful” Judaism is.
This book is funny, silly and full of family love. Vee gets a lot of love from their mother and grandfather, and is a great big sibling to brother Jax. “Frankenstein’s Matzah” also features some great ideas for incorporating science into your own family’s Passover experience. At the seder table, Vee conducts two topical experiments — one that incorporates the eggs from the seder plate, and another that alludes to the parting of the Red Sea — and shares how you can do the same at home, at the seder table and beyond. The book also helps children learn basic facts about the scientific method. The text is peppered with Yiddish and Hebrew words, and Passover traditions, too. Yet despite being a trove of information, it’s more fun than didactic.
Even if they can’t bring a matzah to life, kids are sure to be delighted by the story of Vee and Manny the matzah.
Buy “Frankenstein’s Matzah” on Amazon / Target / Bookshop / Intergalactic Afikoman

Lior Zaltzman

Lior Zaltzman is the deputy managing editor of Kveller.

New Book on David and Victoria Beckham Promises to Share Their ‘Compelling, Previously Untold Story’

A new book promising to give insight into David and Victoria Beckham’s “private lives” is hitting shelves this June.
Harper Collins announced it has acquired the world rights to The House of Beckham: Money, Sex and Power, written by celebrated British investigative biographer, Tom Bower. It will be publishing the book globally in hardback, audiobook and eBook.

The book explores the pair’s rise to “one of the most famous and influential couples in the world” and the establishment of their “multi-billion-dollar” global brand — much of which was introduced, along with an inside glimpse into their private lives — in their 2023 Netflix documentary Beckham.

In addition, Bower’s new book pledges to take fans behind the screens to answer questions raised in the documentary about their “success and personal relationship,” as well as the “ruthlessly successful management of their image” in the media. He said he seeks to answer the question, “Are their lives really as perfect as the Beckhams would like the world to believe?”

Bowers said in a press release that through “extensive research, expert sourcing and interviews with insiders,” he has new information that will shed “surprising insight” into the reality of “Brand Beckham.”

According to the publisher’s synopsis, the book will take readers through the Beckhams’ soccer and fashion careers, finances and new lives in Miami, among other things, in order to paint a picture of the “business-savvy cultural icons” and tell their story of “money, sex and power.”

“When I started researching the Beckhams for the book, I was sure that an in-depth account of their lives would be a hugely entertaining and revealing read, but even I was surprised to discover such a compelling, previously untold story,” Bower said in a statement accompanying the release.

“The Beckhams have dominated headlines, social media feeds and watercooler conversations for over two decades and they remain a fascinating and enduring cultural phenomenon,” said Publisher Adam Humphrey, who oversaw the publication of the book in the U.K.

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“The House of Beckham is a hugely compelling behind-the-scenes account of their lives and there is simply no better writer than Tom Bower to tell it,” he added.

Bower, an investigative historian, broadcaster and journalist, has extensive knowledge of the lives of the rich, famous and royal. Having previously worked as a former producer and reporter for BBC Television for 25 years, he went on to publish several bestselling books including Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors, Rebel King: The Making of a Monarch and Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power.

The House of Beckham: Money, Sex and Power will be released on June 20 and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

