Interview with Stacia Deutsch about COMING OF AGE: 13 B’Nai Mitzvah Stories

Kathie: Hi Stacia! I’m so glad I have the chance to chat with you today about COMING OF AGE: 13 B’NAI MITZVAH STORIES (edited by Jonathan Rosen and Henry Herz) which will be released on April 19th from Albert Whitman & Co. Can you tell us a bit about this book and how you got involved with it?

Stacia: Henry Herz, an editor on the book,  is the world’s greatest connector. You know how they say we are all “6 Degrees of Separation”? Henry Herz might be the link between all humankind! I’ve known him for a few years and he asked me to be involved. Of course, I jumped at the chance to write something with Jewish interest. I’m a reform rabbi by education and have done very little writing in the Jewish arena. I’ve written hundreds of books and I’m about to launch the new Boxcar Children Mystery spin off called The Jessie Files when this opportunity popped up. I was thrilled to participate. 

Kathie: The book is comprised of 13 stories written by Jewish authors relating to Bat and Bar Mitzvahs. Your story is called “Helping Noah: A Torah Travel Adventure”. I’d love to know what inspired it?

Stacia: I love time travel. I’ll watch or read pretty much anything with a time travel element. My first original book series that I ever did was called Blast to the Past about kids that meet famous people in history. It ended after 8 titles and now it seems like a long time since I wrote it with my friend, Rhody. I’d been wanting to do a Jewish time travel for years. This invitation seemed like the perfect opportunity. The Torah is full of incredible stories and this book gave me the chance to imagine what it would have been like to have walked with our ancestors. I picked: what would it feel like to stand in the rain while Noah built the ark? And more, could a modern kid help? 

Kathie: Did you have a Bat Mitzvah when you were a teen, and if so, what was the experience like for you? What would you say to your younger self today?

Stacia: Thirteen can be rough. It takes a kid in the middle of their most awkward stage and pushes them into the center of attention for a day. It can be really positive to get that praise and sense of accomplishment. BUT,  for some kids, this is also traumatic. If you don’t want that kind of attention the process can be really difficult. As a teenager, I got the chance to craft an experience that was uniquely mine. My parents were great about it all. I hope that kids today can find their own path to this meaningful ceremony. I’d tell my younger self to push even harder to get the Bat Mitzvah that I wanted. There’s no one way to do this! I did a smaller temple service and the family went to a dude ranch right after, my brother did his in a tiny camp setting, and my sister had a huge invite list and an awesome bash. It’s about the accomplishment. How you share that is totally up to you!

Kathie: Was there a story in this collection that resonated with you?

Stacia: I loved Debra Green’s Pandemic Bat Mitzvah. She’s a great writer and so funny. Debra’s story made me a little teary. Her character discovers that some of the things she assumed were true, didn’t happen the way she thought. I really resonated with that idea. Plus there are nosebleeds in her story…

Kathie: I wasn’t familiar with the term “B’Nai” and had to look it up while I was reading. What else do you hope non-Jewish readers will learn from this book, but more importantly, what do you hope young Jewish readers will discover while reading it?

Stacia: Language is changing. Everyday. My own kids are correcting me constantly. I hope that kids who read this, Jewish and non-Jewish, will find stories they connect with and can relate to. Coming of Age is a universal theme and I think that teenagers will find themselves in each of the stories. For the Jewish reader, narratives that enhance our Jewish identity are often hard to come by. These stories should encourage Jewish families to share their own memories as they make new ones. I hope this inspires more stories, more books, and a lot of creativity!

Kathie: Is there anything you think our readers should know about COMING OF AGE?

Stacia: I am blessed to be amongst the most amazing authors featured in this book. This is incredible company and when we all do get together, finally, I will be star-struck! I hope that the readers Google the authors of their favorite stories and find out what else they worked on. Then everyone can be star-struck with me. 

Kathie: Can you share a link for readers who would like to pre-order their copy ahead of time?

Stacia: https://www.amazon.com/Coming-Age-Bnai-Mitzvah-Stories/dp/0807536679/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=coming+of+age+herz&qid=1639789372&sr=8-5

Kathie: Thanks so much for answering my questions today, Stacia, and I look forward to hearing the young reader feedback from your book.

Stacia: Thanks for this opportunity, This past year with Covid has been quiet for me and I am thrilled to have the chance to talk about what I’ve been up to! I hope your readers love the book and have as much fun with it as I did. 

Stacia Deutsch is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 300 children’s books. Her career started with the original, award winning, Blast to the Past series about four kids who time travel and meet famous people in history which was a result of her obsession with time travel stories! Now, she writes mostly chapter book and mid-grade for licensed characters. Stacia loves playing with known characters in worlds that already exist. Stacia’s first movie novelization was Batman: The Dark Knight and since then she has written many more. Most recently, she wrote the movie novel for Boss Baby 2. Other recent books include the Friendship Code for Girls Who Code/Penguin, seven novels for Spirit: Riding Free (Little Brown/Dreamworks), and a few LEGO stories. She’s lucky to be writing the newest Boxcar Children mysteries called The Jessie Files based on the books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Stacia lives on a Temecula ranch with 4 horses, 3 dogs, and a cat that makes her sneeze. 

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