AVRAM’S GIFT

Price : $12.95 (Paperback, full color),   $6.99 (Paperback, black and white), $6.99 (eBook, iBook)
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Synopsis

A shofar story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for readers ages 7-11, “Avram’s Gift” is an endearing tale about discovering one’s roots and making dreams come true. Award-winning illustrator Laurie McGaw brings the story to life with appealing and realistic images throughout the book.

Eight-year-old Mark has two wishes: To become a shofar-blower—just like his High Holiday hero—and to make that photograph of his great-great-grandfather Avram disappear from the hallway in his new home. When the family gathers for Rosh Hashanah, though, Mark discovers that his own desire to blow the shofar is actually linked to a hope that the unsmiling man in the photograph once had. ”Avram’s Gift” is a charming portrait of a family and how their lives—past and present—mingle to make wishes come true.

Meet the Author and the Illustrator

author-headshot

Margie Blumberg

More about the author

Reviews

“A Notable Book for Younger Readers”
— SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARDS, THE ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES

“’Avram’s Gift’ is a Rosh Hashanah story, an immigrant story, and a story about contemporary Jewish life all in one beautifully illustrated chapter book bursting with Yiddishkeit.”
—RACHEL KAMIN, THE ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES

“[A] touching and intriguing story . . . McGaw’s pictures are flawless. . . . A wonderful choice for those long holiday afternoons, it’s sure to spark questions about . . . legacies left to future generations.”
—JUDY CHERNAK, CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

“Connections across generations also come clear in a story that’s as sweet as honey used for dipping apples.”
—STEPHANIE ZVIRIN, BOOKLIST

“A delightful, moving Rosh Hashanah story that teaches how each individual can deeply affect future generations. Exquisite watercolor illustrations by award-winning artist Laurie McGaw. Ages 8 and up.”
—THE CANADIAN JEWISH NEWS

“Librarians will do children, parents, teachers, and clergy a favor by connecting them with this affirmative book.”
—LINDA R. SILVER, JEWISH BOOK WORLD

“‘Avram’s Gift’ is among the books I am saving for each of my children, who will hopefully share them with their own children one day.”
—JEWISH KIDS BOOKS CIRCLE MAVEN

“The shofar’s blasts will be even more meaningful after reading ‘Avram’s Gift’ . . . a handsomely illustrated storybook. . . .”
—CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS

“One usually asks what grade level is appropriate for the reader of juvenile book. ‘Avram’s Gift,’ however, is not meant for children to read. It is meant for children to hear as a parent or other “-eleh*” reads. That way, it becomes a springboard for telling family stories — stories that tell of love flowing from generation to generation and through the cycle of the years.

“Young Mark is disturbed by the stern visage in a photo of his great-great grandfather Avram. But when Avram’s grandson (who is also Mark’s grandfather) shares stories about Avram, Mark understand the love that binds them.  For example, when grandfather holds up the photo of great-great grandfather, “his smile was so bright that it lit up the face in the picture. ‘They actually look like they are happy to see each other,'” Mark thinks.

“Physically linking their lives is a shofar that has passed through the generations. When Avram sees his grandson leaving Eastern Europe for America, he gives his shofar to the lad. The grandson exclaims, “Zeyde, your shofar? You’re giving this to me? Really? But it’s your treasure.” Avram replies, “No, Menashkelah. You are my treasure,” and tells the boy that he will hear the shofar wherever it is sounded.

“Ultimately, the shofar passes to Mark who, as a recently bar mitzvahed 13-year-old, sounds the horn at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. ‘He felt then that everyone could hear it. No, not just the people in the sanctuary, but everyone — around the world and behind the moon and beyond the stars . . . to another place and time . . . to the very spot where the shofar came from, where his great-great-grandpa Avram sat, with his eyes tightly shut, in the synagogue, listening to his favorite sound.’

“I know just how he feels.”
— HEARINGSHOFAR.BLOGSPOT.COM

“So very many new beginnings—some casual, others poignant—all conveying the message that, by remembering, we learn from the past and that, on extremely rare occasions, the past and the present can come together and be felt as one in special, tangible ways. Like a picture and a shofar.”
—DEANNA SILVERMAN

ARTICLE: “New children’s book has Toronto connection”

By Frances Kraft

Cubby Marcus, the model for a young boy’s ancestor in the book “Avram’s Gift,” poses beside the portrait that plays a key role in the story. [Frances Kraft photo]

There’s something familiar about the illustrations in Margie Blumberg’s new children’s book, Avram’s Gift–and it’s not just the detailed, warmly rendered shtetl depictions that bring the past to life for the story’s modern-day protagonist.