20 Books and Retellings Inspired by Greek Mythology to Transport You Through Time

There’s a reason why Greek myths have such a strong hold over the storytelling culture for centuries. Joseph Campbell, who penned The Hero’s Journey, once considered these Greek myths as the strongest contemporary representation of the perfect narrative archetypes. They are stories filled with the timeless themes of love, loss, heroism and the power of the divine which continue to fill us up with magic even today. If you’re looking to scratch that same itch again, with writing that might be a bit more accessible, here are 20 captivating books that will breathe new life into your book-shelf.1. The Percy Jackson Series by Rick RiordanPercy Jackson and The Olympians, Image Credit – InstagramA bit of a guilty favourite, this middle-grade book series surprisingly manages to balance a lot of dark story beats (for a children’s series) with the kind of humour that people from any age can enjoy. It’s a delightful entry point for younger readers and akin to a relaxing getaway for older ones, following the story of a young demigod in the modern-day era called Percy Jackson. Its irreverent yet sassy take on classic Greek stories still manages to inject a sense of melancholy into heavy themes like parenthood, chosen friendships and responsibility.2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerSong of Achilles, Image Credit – InstagramAnother entry by Madeline Miller, this one follows a rather unique lyrical prose to tell the story of the Trojan War from Patroclus’ perspective, as Achilles’ best friend and lover. Her writing style following an almost flowery and poetic rhythm sets a beautiful contrast to the tragic story of the two men’s love and fight to stay together through a fated death.3. The Odyssey by HomerThe Odyssey, Image Credit – InstagramPerhaps a bit surprising that this is the first classic on the list, Homer’s epic published in 1614 is wholly considered to be a cornerstone of Western literature, As the first of two major ancient Greek poems, chronicling Odysseus’ ten-year journey home after the Trojan War, it’s almost a poetic follow-up read to The Song of Achilles. Odyssey focuses a lot more on the timeless appeal of the themes of adventure, perseverance and homecoming.4. Girl Meets Boy by Ali SmithGirl Meets Boy, Image Credit – InstagramSimilar to Percy Jackson, this captivating middle-grade novel is a feminist take on one of the most well-known monsters from Greek Mythology in today’s age: the story of Medusa. Set in its own world, Girl Meets Boy uses its setting where Medusa-like girls are feared and ostracized to tell a truly heartwarming story about teenage friendship and fighting back against societal expectations.5. Helen of Troy by Margaret GeorgeHelen of Troy, Image Credit – InstagramAnother unique entry for the list, this novel leans more into the historical side of things. As a historical fiction piece, it tries to tell the story of the Trojan War from the perspective of Helen, the woman whose beauty was responsible for the start of the war. It adds more nuance to Helen’s story, exploring the difficulties and challenges she faced and offers a new perspective to what have traditionally been heavily patriarchal portrayals of her.6. Elektra: The Novel by Jennifer SaintElektra, Image Credit – InstagramElektra is a fascinating novel that offers a new take on the myth of Elektra by giving a voice to Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife. For those who may need a refresher, Elektra was the youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and King Agamemnon who helps her brother kill the king. It’s a brutal story featuring three distinct perspectives of Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra that’s sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.7. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie PhillipsGods Behaving Badly, Image Credit – InstagramThis witty and irreverent novel largely takes the concept of the Olympian Gods in the contemporary world, in an attempt to humanize them. Imagine Greek gods dealing with all the anxieties and flaws of having to deal with modern-day problems like trying to make rent on a small London apartment building. It’s a hilarious and insightful commentary on human nature as a whole and Marie Phillips’s prose is sure to keep you hooked.8. Troy by Stephen FryTroy, Image Credit – InstagramTroy is yet another take on the Trojan War, this time written by renowned comedian Stephen Fry. Through his witty prose and sharp dialogues, he manages to completely reinvent the conflict from the various perspectives of its impressive ensemble of characters.9. Pandora’s Jar by Natalie HaynesPandora’s Jar, Image Credit – InstagramPandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes refocuses Greek mythology through a feminist lens, spotlighting women traditionally sidelined in these tales. This 2020 