There’s an elusive, not-quite-definable, je-ne-sai-quois quality that we call creativity, which results in the birth of those incandescent objects we call art, objects that lift us above life’s daily grind, objects that remind us of beauty and the sublime. What is creativity? Can it be broken down, analyzed, quantified, understood? Can this breakdown provide a blueprint for the birth of new creative endeavors? Noted children’s author, Barbara Bietz, makes an attempt to examine the creative process in the sphere of the Jewish arts, to focus on its substance, and to guide would-be writers, painters, musicians, and others through a process in which the ultimate goal is the creation of something new that may surprise and delight.
In an attempt to make the giant and amorphous topic of creativity feel manageable, Bietz breaks it down into discrete areas: film, cartoons and graphic novels, cooking and creating recipes, songwriting, painting and art, writing midrash, and creating Judaica. Each topic is then broken down further, making it easy for the reader to understand and actualize each concept. One or more artists are featured in each category. Each artist is introduced, some personal background is included, and the artist shares practical advice and experiences, helping to ease the reader into a place of comfort and productivity. Each chapter contains sections that serve as a roadmap or guide to an aspiring creator, such as how to find ideas, how to refine the work, and how to integrate Jewish concepts. Fascinating details about the work of each artist keeps interest piqued and pages turning.
Winsome drawings accompany the text. The illustrations clarify, amuse, and add to the atmosphere of creativity, which is the heart and the substance of the book. The format is fresh, lively, and appealing,
A final page entitled “Why Jewish Creativity” helps inspire budding artists to shed their inhibitions and plunge into the deep, invigorating waters of ingenuity, to find new outlets for their imaginations and talents. This unique book is a perfect example of creativity in action.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.