What trends in adult literature often sees its reflection in children’s publications — and now, more than ever, the other way around. In reviewing the 2014 – 2015 JBC Network titles, consider the parallel subjects between the different sections of the Authors on Tour book. Here’s one that jumped out at us right away:
Shanghai Escape is Kathy Kacer’s latest Holocaust remembrance book for young readers. It shares the experience of the over twenty thousand Jews who fled Europe for Shanghai through the true story of Lily Toufar and her family, Viennese Jews who escaped immediately after Kristallnacht. In a narrative peppered with primary documents and photographs, young readers learn of the interwar community in Shanghai and the resettlement of the Jewish refugees to a Hongkew ghetto under Japanese edict after Shanghai fell to the Land of the Rising Sun.
This same piece of Shanghai’s history is explored in Nicole Mones’s historical fiction, Night in Shanghai. Told through the perspective of a young black jazz musician who headlines the city’s interwar nightlife scene, the novel touches on the international balances before the “Chinese Jazz Age,” the struggle between nationalists and the budding Communist movement, the long-standing enmity between China and Japan, and the plight of the Jewish refugees streaming in as heavily and swiftly as Ho Feng-Shan could sign escape visas.
Shelly Sanders is also participating in the 2014 – 2015 JBC Network with the third and final installment of her Rachel trilogy, Rachel’s Hope. Based on the true survival story of her grandmother, Sander’s three-part series follows the protagonist as she and her family flee progroms in Russia in hopes of reaching America. The second installment of the trilogy, Rachel’s Promise, takes place in Shanghai, where Rachel works as a laundress and aspiring writer while she and her family are waylaid in the Far East. The Rachel trilogy is considered appropriate for readers ages 10 and up and would make a for great parent-teen book club program.
We’ve been hearing a lot about parent-child book clubs in the past few months, in which children and their parents read and discuss a book that suits the younger readers’ ages and reading level. It’s a program that teachers, librarians, and parents have put together as a means of encouraging reading and social interaction, and of fostering communication between parents and their kids.
It’s a great model, but it can also be pushed a step further: Add a companion read for the adults in the group, with the establishment of a supplemental parent’s book club to follow up on the discussion and experiences shared with the younger readers. How did the children’s book inform the parents’ reading of the accompanying selection of adult literature? Did the kids’ observations in the intergenerational club affect the adults’ perception of the second book? What was each family’s process for reading the shared book, and how did the experience differ from the adult solo?
There are a number of online resources for starting a parent-child book club — and you can always avail yourself of the JBC Book Club Concierge for additional support. Our favorite suggestions are keeping a book journal to share or at least reference during club meetings and holding a hands-on activity to add an experiential component to processing the book (and to keep the participants engaged!).
Volumes have been written on the American Jewish relationship with Chinese cuisine — let this be an opportunity for kids to explore their tastes! Incorporate a food workshop — learn to make dumplings, rice cakes, or hand-pulled noodles, for example — or hold the event at a local Chinese restaurant, making sure to have the staff help plan and explain the menu. If you can, try to find an establishment that serves cuisine authentic to Shanghai or its surrounding provinces.
And what better activity is there than a session with the author herself? If your community is planning to host Kathy, Nicole, or Shelly, plan to attend their event as a club. Younger readers will have the opportunity to address the author with ideas and questions honed and developed — and recorded in a book journal, if the reader does maintain one — in discussion with their peers and parents. If the author cannot make it to your community in person, arrange to Skype her in through the JBC LiveChat program!