bestseller reexamines iconic figures like Pandora and Medusa, offering a smart, witty perspective on their pivotal roles in mythology.10. Lore Olympus by Rachel SmytheLore Olympus, Image Credit – InstagramNow, this entry might be the most unique one on the list, Lore Olympus offers a vibrantly colourful yet modern take on the tale of Persephone and Hades and manages to tell a much stronger love story for today’s standard, while using their flawed caricatures from mythology.11. Till We Have Faces by C. S LewisTill We Have Faces, Image Credit – InstagramC. S. Lewis offers an interesting perspective on the love story of Psyche and Eros, who may be a much less known couple in the Greek mythological world but it’s still just as powerful. Psyche and Eros, also known much more popularly as Cupid, aren’t the main protagonists of the story, but rather told from the perspective of Psyche’s jilted sister Aglaura, definitely making for a unique read.12. Fates and Furies by Lauren GroffFates and Furies, Image Credit – InstagramThis novel follows the story of the monsters known as the Furies, through the lens of a modern-day family saga. It’s an interesting narrative that delves deeper into themes like revenge, family loyalty and the cautions of how the weight of the past can drag you down.13. Ariadne by Jennifer SaintAriadne, Image Credit – InstagramYet another historical fiction novel, you might be able to recognise this name from the story of a very popular monster instead: the Minotaur. Yet another new perspective from Jennifer Saint it follows the story of how Princess Ariadne leads Theseus out of the Minotar’s labyrinth that her father condemns him to and tells a story of love that’s both complicated and real.14. Daughters of Sparta by Claire HeywoodDaughters of Sparta, Image Credit – InstagramDaughters of Sparta explores the lives of Helen’s half-sisters, Clytemnestra and Castor and Pollux to weave together a rich narrative that deals with heavy themes of love and betrayal while set in Ancient Greece. This tale offers a fresh perspective on familiar myths, enriching our understanding of these complex characters.15. An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie ObiomaOrchestra of Minorities, Image Credit – InstagramNow this entry isn’t strictly set in the Greek mythological world but that’s one of its strongest selling points. It’s a blend between Igbo mythology and Greek stories to tell a modern twist to the Odyssey, with its narrator being a deceased spirit chi.16. Fifteen Dogs by Andre AlexisFifteen Dogs, Image Credit – InstagramThis contemporary novel is somewhat more humorous, starting off with a bet between Hermes, coincidentally the God of Luck, and Apollo, the Sun God. It culminates in the Olympians giving the gift of human sentience and language to a pack of 15 dogs Toronto veterinary clinic. Now stuck between the choice of embracing their new forms or sticking to the ‘old dog’ ways, the novel tells an interesting tale of both the danger and the beauty of the human conscience.17. House of Names by Colm TóibínHouse of Names, Image Credit – InstagramThis is another novel featuring King Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, which draws a few parallels from Oedipus’ tale. It’s a story told from the perspective of their son Orestes and their daughter Electra, set in a time after the curse that led members of Agamemnon’s family to continually kill their siblings as a result of accidents. It’s a chilling and intimate account of familial abuse and the lengths the siblings have to go to survive.18. The Penelopiad by Margaret AtwoodThe Penelopiad, Image Credit – InstagramThe Penelopiad tells the fate of what happened to the 12 maids from the story of The Odyssey. In his contemporary tale, Atwood invites the reader to ask some captivating questions about why the twelve maids were hanged in the first place and what happened in the days leading up to that moment.19. The Silence of the Girls by Pat BarkerSilence of the Girls, Image Credit – InstagramThe Silence of the Girls is an expansion of the story of The Iliad, from the eyes of the Trojan Queen, Bristles, who was taken as Achilles’ slave for the sacking of Lyrnessus. It’s honestly quite a harrowing tale that asks the reader to consider the fate of those lost to history.20. Clytemnestra by Costanza CasatiClytemnestra, Image Credit – InstagramClytemnestra, Costanza Casati’s debut novel, is a reimagining of the story behind Helen’s twin sister. The book manages to just about barely keep pace with several interweaving storylines throughout its second act, however, it’s a powerful and ever-relevant narrative that explores the question of how to cling to autonomy despite a male-dominated society.These books are but a small glimpse into the vast world of Greek mythology and the different perspectives these characters inhabit. So let your imagination run wild and embrace the sense of history they have to offer.