While the pictures may strike a chord with Jews of eastern European origin, Torontonians —and members of Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Congregation in particular—are likely to recognize the north Toronto synagogue and its clergy, Rabbi Philip Scheim and Cantor Marshall Loomer, who serve as models for illustrator Laurie McGaw.

Avram’s Gift (MB Publishing, 2003) is the story of eight-year-old Mark, who fears the picture of his stern-faced, bearded great-great-grandfather that his mother wants to hang in their new house. On Rosh Hashanah, over lunch, his Grandpa Morris helps him see his ancestor in a new light, through detailed and affectionate childhood recollections.

And in a plot thread that’s particularly appropriate at this time of year, Mark aspires to learn to blow the shofar that is a hallmark of High Holiday services. The threads are all woven together by the end of the story, which is followed by an afterword that includes information on shofar-blowing and ideas for exploring one’s own family roots.

Although Avram’s Gift is fictional, it was sparked by a true story about the author’s real-life great-great-grandfather Avram Hirschman, whose portrait hangs in her parents’ Chevy Chase, Md., home.

On Rosh Hashanah six years ago, Blumberg heard about her great-great-grandfather from her great-uncle Morris, then aged 94, who, like the fictional Grandpa Morris in her book, left the shtetl of Aroshka as a child, saying goodbye to his grandfather Avram Hirshcman at the train station.

“He took the frame in his hands and brought the photograph very close to his face,” Blumberg recalled in a phone interview from her home in Bethesda, Md. “He said if you were to look up the word ‘love’ in the dictionary, you would find his grandpa’s picture there.

“We were all in tears,” she said. “He hadn’t seem Avram in 88 years.”

The next day, Blumberg came up with the idea of a book—as if a light bulb had gone off, she explained—and she subsequently interviewed her great-uncle more extensively.

A lawyer by training, Blumberg wrote and published a desk calendar with cartoons and recipes, Is There Life After Chocolate? and co-authored Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times. She is working on a third book, about grammar, for age 12 and up, and is reading manuscripts for MB Publishing, the company she established earlier this year.

“I was always read to as a child,” she said, and she has always wanted to write books. Renowned author Leon Uris, who died this summer, was a first cousin to her father. Although they lived in different cities, once Blumberg started writing, they began to be in contact and were starting to get to know each other better when he became ill.

Blumberg’s brother Mark, a professor at the University of Iowa, has also written a book recently. Body Heat (Harvard University Press) discusses temperature and life on earth for the lay reader, she said.

Finding the right illustrator for Avram’s Gift involved poring over “hundreds and hundreds” of books. When Blumberg saw McGaw’s illustrations in Polar the Titanic Bear, she knew her search had ended.

The award-winning artist, based in Shelburne, Ont., used real-life models for the characters in the book, fleshing out the shtetl scenes with details borrowed from historical photographs.

She came to Beth David through Linda Kabot, the model for Mark’s grandmother and a Beth David member. Kabot became friendly with McGaw after learning about her own family history in the children’s book Journey to Ellis Island, written by Carol Bierman, a relative of Kabot’s whom she’d never met, and illustrated by McGaw.

Cubby Marcus, a clean-shaven, personable 68-year-old, was the model for the forbidding Avram. (McGaw added the beard when she did the illustrations.) Although he doesn’t look the part at first glance, he was very taken with the scenes for which he was asked to pose.

“There’s a magical transcendence that goes on between grandchildren and grandparents,” he said at the book launch this summer. “It’s something that transcends time.”

Book Details

Pages : 58 (full color), 63 (black and white)
Age Range : 7 - 11 years
Publication Date : October 18, 2017 (full-color paperback; originally published in September 2005); October 18, 2017 (black and white)
Size : 8.5 x 8.5 inches (Paperback); 5.25 x 8 (Paperback) 23 illustrations
ISBNs : 978-0-9624166-3-7 (full color), 978-0-9994463-4-8 (black and white)

SING ALONG!

“A NEW YEAR”

©2016 Written and Produced by Michael Hunter Ochs

May this be a year of love and kindness
May strangers come to be friends
May truth and compassion always guide us
Amen.

May this be a year of hope and healing
For all of those in need
May all of our deeds be a blessing
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A new year
A good year
A chance to start all over.
A new year
A sweet year
A chance to bring us closer.

May this be a year of selfless giving
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And may we forgive and be forgiven
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A new year
A good year
A chance to start all over
A new year
A sweet year
A chance to bring us closer

A new year
A good year
A chance to start all over
A new year
A sweet year
A chance to bring us closer
Closer to the ones we love
A world that we can be proud of
Long as there are stars above
There comes a new year
Amen.

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