Maine author Paul Doiron to read from his latest book

Paul Doiron Submitted photo
Maine author Paul Doiron will read from “Pitch Dark,” the 15th installment in his crime novel series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, in the Androscoggin Community Room at Auburn Public Library. This is a on his prepublication tour for the book which is due out June 25.
One lucky attendee will win an Advanced Reader’s Copy of the novel, and there will also be an opportunity to pre-order the book. His current books will also be available for purchase at the event from Kelly’s Books to Go.
No registration is required for this program. For more information about this and other programs offered at the Auburn Public Library, visit auburnpubliclibrary.org.

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Author of celebrated memoir will join Finding Our Voices online book discussion

“Dear Sister,” by Michelle Horton Submitted photo
Michelle Horton will join the discussion of her just-released memoir, “Dear Sister: A memoir of secrets, sisterhood, and unbreakable bonds,” in the Finding Our Voices online book club. The 90-minute Finding Our Voices discussion of “Dear Sister” will be held via Zoom on at beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30. The discussion is free and open to the public. To sign up, visit bookclubs.com/clubs/23834/join/0c701b/ or contact McLean at [email protected].
Michelle Horton Submitted photo
Horton’s memoir documents how blindness to domestic abuse led to her sister’s wrongful incarceration for killing her abuser. Her sister of the book title is Nikki Addimando, mom of two who killed her partner in self-defense in New York in 2017. He was a popular community gymnastics coach and the courts disregarded the years of torture she sustained at his hands, some of which he filmed and posted on porn sites, in sentencing her to a prison term of 19 years to life.
This injustice was featured in the documentary film “And So I Stayed” shown in the summer of 2022 at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville along with two short Finding Our Voices movies by Matthew Siegel. The founder and CEO of Finding Our Voices, Patrisha McLean, as well as subjects of the short films Christine Buckley and Courtney Davis, joined the filmmakers of “And So I Stayed” for a post-screening panel discussion.
“Dear Sister” was described by Publisher’s Weekly as a “powerful testament to the tenacity of sisterly bonds, a scathing indictment of the legal landscape for abused women, and a wrenching exploration of the shame that allows abuse to remain hidden.” The New York Times lauded the “behind-the-scenes look at how a society, a legal system and a family failed a woman who had been sexually abused by a series of men starting when she was 5 years old.”
McLean said “This is an exquisitely written book that hits home because of how routine it is in Maine for women domestic abuse victims to be criminalized and male perpetrators to be gifted Get Out of Jail Free cards. Topics Michelle raises that I feel privileged to be able to discuss with her on April 30 are the role of family and friends when domestic abuse is suspected, the normalization of extreme porn, and the appalling ignorance around domestic abuse as well as misogyny among those charged with protecting victims, including lawyers, Guardian ad Litems, judges and juries.”
The Finding Our Voices online book club looks at life through the lens of domestic abuse with authors usually joining the discussion. Past guests include Sarah Perry with “After the Eclipse” about her mother’s murder in Bridgton, and Katherine Miles with “Trailed,” about the murder of a Unity College student while hiking the Appalachian Trail. The Finding Our Voices book club is hosted by the online site Bookclubs, “Building Community Through Books,” which was founded by Anna Ford of midcoast Maine.
Finding Our Voices is the Maine-based survivor-powered nonprofit breaking the silence of domestic abuse one community and conversation at a time. Its innovative public awareness projects apart from the book club include a radio show and poster campaign featuring the faces and voices of 45 Maine survivors. The group also provides financial assistance to empower women to Get Out and Stay Out, pro bono dental care, and online support groups. For more information, visit findingourvoices.net.

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Stay-at-home mother faces legal battle after overdue library book arrest warrant

A Texas stay-at-home mother has been thrown into a legal battle after a warrant was issued for her arrest over an overdue library book, and now, a public interest law firm is coming to her defense.SEE ALSO: Stay-at-home mother faces jail time after arrest warrant issued for unreturned books at Grimes County libraryKaylee Morgan, a wife and mother of five, checked out books from the Navasota Public Library last March for her home-schooled children.Amidst coping with a difficult pregnancy complicated by hyperemesis and placenta previa, she missed the return deadline. Although her husband managed to return most of the books, one remained unreturned due to its size not fitting in the library’s drop box.When Morgan went to renew her driver’s license, she found out there was a warrant for a $570 ticket for overdue books.As she tried to explain the situation to Judge Patricia M. Gruner, Morgan said the judge did not want to hear her “excuses” and said she needed to “take responsibility.”“I really didn’t believe it. Like I really thought, I’m on ‘Punked’ or something, like this is not true,” Kaylee Morgan said.KPRC 2′s Moriah Ballard spoke with Erica Smith Ewing who represents the public law firm that is now condemning the City of Navasota’s criminal conviction of Morgan for the late library books.When asked how this law was even possible, Smith Ewing said,” The city passed a law in 1990, making it a misdemeanor offense to not return library books. So this law has been on the books for 35 years, and it looks like it’s something that they actively enforce.” She added, “They can have this law, but the Constitution says that it is unconstitutional. So they should reform this law. They should repeal this law and take it off the books.”We also asked Smith Ewing if their law firm had ever seen any case like this before, which led to a bigger conversation on examples of fines and fees across the country.To watch the full interview, check out the player above.

Secrets behind Brand Beckham – sex, money and power – as Victoria and David braced for book

The Beckhams are bracing for the release of a book that threatens to put their marriage under the spotlight all over again. Investigative journalist Tom Bower told the Mirror that his latest release The House of Beckham: Money, Sex and Power contains startling revelations. Asked whether it featured any new details about David’s alleged affairs,…

Old Book Sale kicks off Thursday

The Old Book Sale expects to have 90,000 books for shoppers to choose from at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry.

13 minutes ago

PERRY, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT)— Right now, the Baby Barn at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, is filled with empty tables.
But by Thursday, it will be covered with 90,000 books, broken down into 60 categories for book lovers to choose from.
We have books laid out in more than sixty categories, like cookbooks, and mystery, and religion. We have a lot of religion this year. We have a lot of children’s books,” said Georgette Lipford, President of the Houston County Friends of the Library.

Georgette Lipford, President of the Houston County Friends of the Library said the money from the sale helps raise funds for libraries throughout Houston County.  The Houston County Friends of the Library has hosted the book sale since it began 18 years ago.
According to Lipford, they’ve raised a-half-million dollars for the county libraries.
“They use it to buy books of course, to pay for programs like, children programs, children summer programs, there’s a vary of purposes they use it for,” said Lipford.
I spoke with Rebecca Johannsen, who said she started coming to the Old Book Sale with her family as a shopper, but now she comes as a volunteer with the Houston County Friends of the Library.
Johannsen said, her job is to helps get the books set up and that each book and its previous owner, has a story to tell.

“Sometimes there’s names in them, and you go oh, I wonder, bookmarks are shopping receipts and sometimes a dollar bill. It’s amazing what kinds of bookmarks people use, toothpicks, so we go through the books and we sort all that out,” Johannsen.
Before heading out the heading the fairgrounds, Lipford has one last thing to share; she said, “come prepared if you plan to buy near thirty books. Either bring a little tot bag or grab a box, because you properly will find more than you thought you would find.”
 

Yorkshire publisher celebrates 25 years of publishing with a new book

Watch more of our videos on Shots! and live on Freeview channel 276Visit Shots! nowThe book is intended for the residents and visitors to Yorkshire who have an interest in the prehistory of Britain’s largest county. It provides a layman’s guide to the sites which are considered worth visiting and puts those sites into their prehistoric context. The aim is to produce an accessible synthesis which will appeal to interested members of the general public, rather than the expert, yet without loss of content or accuracy.The Blackthorn Press was founded back in 1999 to publish books and eBooks about Yorkshire’s local history and in that time has covered most of the major towns and cities and many villages as well as biographies of famous Yorkshire men and women.Its founder, Alan Avery, said that after all these years of publishing he has had in mind a book about Yorkshire’s Prehistory and set about writing the book some three years ago. Alan studied History and Archaeology at the University of Wales and then King’s College, London. ‘The book has been a pleasure to write with field trips out with my wife Anne to take photographs for the book and check on facts and figures’ he said. ‘We hope the book will interest the general public as well as those with an interest in our county’s archaeology and prehistory.’Prehistoric Yorkshire by Alan Avery. ISBN 9781906259693. 148 pages. 82 Colour Illustrations. 13.8 x 21.6 cm. Paperback £14.95, Ebook £9.99.Available from Amazon and bookshops.

Report: Last year ended with a surge in book bans

PEN America says there was an “unprecedented” surge in book bans during the latter half of 2023, according to a new report.

The free expression group says that from July-December of last year, it recorded 4,349 instances of book bans across 23 states and 52 public school districts. The report says more books were banned in those six months than in the 12 months of the 2022-2023 school year.

PEN America says it draws its information on bans from “publicly available data on district or school websites, news sources, public records requests, and school board minutes.”

Among the key takeaways:

The vast majority of school book bans occurred in Florida, with 3,135 bans across 11 of the state’s school districts. A spokesperson with Florida’s Department of Education declined NPR’s request for comment.
Book bans are often instigated by a small number of people. Challenges from one parent lead to a temporary banning of 444 books in a school district in Wisconsin.
Those who ban books often cite “obscenity law and hyperbolic rhetoric about ‘porn in schools’ to justify banning books about sexual violence and LGBTQ+ topics (and in particular, trans identities),” the report says.
There is a similar surge in resistance against the bans, says the report. Authors, students and others are “fighting back in creative and powerful ways.”

Who’s doing the banning?

A study by The Washington Post found that in 2021-2022, “Just 11 people were responsible for filing 60 percent” of book challenges.

At a press conference today, free expression advocates from around the country that joined PEN America to discuss bans talked about the seemingly-outsized power of a small, but vocal, group.

High school senior Quinlen Schachle, the president of the Alaska Association of Student Governments, said when he attends school board meetings, “It’s, like, [the same] one adult that comes up every day and challenges a new book. It is not a concerned a group of parents coming in droves to these meetings.”

Laney Hawes, Co-Director of the Texas Freedom to Read Project said books are often banned because of “a handful of lists that are being circulated to different school districts” and not because of “a parent whose child finds the book and they have a problem with it.”

PEN America defines a book ban as “any action taken against a book based on its content…that leads to a previously accessible book being either completely removed from availability to students, or where access to a book is restricted or diminished.”

The conservative American Enterprise Institute took exception to PEN America’s April 2022 banned books report. In a report for the Education Freedom Institute, AEI said it found that “almost three-quarters of the books that PEN listed as banned were still available in school libraries in the same districts from which PEN claimed they had been banned.”

You can read PEN America’s full report here.
This story was edited by Jennifer Vanasco.
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.